Q&A: eLearning Designer of the Year Nominee Sam Yates
What is an Instructional Designer?
Always curious, always questioning. A little bit of a geek to be honest. Oh and a bit of a control freak too. For some reason we love pulling content apart and finding a story in it. We like playing around with technologies and like to think we know a bit about graphics (despite what the graphic designers may say…) Essentially we are story-tellers, on a quest to make training more palatable. We do this by designing and developing learning experiences – not content dumps, or compliance tick boxes, but genuine, engaging learning activities that emulate real life skills.
How did you get into Instructional Design?
It was never a childhood dream – I didn’t wake up one day and announce that I was going to be an Instructional Designer, in fact it wasn’t until about three years ago that I even heard of the term ‘Instructional Designer’. That said, I’ve always gravitated towards aspects of training in every job I’ve been in, and when I worked in recruitment I became their head of training and completed the Certificate in Training Practice. However, it wasn’t until I moved back to Bournemouth and worked for a Housing Association that I even understood the impact of eLearning.
It was here that I created my first course and caught the bug for creating engaging, relevant content. I could see the huge gap between what people wanted and needed to learn, and what their employers were forcing them to complete as part of a ‘tick box’ exercise. I wanted to be able to combine the two. Technology and training have come a long way together in a short space of time and when I discovered Articulate I suddenly understood what an ID does and realised that this was the perfect fit for me.
Describe a typical day.
Typically, every day starts with a coffee. A giant coffee. But other than that, no two days are the same – on Monday I might be hiding away scribbling down a script for a new course, while on Tuesday I could be meeting clients and storyboarding ideas for new proposals. In between I could be updating question banks, helping to design new templates for Off The Shelf courses, building courses in Storyline or just having a cheeky kip under my desk!
What would be your dream Instructional Design project?
I worked on it last year! Working with LINGOS really was a dream project for me – not only was I creating it for a charity close to my heart, but I had full creative free reign and control over the whole process. I got to be the designer, the writer and the developer – what more could an ID want?! (Not to mention the visit to Orlando at the end…)
What’s the best thing about your job?
I get to be a little bit geeky, a big bit creative and I never stop learning. Plus I get to work with some extremely clever and creative people which inspires me to keep trying new things.
Do you have a favourite authoring tool?
Articulate Storyline. Aside from being the only one I know how to use, I actually think it’s a pretty awesome piece of kit. Especially for IDs who like to do a bit of everything…
What advice would you give someone who wants to become an ID?
Get creating! Volunteer for charities to build up your portfolio, pick a topic and build your own mini course. Research research research! There are tons of resources out there for newcomers to the industry – it is after all an industry of education, so go educate yourself! You don’t need fancy degrees, just a solid knowledge of learning theories and practices. And the ability to write – that’s kind of essential too!
If you weren’t an ID what would you be?
Unemployed?! I do run my own photography and jewellery-making business on the side, so if I had the time (and money) I would probably expand that. However, in every job I’ve ever been in, I’ve always subconsciously gravitated towards some aspect of training, so I think that’s where I’m supposed to be.