Category Archives: Career Development

Blog as ePortfolio: Demonstrate Your Skills

Portfolios have many uses ranging from assessment in an academic program to personal marketing in the job search process. As I prepared for a recent conference presentation on career ePortfolios for students, I wondered how many instructional designers have portfolios. This post explores the possibility of using a blog as a portfolio presentation tool.

Why use a blog?

The features and functions of a blog lend themselves to both presenting work samples and reflection on the work itself. They allow you to tell the story of a project and demonstrate the result. Blogs are also low or no cost alternatives to having a personal website. And since blogging toolsare designed for those without advanced web design and programming skills, they offer quick set-up, a professional look and feel, and intuitive administrative dashboards.

Organization

Blog pages allow for easy organization of portfolio artifacts. Think about structure before you get started. Two approaches to consider:

  • Resume/CV – use typical resume sub-headings to create your blog and present related information (Education, Experience, Certification, Publications, etc.)
  • Standards/Competencies – consider using an existing list of standards or professional competencies to frame your portfolio (AECT, ASTD, IBSTPI, etc.)

Selecting Portfolio Artifacts

  • If you decide to include current or past coursework assignments, review and modify, tweak, to make as perfect as possible. Only your best work should make it into the portfolio!
  • If you decide to include current or past work projects, make sure you have permission to make them, or elements of them, available online. This work is usually owned by your employer or a client, so prepare accordingly.
  • Build something from scratch for the purpose of the portfolio if you don’t already have something available.
  • Focus on what you want to do in the future and choose artifacts that demonstrate skills and experience related to your goals.

A Few Examples

Resources

A lot of portfolio/ePortfolio advice is available online. Here are a few sites to get you started:

Share your portfolio! Do you have a web-based portfolio? If so, please share your lessons learned (and your link!) in the comments area.

Image credit: Plearn, Flickr

 

Instructional Design and Technology Skills in Demand? Career Outlook Resources

Job and Career OutlookOver the last couple of weeks, I’ve fielded questions from people interested in making the move from instructor/trainer to instructional designer/technologist. Two previous posts Breaking into the Business and Jobs in Instructional Design and Technology provide a few job search resources and recommendations for documenting your experience. But is anyone hiring? This post outlines two resources I recommend to anyone considering a career change.

Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH)

The OOH is published by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics that provides information about hundreds of occupational fields.  The categories of information provided include: education and experience requirements, salary data, job descriptions, and employment projections. The current projections are for 2008-2018. You can also find specific data related to your State.

To get to the information most closely related to Instructional Design, you’ll need to drill down from Professional to: Education, Training, Library, Museum > Instructional Coordinator.

Other related occupational groups to explore include Art and Design and Media and Communication Related.

O*Net Online

Published by the Department of Labor’s Education and Training Administration, O*Net offers a different format with more search options and a detailed framework of information designed for career exploration. The two entries below are a good place to start.

Using these resources:

The detailed information, thorough descriptions, and wealth of data provided on these sites can be helpful in several ways.

  • Look for keywords and phrases you can use as starting points for writing about your job-related accomplishments in your resume.
  • Look for descriptions of knowledge, skills, and abilities that you can speak to in interviews and provide evidence of in a portfolio.
  • Use these sites as a launching pad. Explore. Each career page includes a list of links to related occupations and other related sites.

Instructional design and technology are still relatively new as occupational fields. Hopefully information provided in the OOH and O*Net will expand as the career fields expand. Defining instructional design and technology is a topic in and of itself!

Overall the OOH and O*Net forecasts for jobs in instructional design and technology look good, with job growth “much faster than average.” Include this information as part of your career research and job search. (Don’t neglect networking!)

Have you recently entered instructional design as a second (or third) career? What were your favorite resources for researching the field?

Image credit: stock.xchng

Build Your Instructional Design Network

One of the cool things about instructional design work is that you can find it in a lot of different places. We tend to look to education and workplace training offices first, but related work is found in universities, private organizations, government agencies, and non-profits. You can work online or in an office, and sometimes there is the opportunity to travel. Joining a community or network made up of other instructional design professionals can help reveal some of these opportunities.  This kind of group can also assist with exploration of the field and provide specific advice on work related questions. As a member of these groups you can also be the one to provide advice and answer questions based on your experiences. At its best, this networking involves sharing across the board.

Professional Organizations

There are a number of professional organizations that focus on instructional design and instructional technology in education and training. Membership usually comes with a fee (but there are a few that offer free options with limited services and/or discounts for full-time students).  Previous posts have listed some of these organizations and conferences – check out Professional Conferences – ID, IT, Distance Ed and Jobs in Instructional Design and Technology.

LinkedIn

Online communities can be good sources of networking. LinkedIn offers a Group feature. You can join groups that focus on your areas of interest. Since this is primarily a professional networking site, you’ll see job listings as well as information, resources, and advice. A few groups you might consider:

  • Instructional Systems Design Professionals – this group requires that you “be an instructional systems designer (ISD) or training specialist with at least 1 year experience; or have a degree in Instructional Design or a similar field.” Recent discussion topics include communities of practice, job leads, and conference updates.
  • Instructional Design and eLearning Professionals – focuses on online education and training. Recent discussions include a debate about the importance of instructional design certificates and degrees, storyboarding templates, and research and multimedia.
  • eLearning Guild – other associations have LinkedIn presence as well.  This group uses the space to advertise upcoming events and foster discussion and exchange of ideas. Recent discussions also include the future of the LMS and “must have” development tools.

Don’t limit yourself to groups or organizations with instructional design in the title. These are a great place to start, but then consider branching out – there are also groups focused on Project Management, Social Media… where is your niche? What do you want to learn more about? Where could you offer your expertise to others?  A recent post on Twitter suggested that the future of education will come from outside traditional education circles, suggesting the need to look beyond our own groups, conferences, etc.

[If you are already active in LinkedIn –  I’m interested in connecting with you out there! http://www.linkedin.com/in/melissavenable – use linkedin at design-doc dot com]

Twitter

A lot of education and training professionals are active on Twitter! They provide information, links to resources, and general observations about their experiences in instructional design and technology and the realities of getting the work done. Add these folks to your Twitter feed and join in the conversations. A few to get you started:

Share Your Networks

What networks are your favorites? Where are the good discussions and connections taking place? Who are your favorites on Twitter? Please consider sharing those places and people you recommend.

Image credit: ciro@tokyo, Flickr

Instructional Designer Profile – Oma Singh

The field of Instructional Design (ID) is still relatively new and professionals enter this work in a variety of ways. The possible projects, work settings, methods, job titles and descriptions are many. The goal of this planned series of posts is to introduce you to practicing instructional designers so that you can learn more about their perspectives and work.

Meet Oma Singh!

Oma is currently the Assistant Director for Assessment for a faculty support center at a large public university. Oma received her Ph.D. in Instructional Technology with a cognate in Adult Education from the University of South Florida. She has extensive experience and education in the field of Management Information Systems, and has held positions as a computer programmer, instructional designer, and instructor to name a few. Oma believes in putting theory into practice and is committed to lifelong learning and helping others learn through innovative use of technology.

Q:  How did you enter the field of instructional design/technology?

A:  I wanted to move from a business perspective of technology use to an educational perspective of technology use. I have found that an educational perspective is personally more rewarding for me.

Q:  What is the most rewarding part of your work?

A:  Actually seeing the course you developed up and running smoothly online. It felt good.

Q:  What is the most challenging part of your work?

A:  Getting the Subject Matter Experts (SME) to provide accurate content on time. Guiding the SMEs to avoid plagiarism and to keep their content authentic, to the point, and original, while avoiding fluff and fillers. This is especially true for online learning.

Q:  What do you wish you knew more about?

A:  I would like to learn more about different content development tools.

Q:  Are you currently involved in professional development activities?

A:  I attend and present at various conferences and teach myself tools that IDs are using currently. I subscribe to instructional design related blogs and journals.

Q:  What advice do you have for someone entering the instructional design field?

A:  Develop a set of skills that are considered valuable in the instructional design field – going beyond PowerPoint! Subscribe to ID blogs. Download free trials and create your own online course or a mini-course. Create an ePortfolio, putting your examples online, and make it professional for job hunting. Volunteer to develop courses or online interactions for school, home, church, community – anything that will get you some experience. If you are in school, get a part-time ID job!

Q:  If you had to name/predict the most important trends for the future, what would they be?

A:  More learning interventions that are similar to apps developed for the iPad. More 3D type simulations. Interactive eBooks.

Oma’s responses provide us with a quick look at the work of an instructional designer in higher education administration supporting faculty with the development of online educational experiences. Did any of her responses surprise you? What else would you like to know?

Photo credit: Stock.Xchng

Jobs in Instructional Design and Technology

Months before finishing graduate school I set up several email search agents on job search/career sites in higher education and industry. That was over three years ago and I never shut them down. While I did find a job after graduation I like seeing what comes up each week. The fields of instructional design and technology are still pretty young, undefined, and evolving. This evolution comes through when you read these announcements over time. Setting up a search agent or alert allows you to set the parameters of the searches to meet your needs: location, salary range, etc.  You can also usually add a list of keywords.

Are you looking? Here are a few sites you might want to consider adding to your search:

  • Instructional Design Central – As promised in the name, a central site for all things instructional design. In addition to a jobs board, this site also provides info on conferences and organizations.
  • Chronicle of Higher Education – Jobs – For those interested in working specifically in a college or university setting, although there are a few industry and non-profit listings as well.
  • HigherEdJobs.com – Another good site for college/university positions – user friendly search agent feature.

Professional association job boards:

  • Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT)
  • Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE)
  • American Society for Training and Development (ASTD)
  • The eLearning Guild – Job Board

Some of the big job search sites – search specifically for instructional design. You can also set up advanced search filters.

If you like Twitter…consider following:

  • @InstrDesignJobs – This account posts multiple jobs daily. Most seem to be industry focused, but you’ll see other settings, too.

Not looking? Consider setting up a search or two to stay current – know what employers are looking for now in terms of experience, education, and skills. If you are thinking about continuing your education and training, check these posts first to see what is in demand.

Other recommendations? Please let me know your suggestions and I’ll add to the list. By the way, this post was inspired by Deb Ng’s post: 25 Places to Find Social Media Jobs. Interested in the use of social media in education? You might find her list interesting, too.

Photo credit: everything.in.blue, Flickr

Breaking into the Business

Earlier this week a friend-of-a-friend contacted me with this question:

What are some tips that you have for someone who would like to get experience with curriculum design and development and eventually pursue a position in this field?

This new friend is currently working in student services, has some experience as an instructor, and is taking graduate courses in higher education. My response included the following:

Assemble a portfolio – Establish a website, blog, or use an online portfolio tool (like VisualCV) to collect examples of your work. This could include brief descriptions of the projects you’ve worked on in the past, screenshots of items you’ve designed and/or built, materials you developed when you were an instructor, a writing sample. As you plan and complete your course assignments, do so with your portfolio in mind.

Find your niche – What part of the process do you enjoy the most? What are your strongest skills? Designers and developers often wear a lot of hats – graphic design, technical writing, project management, programming, multimedia, editing, testing.  Do you prefer working on face-to-face courses, blended courses, or all online? Do you want to work in higher ed, K-12, industry? From your coursework and previous experience you can probably also list areas where you need more practice.

Seek out opportunities to practice – Instructional designers get better with each project. Are there projects in your area, where you could assist, that would help you gain experience (creating user’s guides, training materials, etc)? Are there opportunities for you to volunteer your design and development services in exchange for the experience and additional portfolio items?  For example, another friend is building a website for a community youth organization.

Emphasize related skills – You already have some very valuable experience. Curriculum designers and developers are almost always working as part of a team. Faculty members are usually on that team. Students are the reason for building the courses in the first pace, so your experience working directly with students – as an instructor and as an advisor – gives you a level of familiarity that will be an asset.

Network – Keep talking with professionals in the field and asking questions. Consider joining a professional organization (AECT, AACE, ISTE, ASTD, Sloan-C are a few – but there are a LOT more). Set up a profile on a professional networking system (such as LinkedIn), join instructional design groups, and participate in the discussions.

Look for a position – While you may not be ready to apply, you might be closer than you think. Register for job search ‘alerts’ related to curriculum design and development and read through the vacancy announcements as they arrive via email. What are they looking for in terms of experience, computer skills, etc? These announcements can be helpful in identifying areas where you need practice and items you might include in your portfolio.

What else would you recommend to someone trying to get their first job in instructional design? Other sources of experience or education? Do you think a degree in instructional design is required?

Photo credit: NotMicroButSoft, Flickr

Marketability of Graduates

I attended the Sloan-C Conference on Online Learning last week and three themes surfaced as I attended sessions and talked with other participants:

ImReady-greenforall.orgPart 3: Marketability of Graduates

Maybe it’s the career counselor in me that tuned in to this theme. In a session on Corporate Partnerships, Phil Ice of APUS posed the question: What is the college experience today? He pointed out that his experience and expectations were different than what you would find today enrolling as a Freshman/First-Year student. I instantly remembered the groan I heard over the phone as I told my parents I had finally declared a major (on the last possible day in my sophomore year at a private liberal arts college). It was Psychology. I think one of them actually said “oh no”. What was I going to do with that? I wasn’t at all sure.

Conversations and presentations addressed the preparation of graduates for the eventual job search.

  • Program and degree advisory panels that include local employers. Why shouldn’t they weigh in on coursework and internship requirements? They are the ones that will eventually receive the resumes from these students and apparently they aren’t as willing to train new employees as they used to be. University as vocational-technical? No, there’s more to it than that, but there is also a practical application side to what students need from the college experience of the early 21st century.
  • Online identities created using web 2.0 and social networking tools. And then marketing oneself professionally by documenting education, experience, and providing examples of work.
  • Vendor/Exhibitor products addressed “helping students reach their career goals”, e-portfolio systems to enhance “career advancement”, and skills and cultural training options offering “virtual business trip” scenarios.

How does online education play into all of this? Are online students different than on-campus students? The market for online students seems to be the working adult who needs to continue education in order to prepare for a career change or advancement while still on-the-job. At least, this is what you see in the commercials. Could the market be changing to include new high school graduates as well? Employability and job stability may be concerns, and motives for enrolling in online education, across the board.

photo credit: greenforall.org, Flickr