I first heard about instructional design through my work making training videos. Through a couple of different professional development programs, I learned how this approach strengthened training impact. Everything I heard about it fit well with what I knew from my own training experience, and simplified a process for putting stronger instructional content together.
Then, I discovered that 2 people I knew, Debby Kalk and Mary Crawford, had both just studied instructional design in graduate school at UT and were working in the emerging field of multimedia.
That enticed me to head back to graduate school to learn more about instructional design and its application within multimedia learning. A tip of the hat to my family for support in returning to school. My folks offered me enough of a stipend to drop some work hours while schooling, and my new wife, Sara, encouraged me throughout the work and worries.
I knew all along that it was unlikely Brown Schools and Healthcare International would have any particular use for my new skills, so I never expected any pay increase or change my position once I got my graduate degree. An instructional designer wasn’t what they needed in the medical model of hospital staff development. I figured I’d have to quit and look for work at an entry-level position somewhere else entirely, so I figured on an income drop of possibly up to 20%.
Just a couple of semesters shy of completing my degree, I had the chance to contact an old friend, Peter Baer, at TXMHMR (Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation) to review some of their training tapes. Once we got to talking, I mentioned my grad school work and upcoming degree and he said, “Hey, we’ve got an opening for an instructional designer — you should apply.”
So, I did. The interview went so well, both the interviewer and I lost track of time. We ended up talking well past when she was supposed to give me a writing task to perform as a test, so she offered to let me complete it later. I wanted to start the job as soon as possible, so I stuck around to complete the writing. A couple of weeks later, I learned I got the job.
How does Bob figure in this?
Well, the reason they specifically had an opening for an instructional designer was that the state of Texas was under court order to improve staff training in their system for caring for mentally retarded/developmentally delayed individuals. The court realized they needed a professional’s guidance to suggest remedies, so they appointed Robert Gagné (Bob to his friends, but I never knew him personally) as a special master to guide their recommendations.
And he told them they needed to use instructional design to ensure future training was more effective and efficient. He recommended they hire an instructional designer as an internal consultant for the Central Office Human Resource Department and they had hired one of my grad school instructors, Dr. Jodi Bonner. After my original interview, she had been able to add her recommendation based on her direct knowledge of my work.
So, it was Bob’s insistence that the state adopt instructional design as a guiding principle for staff training that opened the window of opportunity for me to shift careers and gain valuable experience before I went freelance as an instructional designer a few short years later.
It would be many years later before a freelance contract sent me back to that very same state building to work as a subcontractor on a training project. I discovered to my disappointment that the remaining agency bureaucracy (reorganized several times with much of their work outsourced) had totally abandoned instructional design as a guiding principle. Too bad, as Bob was right all along — it really does improve the development of learning experiences.
Oh, well — thanks for the job, Bob.