Day in the Life of an Instructional Designer

Posted: April 17, 2017 10:20:00 AM CDT

Steven McGahan photoMatching teaching strategies with technology solutions is a broad way to describe the job of an instructional designer. They train people not only in how to use educational technologies, but why and when to use them to maximize the teaching and learning experience.

Instructional designers often work in higher education, elementary or secondary education, government, or companies providing educational support services. I sat down with Steven McGahan, one of our own instructional designers at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) eCampus and a graduate of the online Instructional Technology program, for a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the field.

Q: Give us some insight about your day as an instructional designer.

A: My days are split up among several different things. After checking email and phone messages and looking over recent news in education, my day becomes a mix of meetings, calls, research, and development. One of the best things about my job is that my days are varied. I don’t come in, day after day, and do the same thing over and over. What I do the most is meet with faculty to consult with them on their online/blended courses, and work on the development of new training and resources for our faculty. In essence, my job is to teach the teachers how to teach well within the online/blended modality. So I spend my time either working one-on-one with faculty or working on training that helps them with their courses. The rest of my time is usually spent researching new methods/technology and handling administrative duties that I am tasked with for eCampus.

Q: Why did you chose to become an instructional designer?

A: My family has a long history in education. My grandmother was a special education teacher, my parents both taught at a high school for their entire careers, not to mention my aunts, uncles, and cousins who are all involved in education. When I was young, I wanted nothing to do with working in an educational field, but apparently it was in my blood. My undergraduate degree was in multimedia, and when I started looking at options for a master’s degree, the one closest to that was an instructional technology degree. So I guess you could say that circumstance and lineage brought me to the point where I am now. I love the use of technology to present information and to engage learners. Where else would I get to do that on a daily basis than in an instructional design position?

Q: What's the toughest thing about your job?

A: In a word, time. Being an instructional designer requires that you be a master of several different areas to function effectively in the position. There are the obvious areas of technology and pedagogy; you can’t do much in my area without a good working knowledge of both. But in addition, instructional design requires an understanding of other areas that I encounter on an almost daily basis: legal issues relating to copyright, intellectual property, and disability services. In my position, I also encounter issues relating to video and audio production for the media services we provide to faculty. In my administrative role within eCampus, I have to understand budgets, evaluation metrics, and university policies. All of this is not to say that I don’t enjoy my work; to the contrary, I love it. It just requires that I be adaptable to circumstances and take on roles in my position that I never dreamed I would have to when I started.

Q: What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?

A: Working with the faculty is the best thing about my job. I get the chance to collaborate with some great teachers in my position, and the ability to help them achieve their goals with their classes is an incredible opportunity. I get the chance to teach and learn at the same time that I work with them. The relationships that develop in my job carry me further in my career than any book, blog, or journal article could. Instructional designers at UNK get to spend our days helping to make the university a better place to learn, and that makes it worth coming to campus every day.

Q: What's the most interesting thing sitting on your desk?

A: That’s a tough question for me. As anyone who has been in my office will know, I have a lot of things on my desk. If I had to nail it down, I would go with two things. The first is the most intellectually interesting thing on my desk, which is a piece of red tape, encased in lucite, that was used to bind government documents in the past. To access documents, bureaucrats had to “cut through the red tape.” As I have a fondness for government and colloquialisms, I had to buy this paperweight. The most emotionally interesting thing on my desk is my ceramic, limited-edition replica of Will Clark’s 1986 Topps baseball card. As a bay-area sports fan, Will “the Thrill” Clark has been one of my heroes since I was a kid and started watching and playing baseball. Go Giants!

UNK offers an online Master of Science in Instructional Technology with four areas of concentration: Instructional Technology, Leadership in Instructional Technology, School Librarian, and Information Technology. The degree provides expertise to instruct and train teachers, students, or workplace professionals in using technology resources.

Explore instructional technology or other online programs as the next step in your education and career through UNK eCampus

By: Alyssa Wyant

Category: Instructional Technology, eCampus

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