Set Yourself up for Success: 5 action steps to take before IDOL courses Academy begins!


When IDOL courses Academy began this past January, I was very pregnant. In fact, my daughter was due during the second week of the course. Becoming an IDOL was something that I wanted badly, but I wasn’t sure that I would be able to meet my goals with a new baby and a two-year-old at home. I burn grilled cheese three of every five times I make it. How could I balance two children and the Academy? 


Desperate to get a head start, I emailed Dr. Robin Sargent before the cohort began and asked her if there was anything that I could do. She replied with some great tips and reassured me that, “there is no behind in the Academy!” Because of her guidance, I was able to start IDOL courses Academy feeling confident and ahead. My daughter was born a little early (the second day of my IDOL cohort!) but I was ready for the challenge. 


Here are a couple of Dr. Robin’s tips, and a few of my own, for setting yourself up for success. 

Did the IDOL bug bite you? If you’re reading this, then you’re probably already binge-listening to podcasts and Googling all things instructional design. Doing your research is so important that it earns the first spot on this list. Before the next cohort starts, listen to the Become an Idol podcast and take notes. Consider starting with the top 5 episodes of 2020!  When you run out of those episodes, try Nyla Spooner’s “I’m New Here.” Here is a great crash course on IDOL jargon. If you have time, check out a book on Dr. Robin’s reading list: 


This client is a local business, charity, or person for who you will design a course. This was the scariest suggestion that Dr. Robin gave to me. How was I supposed to find a client when I wasn’t an instructional designer? What do I say to this person about a project when I don’t know anything myself? This, my friends, is one of those situations where you have to fake it until you make it. Put on your best smile and your IDOL hat, and start reaching out. You might be thinking that you should wait to find a client until the cohort starts, but once it begins, you are going to want to dig right into the work! 


Now that you’re doing your research and starting the design process with a client, you’ll want to have an organizational system in place. When the Academy begins, you’ll be so excited to learn as much as you can. Don’t use random sticky notes and the Notes app on your phone. My suggestion? Grab a notebook. Divide it into six sections and place a Post-it on the side of each section so that they look like dividers.  You’ll want a section for your portfolio, job hunting, e-Learning, learning theory, instructor-led training, and one for your “toolbox.” You could create a Google Doc for each of these topics, but the information comes at you rapidly and you’ll want a place to quickly jot down ideas. The good ‘ole notebook is tried and true. 


We all come into the Academy with different backgrounds, strengths, and goals. It’s important to think about what skills you already have, and the ones that you need to add to your toolbox. In this section of your new notebook, make two lists: “Skills I Have” and “Skills I Will Have.” Add to them as you go through the Academy. This will help you to brag about your abilities when you begin writing your resume, and it will help to give you direction on what you want to learn next. 


Most people probably don’t have this problem, but if you’re a financially responsible teacher like me, then you might not have a personal computer. One of the major authoring tools that instructional designers use is Articulate Storyline, and it is software. That means that you will have to download it onto your computer. If you’ve ever seen the “You Need Administrator Permission” alert, this means you need to find another laptop. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but make sure it meets download requirements. You’ll also want some sort of mic/headphones.  I used a pair of headphones from an old cell phone. It’s also nice to have two monitors, but not a necessity. 

The cohort has only recently ended, and I am amazed at how much I learned and accomplished. Even better, I know that there is so much out there to learn and do. My new IDOL sidekick is enjoying the journey, too. I have one arm around her while I type this, and we are making it work. It also helps that my husband made the grilled cheeses today. 

I know you’ve got this, too! What will you do to set yourself up for IDOL success?


Written by: Catie Blackburn

Catie Blackburn is an emerging instructional designer and a veteran educator. She has a passion for helping all different types of learners to succeed. When she’s not immersed in IDOL work, you can find her listening to true crime podcasts or on a walk with her family. Connect with Catie on LinkedIn, and take a look at her portfolio




50% Complete

Enter your email below to get instructional design tips and tricks delivered straight to your inbox.