Answering your questions
What does a learning designer do?
I work with people who want to have courses built, either face-to-face or online. I bring expertise in education to the course development project, the subject matter expert (SME) brings expertise in the topic, and together we work in partnership to create the course. Where I can provide expertise is in crafting learning outcomes, developing interactive learning activities and assessments, and making sure they all align with each other. I also am well versed in designing and developing online learning, which often is something still unfamiliar to many SMEs.
You may also hear me use the term “instructional designer” but I prefer to use “learning designer”; it’s more learner-centred which fits with my philosophies on teaching and learning.
What topics can you design courses in?
I can design courses in any topic because I usually work in partnership with a subject matter expert (SME) who is familiar with the topic. (However, sometimes I can be the SME myself if it’s an education-based topic or something else that I also possess expertise in.) It can be an advantage that I am a little unfamiliar with the topic because I put myself in the shoes of the learner, asking clarifying questions of the SME so that we can create course materials and activities which are very understandable to learners.
What type of online learning do you create?
I have created courses in all modes of what we call “online learning”, that is asynchronous online, synchronous online, e-learning (or self study) and blended modes. (“Blended” just means a combination of different modes, such as a blend of face-to-face and online elements in the same course.) My learning design page gives you examples which will give you more information about the different modes. Of course I design face-to-face learning events as well.
How do I know how much it will cost me to have you design a course?
Since every learning design project is so different, I usually have a conversation or meeting with the client first to determine your goals for the project. Then I will write a comprehensive proposal to put it all in writing, capturing project timelines, process and deliverables and proposing a budget. My proposals also include a short bio and recent examples of similar projects that I have worked on. I find that my clients are usually very appreciative of receiving a proposal and it helps us all clarify the goals and intentions of the project, as well as all our roles and responsibilities, early on.
What age or demographics do you design learning for?
Much of my work involves designing for and teaching a diverse mix of adults, although I have worked on facilitation, consulting and learning design projects related to youth education as well. I have a background in intercultural education and have worked on projects related to indigenizing the curriculum and other indigenous issues. One of my online course design projects was for a group of older men with prostate cancer, and I am currently working on an online course for young men and women in a demanding outdoor occupation. My work in the non-profit sector often involves large numbers of women participants and many of the participants in the courses I teach are mid or later-career professionals. In short, I work on projects related to any age or demographic.
What is your learning design process?
I tend to use an ADDIE design process which has phases for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation. The design and development phases often have elements of rapid prototyping (another design process) in them as we iterate the course based on feedback.
To start off, after my project proposal is accepted I usually schedule a kick-off meeting, during which we discuss Analysis phase pieces such as the purpose of the course, who the learners are, anticipated mode of the course, etc. In the Design phase I put together a design blueprint which is a high level document that outlines our learning approach, topics and possible activities. Next usually comes a more detailed design storyboard (for e-learning courses) or a comprehensive lesson plan (for other online and face-to-face modes). For online courses, in the Development phase I take our design storyboard and develop it in the online platform or tool that we’ve chosen for the course. In the Implementation phase I prefer to pilot the course with a small group of learners (and make changes to it based on their feedback) before rolling the course out more widely to more learners. I include Evaluation phase pieces when asking for pilot feedback and often incorporating a course evaluation.
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe in thinking deeply about how people learn and in crafting experiences to help them do that in the best way possible. I believe that learners learn better when their learning is interesting and related to things they already know. I believe that people learn better together; it may not always be “easier”, but it will be richer. I believe that when we teach we are “guides” in supporting learners’ learning. I believe that making time for thinking and reflection is an important part of both teaching and learning. And I’m sure I believe many more things but these are just some of them!
What geographical location do you do work in?
While most of my facilitation work in person does tend to be in Greater Victoria, I am available for occasional travel to other locales for facilitation work. For learning design projects I am able to work with anyone in any city, province or country because of the nature of the work. I consistently use tools like Zoom, Skype, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Google Drive and more to collaborate with others on course design projects. Sometimes even the phone!
Where do you get your inspiration for your learning design projects?
I believe strongly in keeping up in my field and regularly listen to podcasts and read articles and books related to education-based topics. I have colleagues in the field with whom I learn and share. I try to take short and long courses as I can fit them in to remain aware of what it feels like to be a learner. Often I learn something new from others who are teaching – or sometimes I am reminded of what not to do! I try to also do research and reading, and sometimes also take short courses (such as from Coursera or other free MOOC providers) in related fields, for example in neuroscience and how the brain works or in how educators based in museums teach through inquiry, or in graphic design, type, or things like that. Those are a few of the recent things I’ve been exploring. Since I am interested in – and teach a course in – innovation methods, I try to employ many strategies to remain as creative as I can. Inspiration can come from so many places!
What is your favourite kind of work?
I can’t pick just one! I know that part of why I’m in business for myself is because I love the variety of working on different kinds of projects. If I was a learning designer only, I would miss teaching and facilitation. And if I didn’t teach or facilitate, I wouldn’t be as skilled of a learning designer. I like it all and throughout the year I am happiest when I get to work on different kinds of projects for different kinds of clients. I am also happiest when challenging projects land on my plate, because I know they will be opportunities for me to stretch my creative muscles and keep learning. Regardless of what type of work it is that I’m doing however, I aim to give my clients the same fantastic results.