Momenta Learning

A blog on topics related to Elearning, online education, and instructional design.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Is being an engineer a roadblock to becoming an instructional designer?

I am a mechanical engineer by training, I hold both a B.S. and a M.S. in mechanical engineering, and I am a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering. Well, you might think that I am working on something related to engineering, but actually I strayed a little far from the engineering field. I am an instructional designer for the major university at the state of Florida. How did I end up here? We will have to sit down with a cup of coffee and have a long chat about that story, but I can tell you that it was completely fortuitous. Now that I have these two years of experience and more than twenty online courses designed and completed from scratch for semester-long classes, I can tell you that I could not have had better luck in finding this job. See, my training kicks in every time I am confronted with the task of creating an online class, triggered in part by the type of content we have to put out there for an online class. I am a problem solver, and not much of an art person, so my first course designs were very functional but not much aesthetic, or pleasing to the eye, if you will. They got the job done, but later on, I had to learn the online course also require some eye-candy, it is part of the engagement experience that the learners have to go through. But I also learned that too much candy also destroys the purpose of the online course, and it becomes more a website than an online class. It was after some time that I started to understand the subjective parts of designing an online class, and the theory behind them. I have educated myself with the latest publications and textbooks on instructional design out there so that I can apply that knowledge to my own projects. But every time I come across a new project, the engineer in me kicks in and I start seeing the technological problems and challenges I will face and how I plan to tackle them, I don’t worry too much about the instructional part until later on, when I see that my concept actually will not be effective in an online environment, then I worry about the candy at the end. Now, this process might seem messy and rough to many designers out there but I wonder if any has ever bumped into a converted ID that had an engineering training before jumping into this field, and heard them describe a similar case. On the other hand, after looking at resumes and experience sheets of many established professionals in the field, it is clear that having a background in education or specifically in instructional design is more desirable than the experience of doing the job and learning while doing it, as proven by the hundreds of job descriptions and requirements I have scanned in the past three months, and of course, the dozen or so interviews I have been able to land recently. Now the question I want to throw out there: Is my background in engineering putting me at a disadvantage in the ID field? I would love to hear opinions and comments.

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