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Instructional Design 101: An Interview with Read Coburn Part 2

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  • This week's continuation with the Interview with Read, he shared valuable insights about his journey from being a teacher to an instructional designer. When asked about the most important thing he did to succeed in this transition, Read emphasized the significance of his master's degree. While some tend to believe that formal education is not necessary, He believes that his master's degree was instrumental in helping him develop his instructional design portfolio.


  • What made his master's degree so important was the practical approach taken by the program, which was based on creating a portfolio. The program at Florida State University (FSU), where Read pursued his master's degree, was project-based and centered on building a portfolio. The coursework was designed to provide students with practical, hands-on experience in instructional design. It was not a thesis-based program, which meant that the focus was on creating an instructional design portfolio, rather than a theoretical thesis.


  • Through the program, He learned about different instructional design theories, such as Addie and rapid prototyping, and was able to apply these theories to his projects. One of the most significant advantages of the program was that it allowed students to develop their portfolio through an internship, which provided an opportunity to gain real-world experience in the field.


  • When asked what listeners can do to advance their instructional design careers, Read emphasized the importance of finding projects to work on and developing a portfolio, even if it means working for free. He advised listeners to find a problem or learning gap and apply a systematic instructional design process to solve it. By doing so, they would gain valuable experience and have something to show for it. By keeping notes, creating storyboards, and documenting their deliverables and evaluation process, they could showcase their design process to potential employers.


  • Read believes that a strong portfolio is the key to getting an instructional design job, as it demonstrates one's ability to apply instructional design principles to real-world problems. He credits his portfolio for landing him his first instructional design job. He advises listeners to focus on building their portfolio and to start early, as it takes time to develop a strong body of work.


  • In conclusion, Read's journey from being a teacher to an instructional designer was driven by his pursuit of practical experience and the development of his instructional design portfolio. His master's degree in instructional systems and learning technology from FSU was instrumental in providing him with the skills and knowledge needed to create a strong portfolio. He believes that building a portfolio is the key to advancing one's career in instructional design and advises listeners to focus on developing their portfolio by finding projects to work on and applying a systematic instructional design process to solve problems.




Could you tell me what the most important thing you did to succeed and transitioning from teacher to instructional designer was,

so it's really easy as my master's degree by far. I know, you know, I am tending to be in the, you know, tending toward the side, it says like, you know, formal education is not really necessary, what's better than formal education is experience, right, which, you know, a teacher would have an instructional design. And I think, you know, it's not the path for everyone but my master's degree. The reason I chose that program was because it was so practical, and it was seriously the best program. I mean, it was amazing. My professors were amazing. Everything that we did was so practical, so hands on. And it was not like a thesis based program so it was all a Cornerstone project, which was an instructional design portfolio. So, I would say that, yes, my master's degree was probably the most important thing, but the reason it was the most important was because it helped me develop my portfolio. So I would say actually, developing a portfolio with an instructional design process to back it up, you know, with all the theory and you know, all the steps and everything and lots of different you know, instructional design theories as well not just Addie, but you know, rapid prototyping lots of you know, saicm all types of different things. So yeah, definitely developing a portfolio and I was doing that not only through my master's degree but also through an internship as well.

Yeah, I'm sure. Did you? I'm just curious if you started your portfolio. Is that how they end the beginning of your program? Did you start your portfolio? Or did they have you complete your portfolio in the end? Or was it all embedded?

I mean, it was completely embedded, which was really cool about it. Um, you know, before I was shopping around for instructional design programs, while I was shopping around actually one of them was UCF. I don't want to say anything negative about UCF. I think it's a great school. I just heard about the instructional design program, it was a little more theoretical. i At first, I wanted to go to UCF and I heard about it, you know, some programs being a little more theoretical. And then as I was looking around, I saw the, you know, the instructional systems and Learning Technology program at FSU. And I mean, not to mention that like ganja II went there, which is pretty cool and taught there. Wow, yeah, he was like, he was like an adjunct professor there for a little while. And he did some research for them as well. And a couple of other big names. I can't think of them. But it's like, one of the founding programs of instructional design in the country. So it's pretty impressive. But besides that, I just saw that it was project based, it was all built on, you know, everything was built around creating a portfolio, which I just thought, you know, wow, How perfect is that? I'll come out of this program with a really impressive portfolio that I can show. You know, yeah, potential employers.

That's awesome. I wasn't even in Instructional Design at all when I went to FSU. But that's cool. Yeah. UCF, we didn't build our portfolio somewhat in the beginning, but it really wasn't until the end that we yeah, really, that's that was one thing that always bothered me. And I've always said to everyone, I'm like, You need to start your portfolio now. Yeah, thank you.

Yeah. So I think that's the most important thing I mean, to find projects to work on, right. And develop your portfolio, even if you're working for free. You know, if you're volunteering, whatever, if you can find something to work on and apply the instructional design process. I mean, not only is that way better practice and a learning experience for you, because you'll be actually applying everything you're learning, but you also have something to show for it. Right, you'll have some deliverables, and you'll have the process to show that you can explain to an employer and you can say, hey, this is what I created. And this is why these are all you know, this is my analysis. This is how I evaluated it, all that stuff. Yeah, that's

awesome. Which kind of leads me to the last question, what is one thing listeners can do right now to help advance their instructional design careers?

Yeah. So just like I said, you know, finding a volunteer position, or contract work. Just finding a problem, even, you know, even if it's just something for yourself, find some kind of problem, or performance problem, or learning gap, find it anywhere, right? And then apply a systematic instructional design process to solving that, that problem, and record, you know, record everything, keep notes, keep your, you know, all of your plans, your storyboards, all of that stuff, your deliverables, anything that you do to evaluate or implement your, your solution. Once you work on those types of projects, you'll just feel a lot more comfortable with the design process, and you'll have something really cool, you know, to show potential employers and that's, that's really, I think that's the key to getting any instructional design job is your portfolio. That's how I got mine. You know, I actually was looking around for instructional design jobs at the beginning of 2020. I was looking around for a long time. Not a long time, but pretty it felt like a long time. It's like three or four. Yeah, like three or four. Months after my master's program was like gone back in, I knew it was this, this master's degree is not going to get me the job. But then I got a call back. After I had actually revamped my portfolio, I was looking around for a long time with a portfolio that wasn't completely put together. It wasn't on my own website, it wasn't really demonstrated of the whole instructional design process. So I went back and I completely revamped my portfolio. all the stages of the instructional design process showed like little examples of my deliverables and everything in that portfolio. And just a week or two after that, I got a call back. And, you know, my director HEV, you said, I saw your portfolio, it's really impressive. You want to come in and talk and I went into the office there. And he offered me the job on the spot. You know, I just, yeah, it was kind of funny as one interview and he started well, I think he was impressed by my portfolio. But he was also impressed when he started telling, like, I asked him questions about the projects they were working on. And when he told me about the projects that they are working on, I started offering solutions. And I was like, Alright, let's go like, you know, I wanted to see what they're working on. I wanted to help them solve it, then and I think, yeah, that was, I mean, the portfolio got me and my foot in the door, definitely. And then my interest in just getting the job done in seeing what they're working on and starting to work on projects. We're working on projects. In the interview, you know, I felt like I started. Yeah, I started working in my first project with them during our first interview, so yeah, those are

Yeah, that's definitely yeah, like, portfolios, the foot in the door. But yeah, definitely the interview you have to master as well.

That's super. So yeah, if it's something right now, it's definitely a problem. Yeah, solve it with an instructional design process and put it in a portfolio, get a website and put all your stuff on a website.

Definitely, I'm going to put a link to your portfolio in this post as well, because I'm sure everyone will be interested in seeing. Yeah.

And it's, you know, like I did it on. I did mine on what's it called? I

i can't think of the name, but it's very basic. Was that WordPress? Yes, WordPress. So I kind of tried to build it from the ground up, you know, just like with web design stuff, so it's not the most impressive visually, I don't think but I thought it was good. Yeah, it's fine. I am a little hard on myself. But the point of that portfolio is if you go and look at my projects, it does show the process and then you can see the result of the process. Right. I think that's the most important thing.

Definitely. I mean, it got you a job.

But an amazing job. I mean, I didn't mean to say anything negative earlier. I, you know, I have a little bit of a I don't know what my deal is, but I love Hulu. It's a really amazing company. I'm so happy to be working for them. So yeah, I hope everyone else can find an amazing job and instructional design as well. Because it's a really cool job. He just gotta put some work into it. It took me from the time I decided, hey, I want to be an instructional designer. At the time I got a job and instructional design. It's probably about three years. Yeah, that's good. I think it can be done faster than that. If you just find a project to work on and start working on it get stuff together. You can get into it in no time.

Yeah, it's all about the portfolio and getting the experience

yeah, there's nothing better than learning by doing that's my biggest takeaway from being an education instructional design everything you gotta do it to learn it,

right. It's so funny when we were younger, like it wasn't like that at all. No. It was not like

That's what I hated about math classes. I was really good at math. I slept in. I didn't understand the application of it. And I was like, this is useless. What am I going to use this for?

When I'm dealing with my eighth grade daughter right now in math?

Yeah. Oh, not everyone needs to learn calculus.

Yeah. No, that's crazy. Okay, well, thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview today. I've thoroughly enjoyed the process, and particularly learning about your experiences in China as an ESL teacher. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Yeah, my pleasure, Crystal. Thanks so much for having me. And to all your instructional designers, good luck out there and are aspiring instructional designers. Good luck finding a project, get to work on it and get your portfolio together and you'll be there in no time. Awesome. Thanks. All right.



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