Become an IDOL 01: Learn how to transition from secondary school teaching to an instructional designer and online learning developer

Published: March 20, 2019

Episode: 01

Learn how to transition from secondary school teaching to an instructional designer and online learning developer

Guest: Maddie Rotrand, Owner of NifteLearning

In this episode of Become an IDOL, I’ll be chatting with Maddie Rotrand about her experience transitioning from secondary education to instructional design and eLearning development. We’ll be sharing tips for switching careers and landing your first job.

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In this episode we discuss:

  • The best way to break into the instructional design field as a secondary school teacher
  • If you need a certification or another degree to become a corporate instructional designer or eLearning developer
  • Tips on job assets you need to land your first job
  • What hiring managers are looking for in an IDOL

 

 

 

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Links mentioned in this episode:

 📝 NifteLearning

 📝 Articulate Storyline

 📝 Lectora

 📝 IDOL courses' Storyboard Template

 

Episode Transcription:

Robin Sargent

Welcome to Become an IDOL. This is episode one, learn how to transition from secondary school teaching to an instructional designer and online learning developer. Robin Sargent I'm Dr. Robin Sargent, owner of IDOL courses. This is the place where newbies come to learn, and veteran share their knowledge. In this episode, I'll be chatting with Maddie Rotrand about her experience transitioning from a secondary school teacher, to an instructional designer and e learning developer. We'll be sharing tips for switching careers and landing your first job. We have with us today Maddie Rotrand. And funny enough, I actually met Maddie because I put a job posting up for IDOL courses. And Maddie applied and she said, Hey, I might be the Swiss Army knife of instructional design that you're looking for. And she absolutely is that she does elearning she can create amazing graphics. She does the instructional design part where she scripts and writes and does all the needs analysis. And I've actually invited Maddie on here today. Because Maddie after our conversations, I found out that she actually transitioned from being a secondary school teacher, to a instructional designer and even a freelance instructional designer. And we're gonna get more into that today. But Maddie, would you tell us more about yourself and talk about what your what you call your company and just anything that you want to share to give people some insight about who you are and and what you do.

Maddie Rotrand

Sure thing. So just as you mentioned, I used to be a teacher, I have a background in education. So I had a Bachelors of education. And I was teaching in classrooms for about seven years, I went back to school and I got a master's in instructional design. And right out of my master's, I immediately jumped into freelance instructional design elearning. And quickly enough, I ended up building my own company, which is called nifty learning. And today I employ others, I also work a lot with my own clients. I do a lot of instructional design elearning courses, and I really am a Swiss army knife because I'm doing totally different things for totally different industries. And it's always a lot of fun.

Robin Sargent

And so now you said that you actually moved from right out of your master's program into doing freelance. And I'm sure that a lot of people in our audience who would be surprised by that notion, you know, how did you just start going into freelance when all you had was a master's degree in instructional design, and no specific experience to instructional design?

Maddie Rotrand

Well, the way it worked for my program was that you had an internship option at the end of your degree. And so a lot of students, the university offered them, like an opportunity, they could choose from a whole bunch of different partnerships that the university had. But there's also the opportunity if you wanted to secure your own internship and this could be remote, it could be really they were flexible, but very few students actually went that route. And so one thing that was a bit unique about me was that I always knew that I wanted to do freelance, and I spent a lot of time kind of reaching out to people on LinkedIn, becoming familiar with the instructional design freelance community going on. He's kind of what is it? Coffee dates, where I'm just learning about what people do. And so I actually took the time to build relationships, before I finished my master's, so that when it came time to look for that internship, I reached out to people who I had remotely kind of built relationships with and I said, Hey, I'm looking for an internship. Do you have anything like, you know, have any opportunities? And I actually had somebody he said, Oh, I know three kind of other freelance companies. I'll reach out to them for you. And out of the three. She said, No, but once said, Yes, I'm looking for an intern. That would be really interesting. And that's kind of what led me. So I did the internship, that was like 675 hours. And then from there that that client became my first client. And I went on to through those relationships to get more clients, and that's how I got into freelance.

Robin Sargent

Wow. So and that, I mean, that's the thing, right? I mean, you said you talked about getting an internship during your master's program. But I think what we really want to focus on too is just what about people who maybe they're already at secondary school teachers, so they definitely already have a bachelor's. Do you think that it's required? If they want to get into instructional design as a secondary instructor to go and get a masters is that? I mean, how did you make that decision? And what are kind of like your current opinions about how that works?

Maddie Rotrand

Well, I have to admit, now that I'm in the industry, I do find that it gives me a lot of credibility, having that master's, I don't know if from an actual, like skill standpoint, if I actually suddenly learn all that much from the master's degree, to be honest, like I did learn, you know, about Addie and things like, you know, some of the the instructional models and so on. But when I actually think about the work that I do day to day, it was learned on the job. One thing that I really had an issue with in my master's was that I didn't learn any authoring tools, like it wasn't actually taught. And so what I did is, I went out, and I paid out of pocket as a student, it was cheaper, but I actually taught myself how to use storyline. And I, like I worked and created my own portfolio, I build stuff so that I could have it on the portfolio. And actually, I mentioned that that one company hired me, the reason that they did that was because they saw that I had taken initiative to like train myself. And I remember she said, actually, if you aren't going to put money into yourself, then why should I put money into you? And so that was, yeah, so that was a good move on my part. So to answer your question, like, I don't think it's necessary, but I do think that it does give you some credibility in the industry. But there are ways you know, if you are able to take the time to create things of your own that you can then show, then clients will be interested in working with you.

Robin Sargent

Yeah, I actually have something similar that happened to me, which was a, it was getting my first instructional design job like a real one with the instructional design title. And one of the questions that the hiring manager asked me on the phone, he said, Oh, do you are you familiar with storyline and captivate? And I said, Yes. And I don't all I had done really is like, download the free trials and made things with it. And so I said, Yes. And then he said, What about Lectora? And I had, I had never even heard of Lectora, I said, Oh, I actually, I don't know what that is, and, and he said, Oh, it's not a big deal. It's just another elearning authoring tool. And I said, Oh, okay. Well, that night, I went to find Lectora, I downloaded the free trial. And then I made an E Learning sample course, about what I learned about using electrodes. And I emailed him and showed him the file. And he actually said that that was exactly why he hired me and gave me a chance, even though I only had higher education experience. And it was because of just like you said, the initiative to go and just figure it out. And that's what a lot of what being an instructional designer is, in general, I think.

Maddie Rotrand

Yeah, for sure. Sorry, to cut you off. I was gonna say, yeah, for me in freelance, like, in freelance, it's really just you going out and getting your own clients and you know, making sure that you get the work done in managing your timelines, you know, and all the different projects you have going on. So if you don't have that type of personality, then I don't think freelance is the right route for you.

Robin Sargent

Right. And so what about a teacher who says, Look, I don't have time to go get a master's degree? Do you think that I still have a chance to make it into corporate instructional design?

Maddie Rotrand

Well, I'd say if you have to have the time to at least, like if, let's say the work was offered to you, if you're too busy, then how would you do the work? So that's where I'm kind of having like a bit of a hard time getting my head around it. But at the same time, I think, yeah, if you don't have time to go back to school, there's still ways to improve your skill so that you're able to, you know, bid on something or offer your another skill set in a different industry. So I do think that it's an option. But then you there's still, like, for example, we talked about storyline and like the free trial. So like, you could take you know, there's tons of demo courses, so at least you become familiar if you want to go into like authoring tools so that you at least you know how to work with storyline. There's also teachers do a lot of like, lesson planning. So, you know, if you wanted to maybe leverage that skill and create some storyboards, for example, you know, take pre existing courses that you have and show how it would look as a storyboard for an elearning that's, that's a way to kind of like quickly create samples of work you already have.

Robin Sargent

Right and that's actually something that we've talked about before Maddie, and that is that there's a lot of instructional design positions where you don't actually need to know how to use that you Winning authoring tools. Yes, you can, you know, maybe garner a higher rate, but not necessarily always. And you know, you have more opportunities for jobs in corporate if you can develop elearning courses. But you and I were talking about how, you know, several instructional designers that just do the, the writing the needs analysis, the interviewer, the SMEs, and they write storyboards.

Maddie Rotrand

Yeah, like, I actually think, based on my experience, like, instructional designers actually, are often. So there are people like you and I who do both. But I've found that there's instructional designers. And there's elearning developers. And actually, I've always found that instructional design positions pay more than elearning developer ones. I have found also that like, if you can do both, that actually works better for like smaller clients who maybe have like a small budget, and they just want to, like hire one person to like, take care of everything. Whereas like, the larger corporate ones, actually, it's like, they have no issue with, you know, having separate people doing different parts of the the project. I have found, though, that I've worked with a lot of instructional designers who are not familiar actually, with the authoring tools. And that can be, I mean, good and bad, because on the one hand, okay, so they're specialized in instructional design. And that's totally, totally fine. But on the downside, I have found that sometimes they make recommendations for things that like, aren't even possible as an elearning developer.

Robin Sargent

I've seen that too.

Maddie Rotrand

Or, yeah, or there's really creative if you know, like, what type of interactions can be built in the authoring tool, then you're able to kind of think more creatively, as opposed to like, oh, make these buttons, you know, or like, there's, like, really interesting things that you can do. And so, I think, though, that does come with personality type, too. You know, not everybody is a super visual type of person. And it's, it's worth kind of, I guess, evaluating yourself and determining, you know, do do I, first of all, I'm really good with graphics and visuals, because if you're not, then probably eLearning Development isn't the right. tool for you. Yeah, exactly. I mean, there I've worked with people who are have like, programming backgrounds, and then they do a lot of yeah, they can work in Storyline. But it's like, okay, so you're really good at all the triggers and so on. But then you aren't the, the course is just very dry and still not visual. And then on the flip side, you have people who are super visual, but it's like, distractingly beautiful, it's not instructional anymore. So I think it's like, really, there's, it's figuring out kind of what your what you fit best for.

Robin Sargent

Right? And then once you make that decision, right, do I want to go down the path of being elearning developer? Do I want to go down the path of becoming like just the instructional designer? Or do I want to be an IDOL and do both and, and once you make that decision to make a transition out of teaching, you think it's got to be formatting that resume in a way where it's skills that are transferable first, and then finding ways to tailor your resume where it doesn't say things like, secondary school teacher, but instead, you're talking about your experience as a relates and translates to instructional design and building that online portfolio, especially for corporate jobs?

Maddie Rotrand

For sure. And I will say that, like, I've seen a lot of teaching material, that's absolutely stunning. Like, you know, it's could be like for grade two, but like the visual, like, you know, the amount of effort that's put it like, there are a lot of teachers whose backgrounds like they could be graphic designers. So it's, you know, and it's about, can you then, take that and maybe build it out in storyline, and there you go like you, you've can show that you suddenly have this beautiful thing that you've built in storyline, so you can leverage your skills.

Robin Sargent

Yeah, and I would just, for anybody who's listening and thinking about like, Oh, I do have courses that I could, you know, show off in my online portfolio to make a transition to instructional designer. But I would still encourage you to not show secondary types of content like secondary education content, because you want to move away from the hiring manager looking at you as just like a school teacher, to an instructional designer. So anything that's actually relevant to the corporate space, whether that's like a software program or a soft skill, like listening or something like that. That's really what you want to try to make. So even if you've made something already for secondary education, you'd be better off if you say for instance, you did a workshop on professional development for other teachers. That would be more something that you could just load into your portfolio. That'd be more accepted than how to count.

Maddie Rotrand

Yeah, I really I wish I had taken your advice because my very first storyline course while I was and so strictly secondary, but it was how to target safety issues in classrooms. And so it was like little it was, I had like pictures of a classroom. And then there were like clear danger, things all over the room scattered, and when you clicked on them would tell you like, Oh, these loose wires could electrocute children or whatever. It wasn't necessarily the best choice for my first portfolio item. But nonetheless, it was they were happy a had, of course. So there we go. You're still Robin Sargent showing off your skills. And I mean, that's a good point, too. I mean, if you just, if you just do the work, and you show proof that you did it, the content, you know, of that course is not really that important. But if you are just starting out, and you haven't created anything yet, then tailor it towards your audience. Yeah, I mean, that's what you got to do as an instructional designer anyway, it's all about, you know, tailoring your information for your audience.

Maddie Rotrand

I've seen a lot better, just boilerplate too, but I really think that it's worth putting in content. Because exactly as you say, you're not even if you're just like showing the, the the authoring tool part you, it shows your value as an instructional designer to, if you can actually, like take a topic and, you know, break it down. And I would even recommend, like do a storyboard that you can show and then build the course out in, in storyline or whatever. So then you can show that you you're doing both parts and how it would transition from storyboard into a storyline course, that's also very useful for a client to see.

Robin Sargent

And I'm just gonna put a little plug here, if you have never used a storyboard, you don't have a template, and you don't know exactly what that would look like, you can download a free elearning storyboard template that is the Learn teach do model on idolcourses.com. So that you can already have your template and you can use that and repurpose it for your own portfolio.

Maddie Rotrand

Oh, good to know, I'll go download that now. Robin Sargent Like you need one. Although I know, this is probably um, I don't know if I'm allowed to admit this. But there's a lot of times when I don't use a formal storyboard, a lot of times storyboards are used by instructional designers that have to work in a team environment, right? So if they have to, you know, pass it off, pass it down the line to an elearning developer, just like we talked about how those two positions or roles can be separate. But if you are both the instructional designer and developer, sometimes just I just put comments on the, on the script on the design script, like this will be an animated video, or this is going to be this interaction. I mean, it all depends.

Maddie Rotrand

Yeah, I think it really, I've had that experience too, especially with smaller clients when it's like, they just want to get things done quickly. And so like, Yeah, we don't need it as formal or, like I've had both sides, where some where it's like, once it's in the storyboard, it's like written in stone, you cannot change things from the storyboard. And then I have had others where it's like, oh, you know, once it's in storyline, like, Yeah, it's fine to change the script a bit. And that was like, it really, really depends on context. But I totally agree with you.

Robin Sargent

Okay, so I just want to give our teachers who are listening like our our last bit of best advice for making the transition from secondary education, to Well, we'd have to say, a corporate instructional designer role or like a nonprofit, because if you're going into higher education, as an instructional designer, you have to have a master's. So that's why I really keep focusing on getting a corporate job. Also, corporate pays more. So if that's important to anybody, which is also well, I mean, this might be before we give our best tips, maybe like one more thing that we might want to talk about is, is why so many teachers want to move out of the classroom and into instructional design. And, you know, I have teacher friends, and, you know, I wasn't actually teaching myself, so you'll have to help me out here. But about, they say that, you know, it's about the politics, there's no for you know, there's no way to advance in your career, unless you want to become a principal. And you there's no raises. And then, of course, corporate has like so many perks, you know, sometimes they'll pay for maternity leave, or all the benefits that come with the corporate position, and including the pay what kind of made you make the transition, Maddie.

Maddie Rotrand

Where I live, there's also there's like, way too many teachers and not enough position. So it's very competitive. And the way it works is like in order to actually secure like a full time, permanent position with your own classroom, it's like takes about seven years. And so I was well yeah, So, you know, after having moving around from school to school, year to year, taking over maternity leave positions and so on, I was just like, it was very frustrating. Also, the thing, like you said about the politics really turned me off where I was. And so I just I decided that I wanted to have like a different type of career. And I'm really glad I made the change. Because, yeah, it's definitely been better in all aspects.

Robin Sargent

Yeah, and the one on the way of the instructional design path is like, you really can't, there's so many different paths that you can take, once you're in, like, once you're a teacher, there's like, one path, like you're in a classroom, or you're a principal or you're like on the superintendents, right? And us or whatever, for sure. But when you get into instructional design, just kind of like we've already mentioned, there's so many paths, you can go down the different industry things, you can even kind of become a subject matter experts/instructional designer, you can consult as an instructional designer, freelance elearning, development, all those kinds of things. And so that, you know, it's not just a one path type of career. Yeah, great. Yeah. Okay, so now we're gonna give our best and final advice to the teachers to just wrap this up. So Maddie, I want you to go first.

Maddie Rotrand

Well, I'm probably going to reiterate what I said earlier, but it's just that invest time and even money in yourself, to get yourself attractive enough that people actually want to work with you. So even like myself, even though I didn't have any clients and no prospects, I still went in bought storyline and taught it to myself, that because I took the time and initiative to do that, people recognize that, and it said a lot about my skills and my personality. So I'd say, you know, if you really want it, then go for it. And people will see that.

Robin Sargent

Make sure that you tailor your resume, make it transferable skills at the top and try to get instructional design. And those skills that are related, because those keywords are important, especially when you go into those applicant tracking systems for recruiters, or even whenever you submit your resume, that resume online, that resume is going into a database that is going to be looking for keywords and will actually be filtering out resumes that don't meet those keywords. So make sure that you get those in your resume, update your LinkedIn. Right get instructional designer in your, in your title, say curriculum developer, go to Google, find the keywords that are all related to instructional designer and put them all over your LinkedIn page. And then of course, you need to have some kind of portfolio just like Maddie was talking about, even if it's like just use the storyboard template, create some storyboards, do the trial for Articulate Storyline, after you've created a storyboard and try to flesh out your storyboard if you want to do eLearning Development, PowerPoints, job aids, anything analysis worksheets, I think would also be relevant on a portfolio because it shows that you can think like an instructional designer, and that's what employers want to see. And then of course, the last piece of advice is to network, people who know you are more likely and willing to take a chance on giving you your first opportunity as an instructional designer than just some random person that sees educator or secondary school teacher on your resume.

Maddie Rotrand

I'll second that Robin. I was about to say build relationships. I'm going to say like 90% of my work now is comes from like, word of mouth, like are people who have worked with me, you know, like rehiring me and that my first opportunity equally was from somebody who I had, you know, spent time building a relationship with and then they recommended me to someone they knew so wasn't just total randomness.

Robin Sargent

That's wonderful Maddie, thank you so much for joining me and sharing on the become an idol podcast. I hope that this helps. I know this is going to help teachers and I'm just so glad that I got to do this episode with you.

Maddie Rotrand

Thanks for having me.

 

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