Student Story: Kevin Synnott- Instructional Designer at LinkedIn
Could you tell us about yourself and your career?
I am an Instructional Designer at LinkedIn, and I just joined the company a couple of months ago. Previously, I was working as an Instructional Designer at Sky Ireland. In that role, I was responsible for designing training courses for onboarding and several other projects, such as Sky Glass. Prior to that role, I had a varied career. I started off working at Dublin Bus many years ago, designing public information, such as timetabling the maps. So that is a bit about myself and my career in a nutshell.
Could you tell us about your current company?
So I think most people will have heard of LinkedIn or have a LinkedIn profile. But if not, LinkedIn is a large social media company with their EMEA and LATAM headquarters based in Dublin. As I mentioned, I just joined two months ago and am part of the Customer Readiness and Enablement Team, which looks after global support. Basically, I’m responsible for designing eLearning courses, trainings and facilitator guides. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get experience working at a big tech company, and I’m having a great time so far.
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Could you tell us about your role and what you do day-to-day?
Day-to-day, my team designs training programs for the member and customer support teams. For example, these could include trainings for interactions with LinkedIn Premium members. It could also be training for a different line of business as there are several different lines of businesses within LinkedIn. My role also includes designing programs such as the coaching program across global ops, which is a big drive at the moment. After just starting a few months ago, I’m slowly starting to get involved in those projects and working my way through.
What kind of projects were you working on before the DLI course?
Before starting the programme, I was still working at Sky. And during the majority of 2021, we were working on an invisible development program within Sky, in which we used Learning Pool’s suite of products. These tools included the Adapt Builder, the authoring tool and the learning experience platform, Stream.
In those days, we were literally trying to piece together how to use the tools and actually put the content into them in order to make the content sync in a meaningful way for people. And off the back of that, I realised that there are a lot of challenges and a lot of questions I have about what we’re doing here. This prompted me to want to learn more and so I stumbled upon the Digital Learning Institute.
What was the main driver behind looking for the course in the first place?
The main driver for me personally was broadening my skill set. I was already confident with the Adobe suite, graphics and branding. However, the big thing for me was understanding different authoring tools and what’s out there. I wanted to learn about different learning management systems (LMSs) and learning experience platforms (LXPs), but also about curriculum design. This is because designing training isn’t only about designing graphics and putting elements together in a visual way, it’s also about how programmes come together from a genesis point of view. And it’s important to understand the steps that you need to take.
It’s actually funny because while I was working on the advisory development programme, I was a stickler for all the trainers that I was working with at the time. I wanted the designs to be mapped out and to have sections planned. I’m not sure where that came from, but I did do a course in UX years ago, in which I learned about UX frameworks and how elements should be laid out. Although it was a good place to start, while doing the Digital Learning Institute course, I realised that it’s important to plan both the curriculum and design. So there’s user experience (UX) and there’s learner experience (LX) — which I find quite interesting.
What do you think you achieved from the course and what job areas did you improve in?
It was great to gain an understanding of overall curriculum design and to look at modular frameworks. The templates in the course, such as the storyboard template were also great in terms of framing and developing an understanding. And another good aspect of the course was that there is enough variety that allows you to choose what works for you and what doesn’t. So that was a big thing in terms of gaining the skill set to improve.
What do you think the overall impact has been from working with the Digital Learning Institute?
The impact has been fantastic. The course is hosted online, and the LMS is really good and easy to navigate. The course structure is also very well laid out, and everything is extremely easy to follow and well-explained. Also, if there is something that you’re not sure of, you can email the course facilitators, who are more than accessible to answer your questions. So the overall experience was brilliant.
What benefits did that have?
There’s definitely a benefit from doing the course. I think that having a qualification on my CV definitely helped me get a new job. And I think the overall benefit for me was that even though I had design and video editing skills already, the course made me feel confident to say that I’m an instructional designer. So it helped frame my career and gave me the confidence to speak to that. This aspect was very helpful — not only for myself, but definitely in terms of getting this new role as well since I started getting loads of inquiries after putting the certificate up on my LinkedIn profile.
How do you think the course might help you over the next twelve months?
Since I downloaded the templates and took screenshots from the LMS, I can continuously reference back to the course. This is important because it may be the case that you’re involved in the visual side for one project and may need to go back to the curriculum design side for another. So it’s good to have the diverse skill set to be able to also function as an LMS community manager.
Another way it will help me is just to be able to jog my memory from the notes. There are so many different facets to instructional design that make it impossible to be an expert in everything. So it’s important to understand this, and know where to go for those resources and to have them at your fingertips. Basically, the course gives you an awareness that those resources are there. Whereas if you hadn’t done the course, you might know where to look for them. For example, if I don’t have a specific resource saved or a template saved from the curriculum, at least I am familiar with the terms and topics to be able to search for what I need.
Why did you choose the Digital Learning Institute?
I chose the Digital Learning Institute after perusing your website and comparing it to other courses out there. The way Digital Learning Institute presented its courses and materials was brilliant, which was an important factor for me. So I thought that Digital Learning Institute appeared to have the same kind of visual ideas and visual values that I do, and that they had their house in order.
How would you describe your experience with the Digital Learning Institute? And what areas were most valuable?
I think the most value I got out of the course was through doing the assessments. As I mentioned, I aimed to learn more about curriculum design through the course. So I think the assessments and the continuous assessment of the projects probably gave me the most value. This is because even though I was doing instructional design in my day-to-day role, the assessments framed the context of it and allowed me to put into practice what I’ve learned.
By doing the assessments, I realised that I was going to use these skills and incorporate them into my day-to-day work. So I think the assessments were probably the biggest driver of skills development. It gets you to sync everything, practically apply what you learn, and put it into practice. However, I was fortunate since I was already in an instructional design role, and able to immediately apply the skills.
How likely are you to recommend the Digital Learning Institute?
Very much so. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to get involved in digital learning and is a bit unsure of where to start. I came from the perspective of already having good design skills. However, there were other skills that I needed to learn. Whereas somebody with a background in teaching may have the curriculum design skills down, but need to work on their digital skills. So I think it’s a great course to do.
What would be your message for anybody coming from a teaching background or a corporate background who’s in two minds about doing the course?
My message is to reach out to me and we can have a chat. I’d also recommend getting in touch with the Digital Learning Institute. But I would seriously consider just jumping right in and doing it. The course is doable. There’s enough support there. And the content is brilliant. You won’t regret it.