Blog updates

As a full-time learning experience and instructional designer and also hands-on dad, it can sometimes be hard to find the time to update my portfolio and blog on a regular basis. Come back periodically to read my new posts and to check out new uploads to my portfolio.

A different experience

When I was last looking for a new job (autumn 2019), the job market for instructional designers, e-learning designers, learning experience designers and similar depended heavily on your physical location. No matter that various global technology companies had provided us with email and the tools necessary to work remotely – the recruiters wanted you there, on the ground, face-to-face.

Having been laid off in May 2021 due to poor sales and the subsequent need to economise, I waded back into the job market, prepared for the worst, only to find it had been revolutionised. Those jobs that had previously had a physical location were now nearly all permanently remote due to the Covid pandemic and the shift to home-working. In addition, the number of jobs had exploded. I applied to 30 companies directly within the first week or two and had more interviews than ever before, all remote. More applications and interviews followed as the month went on. Recruitment agencies, who had previously been lacklustre in their efforts, fell over themselves to contact me and then put me forward. As the workforce stayed at home, learning moved online and my skills were in demand.

Happily I was snapped up by a company and I was able to start my new role quickly… much to my wife’s dismay/rejoicing, I never did get to do the gardening or DIY that I’d lined up.

Covid-19 and other challenges

2019 certainly brought a raft of changes and challenges to not just me but everyone. While the world watched in horror as Covid-19 spread like wildfire, my own little world changed when my wife and I welcomed our firstborn in November 2019. A new person, full of potential to learn, to absorb new skills and words at the rate of a dry sponge in a bucket full of water. In December 2019, I moved to a new company and had to learn at the same rate!

My now not-quite-so-new company was founded and is still run by engineers with PhDs in physics and maths, for whom the most fiendish maths calculation (as I see it) is a piece of cake and who probably actually enjoy calculus. It’s my role to translate their knowledge into something the rest of us can easily understand and to do so in bite-sized videos. The world is battling a virulent virus and I’m fighting to understand geolocation and radio frequency monitoring. Our son, meanwhile, is sitting, crawling, and showing a wonderful interest in books.

A formal qualification, at last.

I am thrilled to announce that I have received my CIPD Level 5 Award in Designing and Developing Blended Learning Solutions.

As those of us working in the learning/instructional and learning experience design sector appreciate, it is more often a case of experience over formal qualification and theory but it still feels good to finally have a formal qualification in learning design under my belt.

From classroom to distance-learning

I was recently given a new, challenging project: take an existing classroom-based course and turn it into an engaging online distance-learning course. That in itself isn’t too challenging given appropriate time and resources – but I was given just five days.

After a meeting with the project owner, I started a discovery process. Gathering together all of the existing course materials, including the trainer and learner guides, presentations, etc. I soon discovered that there was a wealth of material available to use, albeit in unhelpful or incompatible formats. I leveraged the combined skills and creativity of our junior instructional designers and we set to work on creating new resources.

Within days, the course started to take shape in Articulate Rise. I chose Rise due to its efficiency as a rapid authoring tool and its in-built responsive design capabilities. The subject matter expert flew in from Ireland to record the voice-over; screen-recordings of the presentation were synchronised with the audio by our videographer. I inserted these videos into Rise and created engaging supporting material to accompany them.

The course then underwent two rounds of internal quality assurance before receiving its sign-off. The whole process took five days, defying expectations of some team members.

The main lesson learnt is that the initial classroom-based course should have been built with provision to be turned into an online course at a later stage (I had raised this option when initially designing the classroom-based course).

Learning Technologies 2019

This year, I was able to attend Learning Technologies, Europe’s leading annual conference dedicated to learning and development technologies, held in ExCel London.

I listened to presentations and attended workshops on topics from designing effective learning to the neuroscience of learning. We were challenged repeatedly to innovate: successful learning and development is not about dumping a lot of information on people and then testing them to prove they can recall it. We need to shake things up, do things differently, and focus on creating memorable, meaningful experiences that really work.

I had hands-on with emerging technologies that have real potential to revolutionise the learning experience for both learners and instructors. Technologies to keep an eye on and experiment with as they develop in the training sector include augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

As an instructional designer, working as part of a team in a large company, it can be all too easy to lose sight of the wider training landscape. Learning Technologies allowed me to connect anew with the sector and I came away, bursting with new ideas and itching to integrate new technologies and techniques into my projects.