My Life In a New Direction
I entered this program while working as a graphic designer and multimedia specialist for different departments throughout the University of Missouri. I realized that there was more I wanted to explore and more that I wanted to learn. I pursued the area of educational technology and felt it was a good fit with my experience and skill set. With my practical experience in graphic design, video production and web design, I felt I could accelerate my learning in this area. In my work as a staff member of the university I produced a significant number of training brochures and educational videos. This experience was evidence that courses focusing on the instructional and usability design could greatly enhance my professional growth.
My passion for technology, specifically those technologies supporting content creation, has fueled my determination to complete my graduate degree. Technology has always been a major part of my life and I still find helping people to learn challenging. I have found a unique correlation between developing graphic design products and creating educational products. In both specialties visual and cognitive reception of the information is important to consider when producing a final product.
My beliefs of how people learn follow the Constructivist Learning Principles especially; Why people learn is just as important as what they are learning. What is their motivation to learn? How do they draw on their own experiences in their desire to learn a subject or skill? Technology as an educational tool needs to promote active learning, or hands-on learning. The task or problem is thus the interface between the instructor and the learner (McMahon 1997). Thus creating a dynamic interaction between task, instructor and learner. This entails that learners and instructors should develop an awareness of each other’s viewpoints and then look to their own beliefs, standards and values, thus being both subjective and objective at the same time (Savery 1994). To use technology successfully in learning, I realized there are a wide number of subjects one must become familiar with with and implement, not just competently, but with the intention to support ongoing learning.
Learn by Doing
One of the many things I learned in this program was content development skills. In a other professional experience I was primarily self-taught in the area of how to use post video editing programs such as Adobe Premiere and After Effects. In ISLT 7361, Introduction to Digital Media, I was ultimately able to use these skills to bring projects to completion. In this class I built a website and its content using images, coding, audio, and video. Online instruction was challenging for me to understand and get direction as to where I was with this program. I had taken prior postgraduate courses on campus at Mizzou before entering the ISLT online program. I able to have interaction with professors, teaching assistants, and other students while taking classes on campus, transitioning to the online learning experience has been very eye-opening to me. I found there really is no appreciable difference between online learning and on campus learning. Learning online however, is not without its frustrations, such as how I manage my time because there is no classroom to keep me disciplined to complete class assignments. The motivation to do school work comes from desire to learn the actual material. Overall this curriculum showed me how to learn using the model of “by doing”, as I was not attending a typical classroom setting, I was responsible for how I used my time to accomplish all of the class tasks. I also had to reach out to professors and classmates who I would see in class online, this was new for me. Understanding how various dashboard technologies was a great challenge because it differed from a social media website and was more of a collaborative tool. At the end of the day, the responsibility and discipline falls on the learner responsibility to focus on completing the project and using technology to execute it.
Some of the best things I have learned during this program has been during collaborative projects. In ISLT 9469, Designing Electronic Performance Support Systems, I was able to more deeply explore the integration of technology into a support system for learning and evaluation. We were encouraged during the course to use collaborative educational technologies as part of the curriculum. I was fortunate enough to work with a classmate whose background was in the medical profession. She and I used many free online collaboration tools to work together on our final project. Because of her background in nursing and mine in graphic design we designed a suitable prototype that could possibly become a workable product. It was some of the best online educational experiences I’ve had during this curriculum.
Another example of a good collaborative learning experience was in ISLT 9461, Interaction Design, where the final project was to improve the user interaction design of a website. I felt my fellow classmate and i were a good fit to successfully complete the project. In this course I felt that my graphic design and web design skills were utilized. My partner had excellent skills understanding needs assessment and formative/summative evaluation on how to improve the website. What I learned during this course was that user experience (UX) design is not just about changing the interface to be new but discovering the reasons why user interfaces do not work. Understanding how the user or learner works with the technology plays a vital role in making a successful product.
Additionally, in my program, I included ISLT 9473, Project Management, as one the classes I was looking forward to taking. I have always been at the execution phase of a project when I was working for the University. Understanding the context and conception for building an informational system is an important aspect to understand. Defining the difference between project management and project work has been valuable. I have a tendency to focus on learning specific skills that build to complete a project. Making a project plan and conceptualizing a project charter was a new experience for me. The strategic planning and defining the project’s goals become an important stage of designing instructional systems. The most important aspect for project management I found to be was understanding the stakeholders’ needs and expectations for the desired outcome. This is a key aspect of project management in order for a project to meet stakeholders goals and expectations and avoid bogging down a project. Identifying and managing the lifecycle to be used, applying it to the user centered design process, managing external vendors, and knowing when changes need to occur during a project execution was valuable knowledge learned in this course.
What I plan to do with what I have learned
This program has significantly contributed to my understanding and skill level using technology in educational applications and my understanding of instruction through technology. I have learned skills to help me enhance professional development, designed more effective learning tools in an organized way. Understanding effective teaching strategies using technology, which brought my ideas to life through project management skills. It also introduced me to using data and statistics to quantify the effectiveness of what I and other teachers develop. As well as gained an understanding of evaluation techniques and make learning more effective.
I recently began a new position with a commercial real-estate company that uses my skills to further their technology initiatives, client relations and marketing strategies. The Information Sciences Learning technology program provided me with a stronger background for researching technology in education. Furthermore, the curriculum perked my interest to read sources in the field paramount for understanding educational technology and cognitive science. Additionally, the program enhanced my learning a new range of skills to move forward as a practitioner in user experience design, building upon my skill levels while allowing me to reflect on many components that utilize technology to learn and teach.
McMahon, M. (1997). Social Constructivism and the World Wide Web – A Paradigm for Learning (Paper presented at the ASCILITE conference). Perth, Australia.
Savery, John R. and Thomas M. Duffy (1994), “Problem-Based Learning: An Instructional Model and Its Constructivist Framework,” Educational Technology, August 1994, pp. 1-16.