Category Archives: Professional Development

Getting Ready for Conference Season

We are in the midst of what might be described as eLearning conference season. There are conferences happening throughout the year, but a number of them seem to be concentrated in the August to November timeframe. I am involved in four events (how did that happen?!) in the next nine weeks, so now is the time to get ready. It’s a personal goal of mine to attend two professional conferences per year. In some years the budget, location, and timing stars align and more are added to the schedule, but two is a reasonable goal with some purposeful planning.

Choose

The conference opportunities for instructional designers and technologists are many to say the very least. (Take a look at the sites provided on this previous post: Professional Conferences in ID, IT, Distance Ed… includes several conference search sites in the Updates). We can’t attend them all so we have to choose carefully.

  • Niche – Conferences range from large and broad to quite small with very specific topics.  What is your professional focus now (K-12, business and industry, higher ed)? What would you like to learn more about (virtual worlds, technology resources and decisions, course development, a specific content area)? Conferences can also be a great way to branch out and explore something new.
  • Budget – Funding is an issue for all of us these days. Look for registration options that allow you to attend part of an event, pay by-the-day, or just expo/vendor rooms. Consider what the conference fee covers in terms of receptions and meals. There are more online conferences these days – the registration fees for these seem to be significantly less and there’s no cost for travel and lodging. Many traditional conferences are also now offering virtual tracks taking place simultaneously with the face-to-face schedule. (You can present virtually, too!)
  • Location – You will find interesting events all over the country and in a lot of international locations. You can also look specifically in your area. This can be a budget or time driven decision. You might be surprised at some of the smaller events taking place at the regional level, at local campuses, and within the local business/industry sector.  Smaller events also lend themselves to an easier networking process.
  • Timing – Scheduling conference attendance around your workload can be tricky. Look for events that take place over a weekend and/or holiday. It’s not unusual to work a conference into a vacation, especially if the event is held in a resort-type location.

Prepare

Conferences can be significant investments in terms of time and resources, so get a game plan together before you go. Here are several posts with tips on preparation. Some targeting specific events, but all offer great advice no matter the conference.

Dan McCarthy – How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

  • Dan suggests taking time to see the local area if you are traveling to the event. My dissertation advisor was a fan of this, too. Otherwise it’s just hotels and airports. And they all look pretty much the same. Take advantage of the location.

Chris Brogan – 9 Ways to Rock the BlogWorld Expo

  • I particularly like the recommendation to “bring three good questions.” Make them specific and work on seeking out the answers through sessions and conversations.

Inc. –  How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

  • Among Inc.’s tips: start networking before the event begins. This is getting easier with social networking tools like Twitter.

Participate

You’ve gone to the trouble to get to the dance, so… dance! Attend the sessions, ask questions, network between sessions and at receptions. Networking is often a major reason to attend a conference, and depending on your goals, may be a more important use of your time than the sessions. Think about your goals for the event. What do you want to take-away?

  • Present – Consider submitting a proposal to be on the schedule. This process usually takes place well in advance, but can provide you with additional experience, exposure, etc. And it doesn’t have to be just you up there. Think about projects you are working on with others and collaborate on a session. Presenters often get a reduced registration rate as well.
  • Volunteer – Look for opportunities to help with registration, introduce sessions, moderate panels. Students often get a discount for this kind of thing. It’s also a good way to meet people, especially the conference organizers.
  • Share – Tweet from the sessions! Share links, insights, your observations. Others in your circle will be interested, too. Blog about what you learned and keep the conversations going. Share your notes with colleagues. Take a look at this post from Michael Gray on how to use Evernote to document your conference experience.

Never been to a conference?

As with most things, it’s about taking the first step – create a short list of events you would like to attend in the next year. Then check out the websites, review last year’s program, look for proposal and registration deadlines, and put your plan together to attend. Get it on your calendar.

Experienced conference attendee?

Please share your tips here! What are your favorite ways to choose, prepare, and participate?

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds, Flickr

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

Instructional Design and Project Management – Are You Certified?

The instructional design field is part art – part science (Check out this post on Performance x Design). While you can study Instructional Design as an academic field and complete a degree or certificate program, you can also join the field via on-the-job training. I have worked with people who have come through varying career paths to become talented instructional designers. The work of the instructional designer is application oriented and one becomes more skilled through practice. I think that project managers follow similar paths – some have related degrees while others have learned through the process of managing projects.

Part of the skill set of the instructional designer is project management. The reality of curriculum, education, and training teams in organizations is that the instructional designer often wears both hats. Rarely is there a separate project manager to orchestrate the process of course development and keep things on track and under budget. Having had this experience myself I often refer to myself as a Project Manager, but with the increase in certification in this area I wonder how long I will be able to do that.

Advertisements for Instructional Designer positions almost always include the need for “project management experience”. Recently though I saw an announcement that required project management certification, specifically the Project Management Professional (PMP) designation.

eLearning Pro with PMP…

The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers a globally recognized set of certifications. The two I am most familiar with are the PMP and the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). The PMP requires an extensive application documenting three years of project management experience, a college degree, and specific coursework in project management. If your application is accepted, you sit for a national exam. Once you pass the exam and are granted the certification, you complete annual continuing education activities. The CAPM also involves an extensive application and exam followed by re-examination every five years.

So, I am considering pursuit of one of these designations. The process is a little daunting and I think to myself, when does it end? When do I have enough acronyms after my name to stay competitive and ensure a potential employer that I am qualified? And there seems to be a fine line there – how many is too many?

Professional certification also seems to be an industry in and of itself. There are application fees, study courses (with fees), test preparation materials to purchase, exam fees… and other costs associated with membership and continuing education. To me, there is a financial investment involved and one that would continue. Do employers assist with these costs or provide additional compensation to those who hold special certifications?

What are your thoughts on professional certification? – particularly where instructional design and project management are concerned. If you have considered pursuing  or have completed certification, please share your advice on the pros and cons. If you are an employer, let us know how you value certification as part of the recruitment/hiring process.

Photo credit: stock.xchng