The impact of technology on learning and training in the last few decades has been enormous at traditional educational institutions, large companies and small businesses alike. As digital software and high‑speed internet access have made it possible for students and employees to learn anytime, anywhere, there’s an increasing demand for experienced professionals who know how to create flexible and engaging e‑learning content.
Matt Saavedra has more than 15 years of experience in the field of e‑learning instructional design. Currently, he’s the training and development manager for LifeCenter Northwest and an instructor for the UW Certificate in E‑Learning Instructional Design. We asked Matt about e‑learning trends, tips for incorporating useful e‑learning strategies into your curriculum and how you can prepare for a career in this growing field.
How is the field of e‑learning evolving?
Current trends are around emerging technologies like virtual and augmented reality. There’s a company that creates virtual office environments that allow you to practice things like having difficult conversations or giving performance feedback.
We’re also seeing augmented reality in manufacturing environments. There’s a manufacturer who had a complicated machine in a noisy warehouse. So, they developed an iPad program that overlays instructions on how to use the machine right over the live image feed.
What recommendations do you have for instructors who are adapting in‑person curriculum for remote learning environments?
Creating effective e‑learning experiences is not as simple as moving your lecture to recorded or live delivery through products like Zoom. Instructors need to think about what kinds of digital learning experiences will be most impactful for their students. Classroom instruction is often centered around the performance of the instructor, whereas effective e‑learning is centered around the student.
Instructors should also think about which parts of their curriculums can be delivered as self‑paced activities. Short videos, case studies, podcasts and branching scenarios are all ways that instructors can create interactive and engaging online content that students can pursue on their own. Instructors can then build their live or recorded video lectures in a way that supplements and enhances the self‑paced digital learning experiences they've created.
Tell us about microlearning.
Microlearning enables you to learn the exact information you need in a timely manner. It's difficult for a company to teach a new salesperson about a hundred different products in a condensed, in‑person training session. With e‑learning tools, you can provide lessons about each product that can be absorbed in just 10 minutes right before you need to meet with a client.
What are some of the career opportunities available in e‑learning instructional design?
There’s a need for e‑learning skills at corporations, nonprofits and educational institutions. Seattle companies like Nordstrom, Amazon and Starbucks are innovating in the e‑learning space. Many of these companies also have leaders who are members of our advisory board, which helps us align our certificate program’s teachings to industry best practices.
What can someone do now to become an effective e-learning instructional designer?
The creation of effective e‑learning takes time to master. You should consider investing time in learning the foundations of video, audio and digital content production. Don't be afraid to jump in and use a new app or system you've never tried before.
Use online resources to learn about e-learning authoring tools. Watch YouTube videos, take a class on LinkedIn Learning or sign up for an e‑learning blog. The information is out there. You just need a bit of time to begin learning about each piece in this wide world of e‑learning.
What’s the UW Certificate in E-Learning Instructional Design program like?
The UW Certificate in E-Learning Instructional Design program explores different technologies used to create e‑learning experiences. We introduce students to computer applications for animation, video, audio and graphics, which can be used to create engaging online learning content.
Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are already professionals in education and they’re taking the program to understand current best practices. Others are like, “Instructional design sounds really cool. I want to get into that.” And the certificate program is a good entry point for a career change.
What do you like about teaching?
I love learning about what each student is trying to achieve in their personal life or career as it relates to e-learning. Some students have businesses and some work for nonprofits. Some people have the opportunity to train people on a topic and then decide to turn e‑learning into a career. An instructional designer and e‑learning developer can impact learning in a very significant way in just about any organization.