M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, 1999
I began using Apple computers for adult literacy instruction in the late 80s. Soon I was using a mixed lab of Apples, Macs, and PCs for a wide variety of learning needs. I clearly saw the future of computer-based instruction, and I wanted in.
I asked an executive at Apple Computers, “What do you suggest I do to get the knowledge, skills and experiences to enable me to design computer-based instruction?” His immediate reply: “The University of Texas at Austin has an excellent graduate program focused on both instructional design and educational technologies.”
Studying with the faculty and students of the Department of Curriculum & Instruction prepared me to do exactly what I wanted: professionally engage in every phase of the design and development processes of creating exceptional learning experiences. I learned about the critical aspects of design choices and the team-based workflows of multimedia development.
Today, I’m still learning because our field is ever changing – the tools, cognitive science, and instructional methods. The “community of practice” shared by UT faculty and alumni is as important to me today as when I was a student. Many lifelong friends and important professional contacts were made then, and continue to support me now.
A great aspect of the program is its flexibility to pursue personal research interests. I began the program focused on adaptive and assistive technologies for people with disabilities. Later, I took up a funded research project about workforce development for people with basic skills; the premise that people who only qualified for low-wage jobs can do more and earn more from brief but intensive skills training was validated by the research.
Life after UT
Currently, as an instructional designer at Enspire Learning, my job is to create exceptional learning experiences every day. I work with tremendously talented designers, writers, artists, programmers, producers, quality assurance, and management teams. I enjoy the diversity of subjects, organizations, and people I create with and for, such as the American Heart Association, United Technologies, VCA Animal Hospitals, and Wiley Publishing, to name but a few.
Advice for Students
My encouragement to any new student is to be open to better and emerging uses for learning technologies. Tremendous innovations lie ahead at the convergence of instructional design and cognitive science with computer and information sciences. Learning Technologies studies feel as new, relevant, and exciting today as when I first started.