Webinar Highlights: The Changing Role of a Digital Learning Professional

25 September

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Webinar Highlights: The Changing Role of a Digital Learning Professional

In September, we decided to take a moment to reflect and delve deeper into the current landscape of digital learning. For this event we invited four of our DLI Graduates to come and give us an insight to their professional life in this roundtable discussion.

  • Lucy Stubbings, a Digital Learning Officer at Front Line.

  • Mandy McLellan, the Learning & Enablement Manager at Udemy.

  • Razan, a Freelance Digital Learning Designer.

  • Kevin Synnott, an Instructional Designer at LinkedIn.

These individuals represent diverse facets of the digital learning space.

We began with each guest discussing their current roles and tracing their career trajectories. Given that the digital learning profession is still blossoming, it was insightful to hear about their unique journeys. We also discussed a ‘day in the life’ of these professionals, addressing the current challenges they face and touched on the impact, if any, of artificial intelligence in their fields.

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Lucy’s Leap from Classroom to Digital Learning

Lucy’s story is one of change and adaptability. Formerly a primary school teacher with postgraduate education in pedagogy, Lucy found herself at a crossroads last year. Realising her passion had shifted, she decided to venture into digital learning. This led her to our Professional Diploma in Digital Learning Design, designed to upscale and equip professionals like her for the transition.

Now, only six weeks in, Lucy serves as a Digital Learning Officer at Frontline, a charity dedicated to helping individuals venture into social work. Reflecting on her decision, she shared how monumental the change felt—transitioning from a traditional teaching role to a digital one. But as she noted, and as many are realising, the skills of a teacher can be incredibly transferable, especially in instructional design.

Mandy’s Migration from Sales to Digital Enablement

Mandy’s story parallels Lucy’s in terms of excitement for the digital space. Having spent a decade in sales, a move from Canada to Ireland introduced her to tech sales and, subsequently, the role of ‘enablement’. This role centres around educating and training go-to-market teams. Mandy’s prowess in sales was evident, but she felt a gap in adult education. To bridge this, she enrolled in the Digital Learning Institute’s diploma, which transformed her approach, equipping her to design meaningful learning programs.

Razan’s Path to Consultancy in Digital Learning

Razan, has a deep-rooted passion for assisting small organisations looking to establish themselves in the learning field. With a focus on human-centered design, she’s all about keeping abreast of the latest trends. Her story reflects a serendipitous mix of self-initiated connections and clients reaching out to her. The field of instructional design wasn’t as defined when she began her master’s degree, but her path, moving from project management to higher education, eventually led her to discover the niche she feels most fulfilled in. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel that always grabs your attention,” she remarked, emphasising the importance of passion in this field.

Kevin’s Transition: From Transport to Instructional Design

Then, Kevin shared his intriguing journey, tracing back 20 years to his role in the transport sector in Dublin. Kevin’s primary role was to design public information posters and displays. His experience in England and subsequent role at Sky, working on training design for Skyglass, played pivotal roles in shaping his approach. Kevin’s strength lies in understanding content navigation, something he feels is often amiss in digital learning. For Kevin, the Digital Learning Institute was a beacon, clarifying many aspects of his journey and teaching him to mold his skills to better suit his domain. As he rightly points out, the field of digital design is vast, with myriad avenues to explore.

One intriguing takeaway from Kevin’s narrative is the increasing emphasis on learner experience (LX) and user experience (UX) design in the digital learning space. Those hailing from design backgrounds can significantly enhance digital learning experiences with their unique perspectives.

Kevin’s Day-to-Day as an Instructional Designer

At Sky, Kevin was engrossed in clear-cut projects like the six-month-long Skyglass. Transitioning to LinkedIn, he stepped into the tech sector, quickly adapting to its language and operations.

Now as an Instructional Designer at LinkedIn, Kevin collaborates with a team to decode and fulfil the learning needs identified by Strategic Learning Partners across various business departments. His tasks oscillate between creating e-learning modules, designing virtual instructor-led classes, and determining the best content delivery medium. Whether it’s transforming a project into an e-learning course or deciding it’s more suitable as a PDF, Kevin employs his expertise to ensure solutions align with business objectives. This role isn’t just about design; it’s about strategic problem-solving and effective content delivery.

Mandy’s Day in the Life: Tech Instructional Design

In the dynamic tech world, Mandy operates with a unique “major-minor tempo.”

  • Background Tasks: Routine operations like onboarding and sales methodology alignment form a continuous rhythm.

  • Major Tasks: Big initiatives, such as AI-focused programs or product launches.

  • Minor Tasks: Quick informational updates that are crucial yet brief.

With a streamlined “lean and mean” team, Mandy wears multiple hats: project manager, instructional designer, and facilitator. She’s always in touch with organisational leaders, understanding shifting priorities. Solutions range from blended classroom setups for major projects to digital resources for smaller updates, maximizing efficiency in this fast-paced sector.

Razan’s day to day: Navigating the Freelance E-learning Landscape

Razan’s role as an e-learning freelancer revolves around collaboration and adaptability.

  • Initial Engagements: Razan collaborates with SMEs and organisational leaders to sketch out project expectations.

  • Beyond the Brief: Prioritising a human-centered approach, she delves deep to ensure solutions meet real needs, rather than just ticking boxes.

  • SME Challenges: Building mutual respect and understanding with Subject Matter Experts is crucial, especially when managing diverse content expectations.

  • Role Clarity: Razan emphasises clear role delineation, effective communication, and offering project visuals to keep clients aligned and informed.

In essence, Razan’s journey underscores the importance of effective collaboration and a tailored approach in freelance e-learning.

Lucy’s day to day: Digital Learning Officer at Front Line

Lucy works at Front Line, a charity dedicated to training registered social workers in the UK. Their courses, a mix of live Zoom sessions and self-paced e-learning, occasionally also include in-person teaching days. In collaboration with Lancaster University, these courses are accredited, although working with the university presents its unique challenges.

Lucy’s role thrives on collaboration, especially with the in-house Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who are ex-social workers. This synergy ensures course content is both accurate and engaging. Her day-to-day tasks revolve around LMS administration using platforms like Moodle and Bright Space, while also crafting user-friendly e-learning modules with attention to UX design and accessibility.

In essence, Lucy’s multifaceted position embodies the dynamic world of specialised e-learning.

The Digital Learning Landscape: Tools, Teams and the Impact of AI

In the ever-evolving digital learning space, curious minds frequently ask: What tech tools are in vogue? How do freelancers kickstart their journeys? And how can teams ensure seamless project handovers?

Starting with tech preferences, each championed different tools. A notable mention was the Articulate Suite, with specific references to Rise and Storyline. As for Learning Management Systems (LMS), Cornerstone was mentioned, though freelancers, like Razan, showed flexibility in using various platforms based on client needs, with Moodle being a primary choice.

Razan’s freelance journey, rooted in Germany, began with a mix of serendipity and strategic networking. Encountering like-minded professionals who wanted to explore the digital learning domain resulted in professional collaborations. This kickstarted her trajectory, underscoring the significance of networking in the freelance world.

For those in larger organizations, the narrative is different. At Lucy’s workplace, the digital learning team isn’t a one-person show but a comprehensive “machine.” With varied responsibilities spread across the team, each member handles specific program components.

In the rapidly expanding world of digital learning, a question frequently arises: How is technology, particularly Artificial Intelligence (AI), reshaping the way we learn?

For Kevin and his team, the strategic learning partner plays a pivotal role in analysing challenges faced by businesses. Through various discussions, potential solutions are pooled, prioritised, and then handed over to the instructional design team. However, amidst the myriad of options available, the instructional design team can only address a select few. After designing a solution in consultation with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), it’s published and sent out. Another unique aspect highlighted by Kevin is the reliance on a different team in India, which looks after the performance and reporting aspect.

Given the pace of technological change, an attendee posed a pertinent question: How do learning professionals keep up, especially when technology is constantly evolving? Mandy emphasised the importance of having a clear “why” behind any new tech tool integration. It’s not about being swayed by the latest shiny tool but about understanding its potential impact on enhancing the learning experience. For her team, tools like AI-driven visual presenters and Canva have been integrated, but only after a thorough internal needs analysis. They regularly evaluate the effectiveness of these tools, ensuring they genuinely benefit the learners and not just the designers.

Razan, echoing Mandy’s sentiments, reminded us that while tools like AI are fantastic, they are just that – tools. The primary focus should always remain on the learner. The rapid evolution of tools shouldn’t overshadow the human-centric aspect of learning. For instance, the increasing emphasis on self-paced e-learning modules, while fantastic, needs to be balanced with opportunities for social learning and human interaction.

Diving deeper into the AI discussion, Lucy was invited to share her insights on the real-world impact of AI in the digital learning landscape. The question was aimed at demystifying the practical use of AI, moving beyond what tech companies claim to what’s actually transpiring on the ground.

The digital learning landscape is undergoing rapid transformation, fueled in large part by emerging technologies, especially Artificial Intelligence (AI). Yet, as with any promising new tool, there’s a difference between the buzz and the practical application.

For a newcomer in the digital learning sphere, the initial experience might not align with the expectations set by discussions and debates about AI on platforms like LinkedIn. One digital learning professional confessed that while the enthusiasm and excitement about AI in the educational sector is palpable, its actual integration into their organisation’s learning process is still in its infancy.

This sentiment seems to be a shared one. Many organisations are still in the experimental phase, mostly having conversations about AI’s potential but not yet fully integrating it into their learning models. However, the importance of taking ownership of AI’s role and integrating it with learning platforms like Brightspace, especially with the advent of features like virtual tutors, is undeniable.

From a practical standpoint, AI is viewed by many professionals as a “time optimiser.” Currently, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of its potential. Instructional designers find tools like chatbots, text-to-speech functionalities, and AI-generated videos helpful in various stages of the course design process. Yet, while these tools might be incredibly innovative, there’s a clear consensus: AI serves as a tool and shouldn’t overshadow the critical human touch required in the learning process. It can enhance efficiency and creativity but needs human oversight to ensure relevance and accuracy.

Chat GPT and ID assist are two AI-driven tools that have found favour among digital learning professionals. While they aid in summarising information and pinpointing learning objectives, they are primarily viewed as starting points. The human touch is still crucial for validating information and tailoring it to specific learning needs.