Career Inquiry Interview

Polly Idol is my friend, neighbor and mentor, and is a big part of the reason I went back to school to get my Masters in eLearning Development and Instructional Design. As an educator with 40+ years of experience, and having completed her graduate degree at CU Denver, she is a wealth of information and solid guidance. In our Zoom chat, I ask her the following questions:

  1. Being a CU Denver alumni, what was the most important skill you learned in the program?
    • Surprisingly the biggest lesson was how challenging and important it is to be able to work with people, whether that’s faculty, peers, teams, etc. There are larger repercussions in the corporate world for not performing.  Group work is a crucial skill in instructional design.
  2. What personal trait did you already have that has served you well in your career?
    • Tenacity; believing you’ll get through it somehow, that you will figure it out and make it happen. She has also developed more patience and empathy over her career.
  3. Looking back, as a successful and knowledgeable ID, what advice can you give us, the career newbies?
    • Go easy. You will feel like rushing into the new job and projects, but you should take the time to slow down and absorb as much as you can. Take the time to listen and observe. That is true for the corporate and the academic world. You’ll create better buy in for your solutions if you take your time.
  4. Where do you see the most potential for improvement for adult learning in the corporate environment?
    • Know your audience: students, management, client, SMEs. Don’t rush into the solution. People work from their place of knowledge. Pre-testing to not only see what they already know, but also to prove to them at the end how much they have learned. Design in a choose your path/hub/starburst fashion rather than literal.
  5. How do you feel about mandatory corporate ethics training in general? How do you think we can improve upon this most visible (and profitable/most despised) aspect of our industry?
    • People will try to click through boring training. She suggests taking those courses offline, and engage the students with roleplaying if the corporation can afford it. If it’s online training, personalize the course, have people create an avatar by taking an avatar, so that they can connect their own presence in the course. Maybe the avatar changes as they progress. It might create more empathy from the students. Use stories that are real, rather than unrealistic or cheesy scenarios. Humans are wired for storytelling.
  6. What job role/title do you feel most defines your particular talents? (ie. Instructional Designer, eLearning Designer, Consultant, etc.) How do you find the bulk of your work?
    • Currently web designer, but consultant for the most part. Currently in a transition period. She loves education overall, but is designing as a consultant for small businesses lately. Most of the work is from referral from her past clients. I introduced her to the NextDoor app. The ILT List serve has provided a few opportunities. She’ll reach out to those full time postings, and offer her consultant services as extra help/support. She prices herself low for small website design, which brings more future work in.
  7. What resources (ie. books, websites, organizations) do you hold in highest regard?
    • Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds: A great resource for her website design, color palettes, etc.
    • Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath: Can be applied to courses, almost anything you’re creating.
    • The Accelerated Learning Handbook by Dave Meier: Making your learning engaging, exciting for the learner, retention will be higher and quicker, pre- and post-testing.
    • The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu: People are so intensively competitive, we will grow as humans if we collaborate, help others, joy and excitement is contagious, stop separating yourself from others and find a way to open your heart.
      • Especially as a student, we are barraged with criticism. Find a way to stop competing, and find the job inside yourself. Creatives and Instructional Designers already embrace change; we thrive on it, but we are a very small percentage of the population. She feels that professional women are under a standard of higher criticism than men in general.
  8. What are the top 3 pieces of advice you can give me as an educational professional?
    • Ask: Always seek knowledge. Ask a lot of questions, use their terminology.
    • Listen: What are they really saying? Where are they coming from? Be sensitive to cultural norms.
    • Backwards Design: What is the desired outcome? Don’t start developing your course from the beginning. Find out the intended outcome, behavior, and skills. Your introduction should be the very last thing you create.

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