S2E15: Yorel Stephens ~ Fulfilling, Fun, & Fruitful

Production Assistant: Donna Stanton.

Feature Image by Mary and Angus Hogg / Mellow Fruitfulness.

Yorel L. P. Stephens, MPA, MA. Ed is an Adult Learning and Training consultant with 20+ years of experience serving education, non-profit, and corporate organizations.  A graduate of the University of Phoenix, Wilmington College, and Lincoln University she specializes in bringing strategic goals to life through learning experiences, coaching instructional designers, and transforming complex content into simplistic learning. She excels in pulling the best out of her SMEs to create quality driven curriculum across a wide range of workforce industries. Yorel has been instrumental in creating learning solutions for pharmaceutical, bio-tech, food & beverage, gas & utilities, insurance, tax, and technology.  Yorel is the owner of Intentionally Designed Productions, LLC, and the host of the Training Trends podcast. 

In This Episode

Episode Transcript

REBECCA HOGUE
Welcome to Demystifying Instructional Design, a podcast where I interview various instructional designers to figure out what instructional designers do. I’m Rebecca Hogue, your podcast host. If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider subscribing or leaving a comment on the show notes blog post and consider helping to support the podcast with a donation to my Patreon account. Welcome Yourel to Demystifying Instructional Design a podcast where I interview instructional designers about what instructional designers do to start us off. Can you introduce yourself?

YOREL STEPHENS
Absolutely. I want to say thank you so much for having me on the podcast, Rebecca. I am a learning and adult education consultant. I am a Philadelphia born and raised HBCU graduate. The oldest of three. The mother of three. I’m a lifetime learner and I am a lover of all things, learning. I see myself as having learning as a superpower. That’s something that I really embrace every day. I use it and I encourage others to do the same. I enjoy talking about learning as much as I do it, to the point where I get up at unconventional hours in the morning to talk to other people across the globe about learning. And I’m here for it. I produce learning solutions for a wide range of organizations across different industries, you name it. It’s an industry I haven’t gotten into yet. I’m open for it. That’s how committed I am to learning and using it as my superpower.

REBECCA HOGUE
Also, I love that superpower idea. I think of instructional design as a superpower in and of itself. Yeah.

YOREL STEPHENS
It really is one it’s, it’s one that you can definitely use across all kinds of situations and organizations and circumstances. And we all have it. We all have that learning power.

REBECCA HOGUE
Cool. And I like to call this the origin stories. How did you get into instructional design?

YOREL STEPHENS
I started out knowing that teaching in some capacity was going to be my path. I knew this since I was a very young child. I knew this when I was watching Mr. Rogers and LeVar Burton growing up. But what I didn’t know was that my teachings were going to be driven through this practice that we call instructional design. Right? Because I’d never heard of it. I’d never seen anyone do it. And I basically had no inclination that it was something that existed. So we fast forward umpteen years later and I start my first job out of college as a project manager in the city of Philadelphia for a nonprofit organization that basically was working with strategic partners to create education and employment opportunities for youth in the city. I found myself in my zone. I was loving it and I didn’t realize it, at least not immediately. But the environment that I was in was filled with so much energy that was focused on building solutions through community based organizations and education institutions that was preparing young people for their careers. It was, in essence, where I now consider my stomping grounds in which I honed my skills as an instructional designer, even though, let’s remember at this point, I still had not seen or heard of instructional design, didn’t know what it was. At that time, I was just a project manager. I had this caseload of 12 different youth programs that I was responsible for monitoring and reporting and managing the grants awarded through these different federal programs. And my job was to go to these organizations and to start conducting basically needs analysis, making sure that they were using the funding for what it was supposed to be. And Philadelphia, it’s my hometown, and many of the programs that were assigned to my caseload were implemented by organizations or institutions that served me. As I was growing up through my formative years. And so I saw it as my way to give back. So I asked questions to the staff, to the program participants, to the parents, to the program administrators. Really went beyond the level of asking questions in which were required for me as a project manager. Right. And I was only supposed to go there and answer these questions, check off some things on a report and then go back and say, yes, they’re doing the job. No, they’re not doing the job. But I found myself asking these conversations and talking to different people, finding about their experiences, which revealed different problems and gaps and obviously lots of opportunities for improvement that these programs could address to better serve their program participants. I was consulting, I was identifying a problem. I was recommending solutions and organizing meetings to socialize, change, and I was doing all this stuff, not realizing that again. Now I know that these were the beginning stages of what we know as the ADDIE methodology. I wasn’t an instructional designer. I was a project manager and wasn’t tasked to go there and conduct an analysis. I was just tasked to go there to find out if they were using the funding for the way that they were supposed to be using it for. But here I am in this organization going to these different programs and I’m having these conversations and implementing this process for my caseload of programs resulted in a lot of them receiving funding for the additional recurring years. And that’s because after these conversations, I would design workshops, I would design meetings for us to talk through them and come up with processes and procedures for them to improve on. And so my peers and colleagues, they were asking, how are you getting these results with your programs? How are all your programs? A high number of them, they’re getting refunding for recurring years.

YOREL STEPHENS
And so when I shared with my supervisor what I was doing, she didn’t ask me to lead the team through my process. And there I was again, Rebecca at the beginning stages of sharing, okay, this is what I did. This is how I did it. And again, this is instructional design, right? Not realizing that process I was walking through was again the ADDIE process. I was analyzing these, designing the learning, developing a solution to implementing a strategy so the evaluation of all of this comes out in such an organic way because it was visible, by the way, that the programs were performing. It was if they got funding again, then that process worked. And for my colleagues in which I shared my process with it simply showed them, Well, okay, let’s see how many of your programs are going to receive refunding for the following years now that you too are going out to those sites and you are taking them through this process? After that, I just looked for other opportunities that were associated to going into organizations and solving problems through learning. And eventually I did stumble across, hey, you should be an instructional designer. What is that? Oh, let me tell you. And I was working for a consulting company in Newtown, Pennsylvania, that was basically sending out training programs, reading training programs for pharmaceutical companies. My background wasn’t in any type of pharmaceuticals I had no knowledge of, and I have no degrees in anything related to pharmaceuticals. But there I was using this process of going into an organization, asking questions, seeing what the problems are, identifying the processes and procedures to design, learning around it. And from there, the rest is I just pursued other opportunities after that, looking for other opportunities to go into organizations and solve problems through learning.

REBECCA HOGUE
That’s fascinating. You couldn’t see me smile because there’s no of course, no video on right now, especially when you said that somebody said you should look into instruction design because that’s so true where so many of us that we found it by accident after having done it for a while and not having a name for it.

YOREL STEPHENS
Absolutely not having a name for it, but just practicing it and doing it, I think is really the main part of it all, is I just intuitively always was a person that was into learning, that was my personal play as a kid, playing and acting like I was teaching or creating little tests, actually designing them. Rebecca, designing tests on paper like okay, multiple choice. Where did that come from? Don’t know, but it was always there.

REBECCA HOGUE
How do you describe to people what you do when you say you’re an instructional designer? How do you describe that?

YOREL STEPHENS
Yeah, I’m going to refrain from getting sciencey with it, because usually when you say it when people think of you being an instructional designer and you think, oh you’re the person that does the PowerPoints or something like that, and I start off by saying what I’m going to say right now, which is what I do is fulfilling, fun and fruitful. Okay. And that usually engages people. What do you mean by that? Well, being an instructional designer and specifically one that designs for the workforce like I do, it really gives you a unique position and a perspective on other roles, other careers, other jobs, how they’re related and the value that they add to society. It is a very unique position to be in and as a consultant, designing and producing different learning programs to
solve problems in organizations both large and small. I got to show up with my superpower to help them work towards their vision, right? To remove barriers that pose risks to their mission, to influence change in ways that support the accomplishments of their goals, in their performance objectives. So at the end of the day, I’ll just say again, what I do is very fulfilling. It’s fun, it’s fruitful, it’s a way to make a large impact and a very nimble and small way.

REBECCA HOGUE
You mentioned that you’re primarily a consultant, and I’m wondering how you got into consulting.

YOREL STEPHENS
Yes, I got into consulting. And I think it just goes back to my experience of how I stumbled upon instructional design, which is really from that experience of going out to different organizations and having those conversations to see what their problems were. And that really excited me for the simple fact of having this perspective, of being able to go from one organization to another and see where I can help them solve their problems. Working in a capacity of full time, which I have that experience as well. I’ve worked at organizations and been a full time instructional designer, a senior instructional designer. I’ve been the technical trainer. And so in those roles I’ve always found like even full time you do get exposure to that consulting type of life, right? because you’re not just siloed into a department or a project. To be a successful instructional designer, you have to be able to talk across different workflows and speak the language of different workforces and different career paths. And so with that, it just became something that I was like, you know, I really want to continue honing my skills. And so sometimes when you work in an organization for X amount of years, you don’t really get that same variation of seeing the different ways that other organizations are experiencing problems, how they have to mitigate risk. You can have the same repetitive experiences. And so for me, it became a a desire to continue building on my skills and challenging myself. And when I found that I was in an organization where there was nowhere to move, there was nowhere to go to the next level, I could not see what the next path in my career would be. As a learning and development professional, I begin to look out and say, hey, all of these organizations are out here, there’s consulting opportunities and I am going to go out and I’m going to help them and they’re going to help me learn some new stuff. They’re going to help me learn about new tools and technologies and techniques. They’re going to help me really take my level of knowledge as it relates to instructional design and influence me in a way to really become more creative and innovative as to how I’m helping them solve problems. But at the same time, I’m going to be able to take this knowledge that I’m gathering from these different places to create some learning solutions that are really impactful. So to answer your question, what got me to the point of becoming a consultant was really the desire to hone in my skills, expand on as an instructional designer. I was looking for more of a challenge and I found that being in the organization as a full time employee, sometimes it would get limited. Not all the time. There’s places that I’ve stayed for a long period of time and when the opportunities for growth were no longer existent. Then I went to consulting.

REBECCA HOGUE
A very interesting way to grow your experiences and to grow as a professional.

YOREL STEPHENS
Oh, for sure. For sure. I think a lot of people who as instructional designers do explore in that type of way. I’ve had places that I’ve been an instructional designer full time, and because I was so hungry for the opportunity to try a new tool or try another piece of technology or have some other organization or project really listen to a different approach that I had towards learning. I would on, the side, take a contract, still maintaining my full time position, would take a contract. And so I would do that so that I could get that additional exposure right, but still continue to maintain a relationship with my existing full time position. So you can do both. You can definitely do both. And I think when you find yourself in that role of, okay, here’s a contract for three months or here’s a contract for two months, and they want X, Y and Z, I have to create an elearning, or they’re looking for a new solution. They just need another person to add to their team for support. I can do that. In addition to maintaining my full time role, you’ll find yourself doing that and meeting other designers, meeting other people within the L&D field, which will make you start to say, Hey, I could take on more of this stuff and this is pretty nice. What really gravitated towards all of the consulting, and I’ll say this in addition to what I mentioned earlier, it’s also the networking. The networking and the exposure to others that are doing things differently, it’s the best thing that you can do for yourself as an instructional designer is to really allow yourself to to mix and mingle with other designers and have conversations with them no matter what level they’re at everybody has something great to say.

REBECCA HOGUE
I couldn’t agree more. And how much you learn from each other is quite fascinating. But you never know when you’re going to run into something like a problem you’re trying to fix, where the conversation you had with someone else is going to help you frame that.

YOREL STEPHENS
Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s where those experiences of listening to those different stories definitely help, especially when it feels like it’s a large a large world. But the world of L&D is pretty small. Your reputation is a lot. It means a lot. And so your ability to collaborate and to share as much as you are receiving it goes a long way in helping you in your career and when you work on other projects.

REBECCA HOGUE
What would your typical tasks be in a day?

YOREL STEPHENS
Yeah, I say as an instructional designer, the typical has really involved mitigating risk and problem solving, which really requires us to converse, connect and collaborate with everyone about various things. And when I say that, I’m talking about time, access, availability, things like outcomes and just in the essence the things that our learners will need to be successful. That’s typical no matter what stage of the ADDIE methodology or process that you find yourself in. But the fun stuff like researching, drafting, developing and implementing those are the tasks that typically are confined to specific points in a process. But that’s not always that’s if you’re lucky, right? That’s in the ideal state. It’s really not out of the ordinary to find that you may need to develop when you’re implementing or vice versa, you might need to implement when you’re developing but those are what a lot of designers we call that the hurry up and wait projects. Right. It’s I need it today, I need it tomorrow. And you hurry and you go into one phase in the process to hurry up and get it done, only to find that you’re going back. But that comes with skill and experience to be able to gauge and pace yourself with that, to push back with stakeholders and clients. Regarding that whole process, which takes me back to the typical task in your day mitigating risk, problem solving, conversing, connecting and collaborating. When you say mitigating risks, then you’re speaking about risks. Is it to you or to the overall project or to you as the consultant or yeah, I’m just trying to get the context for that. It is risk in general, and that is where really instructional designers have to have their ear to the ground because those risks could be risks to obviously the project that you’re working on. What’s going to stop it from getting to the finish line? What technical problems might there be? What conflicts may come up that may result in the implementation not going as planned? What is a detriment to the vision of the shared state of what success looks like? Right. So those are just a couple of examples of risk that can come into your space as an instructional designer, the person that is responsible for leading the design of this learning. And those are risk on the project level. But then there’s also risk that come in from the communication standpoint of people not really being on the same page of understanding what that vision of success looks like, what that content is supposed to look like, have this or this subject matter experts in alignment, what is being put out and shared. Is it really going to be something that the learners are going to be able to retain and understand? There is risk all around that. If you’re an instructional designer and you’re not thinking about risk, you’re not thinking about how you’re going to mitigate risk to either yourself, your reputation as an instructional designer, because that really what you have to maintain your ability to continue to get project work. If you’re not mitigating those risks, then the outcome of that is pretty obvious. You won’t be able to secure any additional work. The other risk or risk to your project, just the overall end project, your deliverable. There’s so many people that are a part of the project that are helping you get it to that point. And that’s again going back to conversing and connecting and collaborating to mitigate the risks to your project. That end result that you have to have conversations with everyone because at some point in the process there is a touch point and it’s your job to know what those touch points are. It can be overwhelming at first to even consider wow, I got to know all of these different touch points, to have all these different conversations with different people to mitigate this risk. I don’t want to alarm anyone in positioning it that way. It does come off a little more organic. When you allow yourself to be a part of the process, you allow yourself to create relationships with the people that you are working with and you allow yourself to maintain a professional reputation in which people will come to you and they will share information with you so you won’t have to work as hard. But this takes time. These type of things take time.

REBECCA HOGUE
What types of projects do you find fun?

YOREL STEPHENS
I will say a project in which I have zero knowledge on the subject matter. And the reason why I say that those are fun are is really because I get to merge my personal experience as a learner with my professional exploration as a designer, to create a learning product that others are going to rely on to perform their job. And that’s fun because it’s a true balance of being my full authentic self based on what I don’t know as a learner and what I think I know as a designer. And I depend on the representatives from the learning groups, from the subject matter experts and the stakeholders to set the tone and confirm that the content that I’m creating is up to snuff. Right. They are all aligned. It makes sense while they’re relying on me to lead the design process, and that’s a very symbiotic relationship that I find fulfilling, fun and fruitful because we get to collaborate and create something together that’s really impactful. I’m coming from this space of not knowing any of this subject matter. They’re coming from the space sometimes of not ever going through a design process to create learning. And so it creates this whole environment where we all have to be vulnerable of what we know and what we don’t know. We have to challenge one another in those spaces so that we can get to this end learning product that is going to be useful for individuals. And even though I want to add this, even though I’m calling this something fun, this whole process that I’m going through, I go through this process knowing that other people are depending on the outcome of this creation that’s going to help them support them in their career. And that’s something that I don’t take lightly.

REBECCA HOGUE
How do you get started on something when you don’t know the topic?

YOREL STEPHENS
Yeah, so that’s where I’m going to go back to those three Cs that I mentioned earlier, the three Cs about conversing, connecting and collaborating. If you are doing that throughout your process, it does not matter what you know, what you don’t know. If you’re conversing, connecting and collaborating, you’re going to find that information. You’re going to know the information either by you asking or someone coming to share it with you. But you have to make yourself open to allow that type of transaction to happen, to experience that type of interaction on a project. And so a part of my reputation as an instructional designer is I want to be known as a person that will converse, connect and collaborate. And so that invites other people to do the same thing. So I’m there and I’m vulnerable. I say, Hey, I know nothing about this subject matter, nothing at all. But that’s a value to you all, because I know less than your learner. So I’m going to probably ask I’m going to be asking you questions that you are going to assume that everyone already knows. And so that’s the value add to that. And I think that if you’re in this position of working on a project in which you have no knowledge on the subject matter, always remember that’s a value to the team, to the project, because you’re going to ask those questions that everyone else is assuming everyone already knows.

REBECCA HOGUE
I really like your three Cs conversing, connecting and collaborating. Can you speak a little bit more about that middle one? The connecting one.

YOREL STEPHENS
Yeah. When we connect, people think that, okay, I talked to you, right? I had a conversation with you. So we’re connected or I collaborated with you, so we’re connected, right? That’s not what that is connected is intentionally in the middle to bring the converse and the collaboration together, because they both have to happen in a way that after we work together, you still feel like I am a resource for you, whether we’re in the same organization, in the same project. Like we are truly connected as professionals in this space of learning and development, in this space of being working in a professional capacity to support one another with our knowledge and growth in a specific type of subject matter or area, that’s what connection is. It goes beyond, okay, we’re just having a conversation where we’re collaborating on a project. It’s a true, okay, if I don’t talk to you, we’re at the end of this project. It’s done. The door is known to still remain open for you to pick up the phone, send an email, reach out, ask a question. And that’s the kind of stuff that you need to build on your relationships and your reputation as an instructional designer. Because the same people are in the circle of instructional design and learning and development. We may be changing in different roles, but when you are connected, it does not matter the time or the duration or the position or the project. None of that matters. I’m connected to this individual because I know them on a professional level, on a personal level. We are established. We are one another’s knowledge support system for information that they may need at any point in their career.

REBECCA HOGUE
One of the bits of advice we give our students is to find your niche in instructional design. And I’m wondering how would you describe what your niche is?

YOREL STEPHENS
I would say. This is a hard one because there is a lot when it comes to. Instructional design, I’m going to say mine is, it’s an unconventional one because probably if you were to give this on like a survey or multiple choice test or something like that, this would be like the option. that likely wouldn’t be listed. But I’m going to say that it’s learning new subject matter. I am a natural consumer of knowledge and once I learn something new, I have this obsessed yearning to share it with others, which is it’s turned out to be something that has served me very well as an instructional designer and even more effectively as a learning and development consultant. So I would say my niche is really learning new subject matter. And then also I would say I would add to that working with SMEs that are known to be difficult. I think that that is my other area of where I have this skill set that is more niche of if you are considering a project and you have a SME on it that may be considered a little challenging. I’m usually asked to be on those type of projects. I’ll just say that.

REBECCA HOGUE
That’s a very valuable skillset to have. We all know subject matter experts that are more more difficult to work with.

YOREL STEPHENS
And you know, what I find too Rebecca is a lot of times where we think that they’re very challenging. They tend to really, I find, have so much information and knowledge and it’s all in their head. And I find not all of them, but most of them, many of them that I’ve worked with really just want people to get out the way they want to say what they want to say. They want to say it how they want to say it. And however it lands is how it lands. They don’t want to dress it up in any type of particular way. As an instructional designer, you have to be okay with that because the person who is giving you those pointed answers, opinions, are critical things you’re analyzing and very analytical about it. That is more than likely your most valuable subject matter expert, because they’re saying things that other people may not be saying. And so if you don’t have the, the gumption to sit through that and listen to it and allow it to land the way that it’s going, that it needs to, that they’re making it land. You may miss out on some very important learning nuggets that your learners are going to need that you wouldn’t otherwise get from any other subject matter expert that you’re working with. So I tend to like to work very closely with those type of SMEs because I find that a lot of my content that I get from them is very valuable.

REBECCA HOGUE
What are the biggest challenges you face as an instructional designer?

YOREL STEPHENS
I’m going to say keeping up with new tools and technology. And the reason I say is because obviously there’s so many of them. When you learn a handful of new pieces of technology the next day, there’s new technology that’s available. And clients want you to know about they want you to know what’s the latest and greatest technology learning offerings. They want to know how they can make their learning more engaging, using available learning technological systems. They want to know where do their systems integrate for tracking and monitoring of performance. They want to know and they’re looking to IDs for this direction and guidance and not necessarily looking to people in IT or developers to do this because they recognize that, well, I’ve seen developers, they design this, they create it, they develop it. But the instructional designer is expected to know on a technological level what those learning applications, tools and resources are. They want a list of them. They want to know how they work and how they can use them and how they can integrate them into their learning platforms and in their performance so that they can track everything. So when it comes to the implementation, they also expect you to troubleshoot those technological problems or at a minimum, be able to guide them through the process or offer them recommendations. And I think that this is an area that is very much overlooked a lot of times when it comes to instructional design, because you may be fortunate enough to work in a organization or have a project in which that part of the the project is not assigned to you. They may have someone that they gave that responsibility to, but when you’re out as a learning and development consultant, the expectation is that you’re going to come with new technologies and tools for them to be able to leverage. And you’re going to be able to articulate it in a way that helps them understand how they’re going to be able to use it to their best benefit. And this goes back to my three Cs. This is why conversing, connecting and collaborating are a very typical task in the IDs day. And so when you’re talking about these, knowing these tools and technologies and resources, when you converse, when you connect, when you collaborate, you become more aware of what those are versus staying to yourself, not being able. To take in this type of information. It also challenges the associated pieces of technology that’s represented to a large part of those risks that you need to mitigate and those problems that you will find yourself having to solve. I say to keep in mind, at every organization and project or team experience, they will be different and they will have their own set of challenges. Not all organizations or projects will have these challenges associated to technology, but these are just a few that I mentioned in here, just as an example, because this is what I find to be the most challenging as an instructional designer that’s consulting out today.

REBECCA HOGUE
What skills do you find most useful for your work?

YOREL STEPHENS
Okay. Again, I’m going with some options that aren’t listed on the dropdown, your typical dropdown, some unconventional answers here.

YOREL STEPHENS
I would say if being courageously curious is a skill, that you will definitely need that and I’m going to call courageous curiosity a skill because you can be curious, but you have to be courageous in your curiosity. And what I mean by that is that you can’t be afraid to ask questions and then question the answers to those answers. Right, because you’re looking for solutions. But before you look for the solutions, you’re trying to verify if there’s even a problem that can be solved through learning. People are depending on you and they’re dependent on you to create these learning products. So you cannot be shy or bashful because you won’t get what you need. And if you don’t get what you need as a result, your learners won’t get what they need either. So it’s very important for you to be courageously curious and ask those questions. The other skill that I would say I find most useful, rapid research, rapid research. And these are like action skills, like thinking you would have on your resume. I’m courageously curious. I’m a rapid researcher. So what I mean when I say rapid researcher, that is basically being able to turn with the tide, right? Because everything and everyone and everywhere is evolving and changing right before our eyes every day. And so what, you know, to be the best technology or tool or resource today just might not be tomorrow, right? I mean, we get updates and changes all the time. That’s how fast things are moving and the learning strategies are changing to meet those changes with those technologies. But more importantly, the learners needs. So it’s important to have the skills that allows you to stay current with learning approaches that enhance your skills as a researcher so that you can become more rapid. The two skills I say are most useful are A learning and development consultant specifically is having a very courageous in your curiosity and having that ability to rapidly research. I have to say I love your alliterations. I love to write. I can’t help myself.

REBECCA HOGUE
What do you wish you had learned sooner regarding instructional design?

YOREL STEPHENS
Oh, this is easy. This is an easy one. It’s probably going to sound like, ah, really? But that it existed. I really wish that I knew that earlier. In the beginning I shared my story about how I stumbled across instructional design and I claimed it as my career without knowing that it actually had a name, a methodology or a science behind it. But had I known earlier what instructional design is, that it existed, then I would have emerged myself into the practice sooner with intention. And I think that’s the beautiful position that a lot of people, listeners right now on your podcast can get from this, that a lot of other people that fell into instructional design missed the boat on. You can fall into the the space, the career, the practice, the experience of being an instructional designer through intention. There’s a lot to be gained when you are intentional about goals versus not doing and not knowing you’re accomplishing things linked to an unknown goal. It just feels different. It makes you show up for the job more informed, more prepared, more impactful. It just gives you another level of confidence, it allows you to take yourself outside of being one who does not know about instructional design and puts you in a place where you are well informed and you know what you can do. You need to listen to a podcast like Demystifying Instructional Design, that you need to join a LinkedIn group with instructional designers where you need to go because you are more intentional about it. And you know what it’s called? I would agree completely. I think that many of us wish we knew instructional design was a career path before we fell into it.

REBECCA HOGUE
What advice would you give to new instructional designers?

YOREL STEPHENS
Hmm. I’m going to say research, explore and learn. Oh, that’s just really it, it’s really that simple. Research, for one thing, because as I mentioned earlier, things are changing. It’s evolving. Everything’s changing so fast. You always have to. This is going back to being that rapid researcher, just stay in the know, just stay up to date with what’s going on. If you’re in a program for instructional design right now or you’re working through some training to enhance your skills as an instructional designer, or perhaps you’re working through some type of certification related to instructional design. Once you accomplish that, it does not stop. It is ongoing. And if you have the misconception that once you’ve accomplished those things that you’re done, you are making a very big mistake. You have to continue researching. I’ve been in this field for 20 plus years now and the research just never stops. I eat, sleep and wake up researching about learning and instructional design and its impact. And as you’re doing that research, I also have the advice for you to explore. And don’t just cover yourself in the research, but explore. What I mean by that is put yourself in the learner seat, in a learning seat, continue to strive for those experiences as a learner because this is one of the fields in which instructional design is one of those careers that gives back more than you put out and I don’t know how many other careers are out there that are like this. This is a career that gives you more than you could ever, that you could ever possibly give out. And the reason why that is the case is that every job, every program, every course, every learning experience that you create for someone, something, an organization, else. Right? You’re receiving that as a learner. On a personal level, there’s this professional side that’s happening, but there’s this personal. You’re taking that in and it’s building you as a human being working this earth, the knowledge that you have that is random. Sometimes I’ll have conversations with people and they’re like, how do you know that? Oh I wrote a training program on this, it’s random information. Like, why do you know that? I don’t know why I know that. I don’t remember that. I remember I was driving and it was some traffic and it was construction going on. And I mentioned to my husband, I said, Oh, they’re laying down the pipe. They have to make sure everything is safe. And I think that what they’re doing there is they’re checking to see if the welding is done. He’s a welder. He’s a CWI. Oh, yeah. I wrote some training for inspectors. Don’t worry about that. The wealth of knowledge and the way that it just adds to you as a person. I would have not known anything like that ever. I have no interest in being a welder at any point, but I’m interested in the knowledge that welders need to know in order to be welders. Right. That exploration of that and that learning and that research just keep doing that. And if you do that as a learner, it adds to in your professional capacity as a designer.

REBECCA HOGUE
I love that example. The final question I like to ask is, what’s your prediction for the future of instructional design?

YOREL STEPHENS
Rebecca I like this question because it’s actually a question that I posed to some guests on my podcast Training Trends where I converse with different learning and development professionals to glean in insights for different learning tips, theories, techniques and technologies to keep the L&D community current with industry trends. And through all of those different conversations that I’ve had with different people that I’ve talked to and the research that I’ve gleaned, insight regarding the future of instructional design, I think that it’s going to be more learner driven and less instructor or facilitator driven. We see this. That’s not anything that’s profound, right? But it’s going to require that instructional designers have a stronger grasp on technology, which you’ve heard me talk about in some of my earlier responses to your questions, is really going to have us think about and be able to wrap technology in a way that allows us to understand how it works and the ways that it can be programed to orchestrate individual learning experiences based on capability. And when I say capability, I mean the emotional, psychological, intellectual, physiological aspects of the learner will all be a part of the what I’m going to say, like a learning prescription. Right. And I know that we look at these things already in the learning field. Right? We have to think about the emotional, psychological, intellectual or physiological. But in the future, I believe it’s going to be something that takes us out of this war this dormant state of making those considerations and factoring those in and put us in a more active, responsible role. Because instead of conducting a needs analysis for a group of learners, we’re going to have to start leveraging technological tools to prescribe learning experiences similar to a doctor prescribing medication to a patient. We will have to be more well versed on the components as it relates to learner experiences, because potentially the new learning techniques and technologies like AR and VR, they’re going to require us to consider all of these different aspects, which is where we have to really make sure we’re researching, exploring and learning. And I also think that the name instructional designer will change to something that’s going to reflect the actions and the behaviors associated to the role as a result of these technological influences associated to what we’re expected to do.

REBECCA HOGUE
Can you tell us a little bit more about your podcast?

YOREL STEPHENS
Yeah, sure. So Training Trends is a podcast that focuses on looking at the trends of the learning and development community. We talk about different tips, theories, techniques and technologies to explore ways that things are trending and changing towards in the future. It’s available on your podcast platforms. And I talk to a different guest experts, different people from the L&D space, people outside of the L&D space, because I think that our conversations about learning and development just, just learning in general, not just keeping it focused on adult learners, but education as a whole is changing. It’s shifting. And I think it’s very important to come outside of a box and talk to everyone any touchpoint of education. Again, going back to my three Cs, converse, connect and collaborate. And so that’s what I that’s what I put myself in the center of being able to do to converse with different people across the world, across different countries and different industries, connecting with them and collaborating to see what everyone is doing and where they also think the future of learning and development will be.

REBECCA HOGUE
Excellent. Thank you very much Yorel for joining us on Demystifying Instructional Design.

YOREL STEPHENS
Thank you so much for having me, Rebecca. I enjoyed this.

REBECCA HOGUE
You’ve been listening to Demystifying Instructional Design, a podcast where I interview instructional designers about what they do. I’m Rebecca Hogue, your podcast host. Show notes are posted as a blog post on Demystifying Instructional Design dot com. If you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe or leave a comment in the show notes blog post.

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