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Monday, December 07, 2009

Why an Instructional Design Degree from Bloomsburg University ROCKS!

The discussion that Cammy Bean and I have gotten into concerning "Accidental Instructional Designers" and When "Accidental Instructional Designers become Intentional" has brought about a number of interesting discussions about the skills of ID people and what ID programs should look like and I realized that:
  1. People who haven't been in Bloomsburg's ID program don't realize what we teach in our ID program
  2. There seem to be ID programs out there that fall short and that is giving people an unrealistic image of what a quality ID program really is.

So, let me describe why getting a graduate degree from Bloomsburg University's Department of Instructional Technology ROCKS and why our ID graduates can easily hold their own against non-degreed folks (and then some).

*Full disclosure--I am a professor in the department and might be biased in my opinions but I am going to try to stay neutral*

First, Cammy said, "maybe ID programs need to come out of business schools instead of education schools." The Bloomsburg program is not out of the business school but it is not in the School of Education either. Our program is housed in the College of Science and Technology and originally was housed in the College and Math and Computer Science. So we have a different focus than programs housed in the school of education. We are more corporate focused. In fact, within two years our program will be physically housed in the same building as our business school.

Second, we teach our students strong ID theory in our Basic ID class as most programs do. But, in our Advanced ID class students apply that theory to a problem in the field. In Advanced ID class, students are formed into a team, introduced to an actual client (local hospital, school, manufacturing organization, police department) and create a finished instructional module for that organization, complete with pre- and post- testing of a sampling of the learners. Our students work with an actual client from the community and learn first hand about deadlines, clients refusing to sign off, clients signing off without authority and actually sit in meetings with a real client. Every student must go through this process and deliver a WORKING product (not just design it). Advance ID gives students the real-life experience of doing a needs analysis, creating objectives, applying the right instructional strategies, implementing and evaluating e-learning all under the watchful eye of both a faculty member and a client with a vested interested in the outcome. (this happens for online and on campus students).

Third, our students work with software currently used in the field to create online learning. The latest version of Adobe PhotoShop and Flash, Lectora, Adobe Captivate, Plateau (LMS), Adobe Connect, and Saba's Centra to name a few. Students use the tools used in the field (sometimes they are even ahead, for example when we use Second Life and ProtoSphere.)

Fourth, our students stay on the cutting edge. They blog, contribute to wikis, and design instruction for a 3D virtual environment as well as create web sites for mobile learning devices. They continue to learn about the latest tools and we discuss how they are used in organizations to facilitate learning. We also have a game course where they create interactive games for learning to solve the needs of a client (again the students  interact with external clients and produce a solution to their problem). Students are on Facebook and Twitter with faculty and have discussions about how to use social media for learning within organizations.

Fifth, our students learn how to write a proposal and handle themselves in a high pressure sales situation. In a class I teach, students are formed into teams, given a Request for Proposal, and required them to write a 40 page proposal and create a working prototype to solve a learning problem within an organization. Students present their solution and prototype for 20 minutes to 30-40 learning and development professionals (3/4 alumni) who then question them for 15 minutes about their solution and then evaluate the students' work and give them a grade. This teaches students presentations skills, handling difficult questions from clients and being forced to "think on your feet." Students have to defend their solution against professionals who pick it apart.

Sixth, we have a "commercial" arm of our academic department, The Institute for Interactive Techologies, that does ID work for companies like Kellogg's, Black and Decker, L'OREAL, Toys R Us and other organizations (real life experience) that include students working on projects. We don't take on a project in our Institute without students working on the projects. If a student has a graduate assistantship, they will work with an external client, drive to client sites (fly in some cases), sit in good and bad meetings, stay up late to make a deadline and work hand-in-hand with the client to deliver the instruction. All under the guidance of a faculty and/or a full-time senior instructional designer who serves as a mentor (and has a degree from our program.) This is experience provided under the guidance of faculty while students are in graduate school a mixing of theory and practical hands-on experience. (we also work with non-profits like the PA Department of Public Welfare and the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence.)

Seventh, twice a year we bring in professionals who are working in the field of instructional design, e-learning and performance support to provide feedback on our curriculum, RFP exercise and our initiatives within the department. These professionals keep our curriculum up-to-date by offering topic areas and subjects that we should be teaching and hold us accountable by returning twice every year. Based on their feedback we continually upgrade and improve our course offerings.

Eight, our mix of students is one third from outside the United States, one third right out of undergraduate and one third who are experienced in the workforce and come back for more education. Since many of our class projects are team-based, the students are forced to intermix. The experienced students share knowledge and experience with students who have not yet been in the field and the newly graduated students share energy, enthusiasm and "what if we try this" attitude and the international students bring in a world perspective. The mix creates grounded and not arrogant designers.

Ninth, our faculty are active in the field. From writing books to presenting at international conferences the faculty stay involved in the field and work hard to stay current with the latest theories and software. While ID is timeless, it needs to be constantly adapted and modified to ensure it is meeting the needs of clients. Students are working with faculty who are impacting the field and driving innovation.

Tenth, we bring experts and professionals from the field to speak to our classes. It is not enough for our students to hear about the design process only from our faculty. With virtual classrooms and other tools we've had people like Clark Aldrich, Donald and Jame Kirkpatrick Steven Just, Cal Wick and others share their knowledge and expertise as well as alumni who are in leadership, development or creative positions who discuss managing projects, overcoming difficult clients, designing games for learning and other current topics of interest.

Eleventh, we have an extremely high placement rate because twice a year, we bring companies on campus to recruit our graduates. In Fall 2009 (this semester) we had over 10 companies on campus recruiting our students including RWD Technologies, Kodak, Tyco Electronics and Geisinger Health System. In fact, we had more opening available than we had students to fill the slots (this is a common occurrence.) Our program requires either an internship or a thesis for graduation (99% of students choose an internship...more real experience in the field).

Twelfth, in our corporate track, we focus on the business aspect of the field. It shows. Many of our alumni have become entrepreneurs. This semester we had alumni who founded two companies present to our current students. We had Chris from Zerion Software as company that builds iPhone Applications and Mark from viaAcademies which provides online Instrumental Music courses for school-aged students.

Our program is a year long if a person enrolls in the land-based option and attends on campus (a little longer for online). We have problems and issues like any program in terms of not being able to fit all the topics we want to teach into our curriculum, we could spend more time on certain topics, get more in depth on a few but, as a whole, our program ROCKS because we prepare our graduates to hit the ground running and to positively contribute by giving them the tools and skills to make an impact and not to be dinosaurs about ID.

Now, don't take my word for it. I challenge alumni, employers of our graduates and others to comment on the program. I want the good, the bad and the ugly so everyone can get a good understanding of what ROCKS about getting an ID degree from Bloomsburg University.

And, I am sure other programs are out there ROCK as well. I want other faculty from other programs to tell us why their programs ROCK (leave a link here and we can get a list of ROCK'N ID programs) that properly prepare ID people to ROCK the field.

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Unknown said...

Hey Karl,

What a topic! I was wondering how long it might take before this idea came to the forefront. Let me say, having spent the last 10+ years in the pharmaceutical arena and clinical research, without formal training, you are dead-in-the-water. The FDA mandates that those persons involved in conducting clinical research are competent to do so as evidenced by training and education. Having been audited by our clients, the first thing they look for is our CVs, resumes, training records etc. Since I have primarily been a vendor to the industry, there is even a closer eye on our skills, abilities, and education as our clients want to ensure a minimal level of competency. Showing that I have the M.S. degree and/or stating I came from the Bloom program has often been more than enough to get in the door. Had I told the client I grew up in the back room learning ISD, I am quite confident our sales would be lower.

Jim Wetzel
Class of long ago (97)

Moyey said...

I have hired many graduates from this program both when I was in the for-profit sector and more recently while I have headed Learning Solutions at Johns Hopkins University. My history with the department spans more than a decade.

From the employer perspective, I cannot say enough good things about the graduates of this department. The typical Bloomsburg graduate is talented, hard-working, innovative, and ready to make an outstanding contribution to whatever you put in front of them.

The faculty and staff of this department have made an outstanding contribution to our field!

So, yes, Bloomsburg ROCKS, ROCKS again and keeps on ROCKING!

Louis Biggie
Director, Learning Solutions
Johns Hopkins University

Roni said...

I can't say enough good things about this program! I graduated 10 years ago and it has given me the foundation for a rewarding, challenging career.

I second Louis above...

"Bloomsburg ROCKS, ROCKS again and keeps on ROCKING!"

class of 2000

Apostolos K. ("AK") said...

I am not an affiliated with the program but as a student in a competing program I am impressed!

Ethan said...

Does Bloomsburg offer all this online as well?

Karl Kapp said...

Yes, we offer our program online. Using Centra and we have instructor-led sessions for the classes.

Unknown said...

I will go out on a limb and say you will find very little "bad" about the Bloomsburg program - especially from anyone who is directly involved as a student, alum, employer of alum, or otherwise. I'm a 1997 grad and the knowledge, confidence, and real-world industry experience gained in the Bloom program is second to none in my opinion.

But I also want to address the previous discussion about people who become IDs accidentally or "fall into training". I've been a consultant for almost 10 years now and I have worked with many people in companies large and small who have "fallen into training." Most of these people do not understand the fundamentals of sound instructional design nor those of e-learning and as such, their training suffers. Don't get me wrong, I think some of these people could comprehend and employ these fundamentals if they received formal training but the argument that you might be better off hiring people who are not formally trained is ludicrous. Would you hire a financial planner with no formal financial background?

In defense of the other side of the coin, I think some people can be overly trained with tons of theory and no real-world or business experience. So I believe the key to obtain the best employee, consultant, or coworker in the field of ID and e-learning is to hire someone with a formal background in this area who has worked in or understands the demands of the business side of things. The key is not only knowing the ideal solution - but being able to adapt that solution to meet the required business demands such as budget, time, and technological restraints.

This brings me full circle - back to the Bloomsburg program. Because the Bloom curriculum teaches all facets of instructional design and e-learning, graduates understand the fundamentals that comprise the design and development process and can therefore adapt better than those who do not have this knowledge foundation. Add real-world experience to the mix in an educational setting along with faculty and staff who are constantly on top of industry trends and you get graduates who are savvy and can hit the ground running directly out of school. That is why the Instructional Technology program at Bloomsburg ROCKS!

Brad Keller
MSIT '97
Owner, Absolute Thinking

Cammy Bean said...

It does rock! Can one take a class or two online without committing to the whole program? Let's say, for example, that one just wants some of that background in the theory...

Anonymous said...

As a 2004 graduate of the program, I must say BU MSIT ROCKS! My first "real" job in the field hit me with lots of media experience and had I not had the Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, etc. I wouldn't have had a clue. My second job in ID has proved that the BU program serves its purpose and more. As an Instructional Designer, I use a ton of what I learned in the program from the basic ID principles in my courseware writing to the media-based courses I develop in Flash, XML, etc. Having said all of that, in working with folks who did not graduate from the program and/or never attended school for Instructional Design and/or a closely related field, there is a BIG difference. Only from what I've seen, their understanding of the entire ID process and models is not there. They lack in some of the media areas and tend to focus strictly on the basics. However, I must agree with Brad that folks can tend to be "overly trained" and without the real world experience, they tend to suffer. BU gave us all of it. They gave us the theory, they gave us the practice and they gave us the real world. GO BU!

Karl Kapp said...

Cammy, You can take one or two classes (actually up to 6 without being officially enrolled). We can talk off line about what is available what semester. Thanks for sparking a great discussion about the topic of ID and ID programs, always a good discussion.

Nancy said...

Great post! I, too, am biased being a graduate in the class of 2000. The Advanced ID class and RFP were by far, the most valuable experiences for me.

Also, the software taught is always cutting edge.

However, as a graduate of almost 10 years ago (eek!), I'd love the program to offer mini courses for us "old school" people to brush up. Half of the software mentioned in your post, I unfortunately didn't recognize. A workshop (rather than a semester long course) would be great and I know a bunch of grads would register.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't resist leaving a comment. I am currently enrolled in the corporate track of the MSIT program at Bloomsburg. I was the accidental ID, having taken a position in a training department that had no formal ID training. I was constantly questioning why things were done the "way we always" have done them. I never got a good answer and I had a feeling we were not doing things the way we probably should. I enrolled in the eLearning certificate program to test the waters since I had been burned badly in a previous online course. The courses gave a solid foundation on how to develop rapid eLearning tools and the professors were wonderful. I can attest to the strength of the basic and advanced ID classes. The advanced ID course is a mini-internship of sorts and provides real world development. What I love the most is how Bloomu continues to offer students the ability to grow in new areas, such as the instructional game design course, which is one of my favorite classes. This program more than ROCKS! I will miss my weekly sessions when I graduate next year.

Unknown said...

I graduated from this program about ten years ago and I can tell you since day one at my job I was able to function with no extra training.
A graduate from Bloomsburg learned both ID and development skills using the latest technology. I met graduate from other schools who complain that they lack the basic technical skills to implement even a simple design. Bloom graduates work at all levels of the life cycle of a training product. They work as project managers, ISDs, graphic designers, developers, QA etc.
It's a combination of factors who contribute to the success of the Bloom ISD program including great faculty who are always available to answer students' questions in and out of classes, great lab, hands-on experiences with real clients, faithful CAC members, dedicated administrators, students willing to learn (I remember during my student years, the lab was as full at 2:00am as at 2:00pm), great scholarship opportunities, etc.
Yes, the Bloom ISD program rocks!

Ron M said...

Wow what timing. As a proud "older" alum of the BU MSIT program I say, with no reservations, that BU ID ROCKS.

Not only did the program teach us sound fundamentals in ID, we learned the current tools of that particular time. We learned how to work in teams, speak to groups, write RFPs challenge what we did not understand, justify what we believed, and all this while working on both "academic" and "real world" projects. My Advanced ID project not only dealt with a real client, but also landed me a trip to Europe to present on behalf of our development team.

One thing that has not been mentioned is the fact that they taught us not to stay in our comfort zone or to be complacent. I've been out of the program almost 15 yrs and still working on new initiatives. Along with doing ID, I assisted in building a QA process for 2 different companies, provided guidance for Business Developers in how to sell and market training, and recently designed, storyboarded and delivered a Synchronous online workshop.

In closing I'll paste part of an email I sent to you Dr Kapp updating you along with thanking the dept for the preparation provided to me.

Ron Miller MSIT '95

P.S. I had to *** out the gov't client due to security issues.

"I thought I’d give an update as I don’t make it up to Bloomsburg as much as I’d like. I’m still an instructional designer but I recently delivered my first pilot for a Synchronous online workshop. I had the pleasure (and challenge) of designing, storyboarding, and delivering the workshop. It has not been easy but it has been rewarding. We’re actually training our Field Trainers on delivering training through this media. Our challenges are many as *** currently has many restrictions on what can be used and other items (sorry classified info, lol), but we’re working out the kinks. It has been a very rewarding project, even with the bumps in the road and I’ve learned a great deal throughout process.

I just wanted to thank the dept for the preparation they provided to enable even us “older” grads to handle new initiatives and technologies. We’re going through our lessons learned now as I prepare to make changes before our final delivery to the client. Please tell Dr. Phillips I said hello and if I get back to BU I’ll be sure to stop in to say hi."

Amy said...

I'm so glad I got the technical, educational, and business foundations I did at Bloom. This degree program offers great networking resources, real-world projects to build management and technical skills, and an opportunity to understand current and future trends in technology. The faculty is great and many are still there from when I graduated. I think this speaks very highly of the program, as well as, the department.

Check it out:! Great program!

Hope you are well, Dr. Kapp!

Amy (Rider) Archambault
2002 MSIT Graduate

Unknown said...

I really had to reflect on this question, as I believe you need both. Anyone that knows me, knows that I attribute a large part of my success to the Bloomsburg MSIT program. The program, and the professors, are the best out there…providing theory with real-life application. However, with that said, I’m also a firm believer that because I was working in the industry at the time of my education, that provided with significantly more foundation on which to “attach” my newly acquired skills and knowledge. I truly believe that students receive more benefit by working in the industry and then going through the program, vs. going through the program right out of their undergrad.

This topic is getting quite a bit of interest….it’s hit the CLO Media blog. I’m anxious to see the responses that start coming in there as well.

Rambles and Rants said...

As a 2009 Graduate, I know first hand that this program does indeed ROCK!

I received a top tier education that is recognized more than I ever thought.

I learned side by side with a very diverse group of students from all walks of life and from all parts of the globe.

I am easily able to join a company mid project and take charge of what needs to get done. I have had no trouble finding contracts out of the program for Schering-Plough and now Merck.

As a graduate assistant I worked for Kawneer Aluminum and Kellogg's which looks amazing for my resume. The hands on experience was second to none.

I HIGHLY recommend attending Bloomsburg University for an MSIT Isntructional Design Degree. It is more than a program it is a family of caring individuals, faculty and students. We all stay in touch we all worked hard together and I feel changed for the better.

I went directly from undergrad and the IIT really gave me more direction filled me with confidence and provided me with a hand up in life and never a hand out.

You do work hard but you learn so much and you feel that your talents are nurtured and you are really able to shine in your own way. I cannot say enough good things about this awesome program.


Kind Regards,

- Jason Ramos

Unknown said...

This is a great topic because it is one I come across many times when interviewing candidates for positions. I have also run across the "accidental ISD" in the work place and only have been impressed a very few times with the skill set of these individuals.

Many times I see people who have either been in the military field with a "training background" or someone who has dubbed themselves an instructional designer since they worked on a training contract for a few years.

Nine times out of ten what these people consider to be a "training background" does not hold a candle to the education we received through the MSIT program. If anything, these candidates are sub par due to the simple fact they have no firm grip on instructional design methodology or they have no idea on how to implement training from the technical side.

I am a FIRM believer that if you do not understand the delivery possibilities (from a technical side) then how can you know what is possible when developing content from an instructional design side. The MSIT blends both ISD and the technical side to create an individual that can see the WHOLE picture, just not a small piece.

I am not saying all people with non-ISD degrees are not productive or good at their ISD jobs, some are excellent. When push comes to shove though and you have a critical project that needs to be done and given the choice, I would go with a Bloom grad. due to the solid background and experience they get while in college over an ISD by accident.

Maximus said...

I am a 2004 graduate of the Educational Track of the IIT and the experience I gained while at Bloomsburg was the deciding factor when my boss had to choose between me and one other candidate for one position. The skills I learned in multimedia, along with my prior work experience in television, gave me a one up in the workplace.

The experience of working with real clients through the Advanced ID course was beyond valuable as well. We are expected to act as professionals while still in the IIT bubble.

I am now in school again for Elementary Certification. I've been commended at my school on my technology experience, much of which I can credit the IIT for. I believe the experience of going through the Education track is a big help and I believe it will again give me an advantage over other possible job candidates.

Max Jamelli
Class of 2004

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Unknown said...

I think you hit the nail on the head, there, Kaiser. That’s exactly the impression I get when I see her interviews. She tries WAAAAY too hard to be this kind of cute, kooky, pseudo intellectual type. I don’t buy it. I think she’s just strange, lol. The weird ways that she describes her kids goes right along with her “I’m so eccentric” schtick.

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let me say,
The faculty and staff of this department have made an outstanding contribution to our field!

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