A Day In The Life Of… An Instructional Designer

Published: October 18, 2010
By: Faye Hollands

Do you love training people?  Do you get a kick out of being creative and passing on your knowledge and expertise to others?  Today we take a look into the life of Karen Moloney, a expert Instructional Designer and successful businesswoman, who specialises in giving people the very best elearning experiences…

Professional Profile

What is your current occupation?

Director & Principal Instructional Designer, The eLearning eXperts since June 2010.  The eLearning eXperts is the consulting division of my learning services company Get Me Enterprises which was setup in May 2007.  An Instructional Designer designs training courses and my specialty is creating self-paced elearning programs and producing live webinars.

What were you doing before you started your current job/business?

I have been an Instructional Designer since 1992, working at various organisations in Australia and the UK including Wang, Rolls Royce, NSW Police Service, Michael Page International, and Colonial First State Property.

How did you make the move into your current position?

My first job after leaving school in 1990 was as a Billing Clerk for a worldwide courier firm in the UK.  I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do and I figured if I took a job with a large company I would be able to get an idea of what careers were available.  After 6 months I went on an internal training course to learn how to run reports on our billing system.  The trainer thought I had potential to join their team and suggested to my boss that I should pursue this within the organization.  My boss thought it would be “too much for me to cope with” which triggered my “I’ll show you” reaction so I left that job and got a new one working for a software house running their IT Help Desk.

Being a Help Desk Co-ordinator gave me the opportunity to help users with their IT issues which regularly involved translating geek speak into easy to understand instructions.  After a couple of years I joined the internal training team to write courses for our employees.  I was trained in-house as an Instructional Designer – a job role I had never heard of before.  The training covered how to break down complex material into clear and concise instructions with a logical flow and it really set me up for the role I do now.  I worked on a number of Government and Finance industry contacts over a few years before deciding to take the plunge and go it alone in the world of contracting.

The main reason for going contracting was to get more variety in the kind of courses I was creating and exposure to different industries and organisations.  This is important in a design role in order to create engaging learning.  Continually creating material on the same subject may make you an expert in that topic, but it will bore you over time and this becomes apparent in the courses you produce.

I continued my contracting career in the UK for several years before emigrating to Australia in 2000.  The skills I had acquired in the UK made it easy for me to pick up contract work on arrival in my new home town of Sydney.  At that time, there were very few qualifications in my field that were vocational as opposed to being part of a university degree.  By 2005, the corporate world was really starting to embrace the idea that if they provided good quality learning for their employees, this would improve their service offering and assist with staff engagement and retention levels.  I’m still not entirely sure why, but at that time, I felt a need to get an official stamp on my expertise and experience so I did some internet research and spoke to some colleagues.  I found out that the standard qualification trainers undertook in Australia was the Certificate IV in Training and Workplace Assessment (now called the Cert IV TAA).  I also discovered that because I had been designing learning programs for a number of years I was able to submit past pieces of work as Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) towards my qualification.  I did part of this course in person at the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS), then finished the remaining modules at a training centre and submitted my assessments online.

Still hungry for knowledge, I was intrigued by the field of elearning and the role it was starting to play in corporate learning.  I did some research online and found an elearning Diploma course being run at UTS.  The course was run over several months and it introduced me to some people who have been extremely influential in my elearning design career and provided some very useful contacts later down the track.  I was lucky enough to be able to implement some elearning in the form of webinars where I was working at the time and it was extremely valuable to my studies to be able to see what happens in real life, rather than what should happen in theory.

After a while, I became bored in my role as the elearning solution had been identified and implemented – my itchy contracting feet wanted to get back out into the market.  But this time, I wanted to concentrate my efforts on identifying the solutions rather than implementing them myself, so Get Me Enterprises Pty Ltd was born in 2007.  Our consulting division – The eLearning eXperts – now has a number of contractors working on various projects with me concentrating on the business development and high level Instructional Design – and I love it!  There is nothing more satisfying than being able to solve people’s problems for them, but doing something I love to make that happen is a huge bonus.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

  • 7am – 8am: Read email, check project activity in Basecamp and plan for my day
  • 8am – 9am: Business admin – paying bills, updating social networks, issuing invoices, etc.
  • 9am – 10am: Conference call with a client to update them on progress of their elearning project
  • 10.30am – 11am: Prepare to moderate (host) webinar for a client
  • 11am – 11.30am: Moderate webinar – introduce presenter, handle Q&A, etc.
  • 11.30am – 12pm: Debrief webinar with client and send out follow-up email to attendees
  • 12pm – 12.30pm: Lunch and check email
  • 12.30pm – 1.30pm: Travel to city
  • 2pm – 4pm: Workshop with new client to define their elearning strategy
  • 4pm – 5pm: Meeting with new client to discuss converting their PowerPoint based training material into elearning

What do you love most about your job?

I love sharing my knowledge and experience to help my clients find solutions to their learning problems.  I love being master of my own destiny and being able to choose to work with clients and contractors whose values are aligned with me and my business – it makes for a much more enjoyable work day!

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Getting clients to buy into the process.  Elearning can provide significant cost savings for a business as it reduces the need for travel and training venues and it can be developed pretty quickly with some of the great software now available.  However, the design part of a project is still a creative, iterative process which takes time.  On our projects we invest time up front to create a pilot lesson, do thorough project planning and put in place a communication strategy, all of which form the basis for a successful implementation.  Rushing through these tasks or neglecting to do them will only cost time and money down the track, but it’s often quite difficult to get that across to clients implementing elearning for the first time, particularly when they are under pressure from management to deliver a solution and start making cost savings.

What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give someone considering following your footsteps?

  • Get qualified. Investigate courses available at your local university or TAFE which support anything to do with training, elearning and instructional design.  There is a huge difference between pieces of work created by those with this background knowledge and those without.  Qualifications in this arena will stand you in much better stead of getting the job you want – I certainly don’t employ anyone who doesn’t have at least a Cert IV TAA.
  • Ask for advice. Find other Instructional Designers, talk to them about their journey and ask advice on making the transition.  There are plenty of online forums (do a search on LinkedIn groups for “Instructional Design” and you’ll find heaps) where we congregate and exchange ideas and advice on a range of topics.  You will be surprised how helpful people can be when you’re looking to move into a new space.
  • Identify your niche in the industry. Do you want to design face-to-face, elearning or blended solutions?  Do you want to just focus on design, or do you want to develop your solutions too?  Is there a particular tool you want to master and become an expert in?  Is there an industry you want to focus on?  Think about what would set you apart from ten other Instructional Designers if you were all going for the same job.  What previous experiences can you draw on to feed into your new career?

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Karen Moloney, Director and Principle Instructional Designer, is an expert in creating self-paced elearning programs and producing live webinars.

SPECIAL OFFER FOR OUTSHINE READERS: Karen’s business IT training division – SpeedTrain – is offering free tips to give your LinkedIn profile a boost during the month of November.  If you are looking to find new contacts, get a new job or attract new business opportunities, join Karen’s mailing list today and start getting your LinkedIn profile working for you!

You can contact Karen as follows: –


    Faye Hollands

    About Faye Hollands

    Faye is an accomplished Career Coach, Small Business Coach and Productivity Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success. To receive weekly articles to improve your career, business and time management skills click here or book your Free Focus Session here.

    You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email fayehollands@outshineconsulting.com

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