It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s an Instructional Designer!

Nonna Shtipelman, Senior Instructional Designer

A few months ago, I was sitting on a plane, flying home from home from a winter escape. As I sat back and planned my next adventure, I heard a passenger across the aisle complain to the flight attendant about poor wifi connectivity. “Wait,” I thought, “I know what to do!” It could be a latency issue. Did you try the ipconfig command? Is it interference or signal strength? If not, try logging on to the router to see which channels are in use.

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How do I know? I’m an instructional designer! I can help you troubleshoot wifi on a passenger jet, identify ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in early care and education environments, keep you safe while working as a pesticide applicator, or onboard new employees in hotel chains nationwide. I feel like I should be wearing a cape!

I’ve been an educator for most of my career, and have always prided myself on knowing the content I taught really well. When I became an instructional designer, and was asked to create a course that teaches aviation techs how to configure, maintain, and troubleshoot satellite communications systems, I couldn’t imagine where to begin. How could someone without any content knowledge design and deliver a quality course?

Having a good subject matter expert helps, as does access to solid source materials. In cases where those are not available, detective skills come into play. Who can I interview? What do I, and our learners, need to know? Where can I find additional information? How can I make it relatable? Why are learners taking this class?

I’ve also come to believe that in some cases, not knowing the content actually helps. For example, as I developed the satellite communications course, I reflected on whether I was learning, and what I was learning. Did it meet the objectives of each lesson and of the course overall? That I was so excited to troubleshoot my fellow passenger’s connectivity issues tells me it did! 

And because what we do is so visual, here’s where you might imagine we swishing my cape and flying off to my next amazing elearning adventure!