Patch Twenty Nine – My 25¢ Worth for Instructional Designers

By Joanne Kehoe, McMaster University

For this first post aimed directly at Instructional Design in the Open Faculty Patchbook, I decided to post a random-order, grammatically-incorrect-but-trying-to-keep-it-to-one-run-on-sentence-each “25” cents worth of tips that have served me well in my work as an instructional designer. I noticed many of these align with attributes of Ontario Extend’s Empowered Educator, which was a nifty revelation! Those that didn’t I would consider “slippery” as they are difficult to nail down into any one of the six, but are threaded through.

Develop and Tap into a PLN – The absolute, no holds-barred, critical importance and boundless benefit of cultivating a PLN – or Personal Learning Network, or People I Lean oN (okay that doesn’t really work, but you get the drift).

Build team rapport – with any project, but in particular course design, where you’re bringing a bunch of diverse people together, it’s critical to take time at the start to get to know a bit more about each other prior to digging into the work (working with educators, I use these visioning exercises and encourage them to take the Teaching Perspectives Inventory).

Be adaptable – to move projects along, I’ve learned it’s easier to be flexible in response to how others like to work, track and communicate rather than decree the use of a particular communication tool or the always crowd-pleasing project management software.

Teach a course – nothing better in understanding how a course design actually works in a real-class situation that acting as both designer and teacher (plus you have complete control which is also fun once in a while – see the Digital Literacy for Learning modules I co-developed with fellow ID Devon Mordell as part of our DL course).

Take a course – if you’re lucky, you’ll pick a well-designed one that you can get good ideas from rather than a poorly-designed one (although you can get ideas of what not to do out of those!)

Stretch your technological muscles – this can feel daunting, but if you come across new tech that is intriguing, take the time to try it out a bit – Ontario learners and educators have free access right now and there’s a shirt-ton of tech tutorials to take advantage of.

Read Terms of Service agreements – yeah I know it’s something you usually scroll at break-neck speed by to click the “Agree” button, but it’s pretty damned important to figure out what you’re agreeing to (I love this blog post by Adam Croom which breaks it down)

Sprints for projects – I read and recommend this book (not open boo) and have been involved in various sprints, and can attest to its formula in getting things done faster – perhaps a framework to consider for trudging course (re)designs?

PD for ID – it’s easy to get caught up in a tangled web of ‘to do’s’ but it’s always great to take time out and expand your skill set – IDIG keeps an updated PD channel on our Slack workspace (join us!)

Research – even if your job doesn’t require you to do research, get in on a project – you don’t have to be lead investigator – a small role as a contributor to the project affords great learning opportunities.

Handwritten Notes – who among us doesn’t open the hand-written envelope in the batch of mail first? The small gesture of a penned note to those who have helped you in your professional life goes a long way (I easily make my own cards using my own pics or openly-licensed images such as those by Unsplash!)

Curate as you go – it’s hard to keep track of, or backtrack looking for, all the goodies you come across, are sent, or hear about, so make sure you have a way to curate them away (I personally like and use diigo).

Experiment – Going big or teensy, if there’s a way to try something new and see how it goes, go for it – nothing breeds innovation more than a little experimentation.

Don’t worry when you don’t know things – ‘fess up, ask questions and never bluff.

Practice inclusive design – the more you practice, the more ingrained it will be in your work (as it should be!) – and I’ve found the stellar work out of OCAD’s Inclusive Design Research Centre a true gift.

Hang in the back (of class) – if I’m tasked with redesigning a f2f course to an online one, I ask the instructor if it’s okay if I sit in the back row and watch them in action – even though it’s getting harder to ‘blend in’ with the twenty-somethings, I get a lot out of this observation.

Consider design aesthetics – Don Norman says “attractive things work better.” As ID’s we need to pay attention to the impact the design of interfaces have on student learning (restricted paper but you likely have access through your library!)

The importance of empathy – I wrote about this in a blog post, and often refer people to this short clip by the amazing RSA Animate – and when searching for that found this clip by the same fantastic folks on the 21st century and the importance of outrospection.

EAT (Email Avoidance Time) – one of my mentors swore by this practice – instead of starting the day by opening email, start it by setting aside an hour to complete one or two small tasks (such as writing a blog post!)

Set a Pomodoro Pace – feeding further into time management, this tomato timer helps me focus, take breaks and complete tasks – no easy feats (now if it could just help me with the laundry).

Laugh – I’ve always been lucky to work with people with superb comic timing (Terry Greene anyone?) and sharing a belly laugh has proven to be the number one bonding mechanism (according to my completely unsubstantiated but highly-enjoyable research).

Careful of the criticism –  giving (and getting!) honest feedback can be sweat-inducing if it is in the form of criticism – tips like these have helped me stay aware of the motivations and focus on the situation and not the individual.

Presenting is a present – whether it’s a conference, meeting or group of peers, presenting not only offers a way to share your professional work, I find the process of pulling it together, thinking, reflecting and sequencing ideas, offers many side benefits.

Small win parties – okay maybe a party for one, but it’s important to do a quiet victory dance every time one of your ideas comes to fruition, especially if you had to go to the mat for it.

Design is everywhere – I took completed accessed this Udacity course, “Intro to the Design of Everyday Things” a while back and it provides a ‘big picture’ of the role design plays in all of our lives, and helps you think about design decisions you make.

This post originally appeared on the IDIG Ontario blog as an entry in the Ontario Extend 9X9X25 Challenge

Photo CC-BY Thomas Hawk via Flickr

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