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That's an Intro to Higher Ed!

Instructional designer and program manager Dr. Luke Hobson joins me to chat about what instructional design looks like in the higher education setting. He gives a brief overview of the day-to-day of what a higher ed ID does, and lists some pros and cons about higher ed versus a corporate ID position. He also gives some advice to any people looking to transition into higher ed from a K-12 background, and emphasizes the need to have a firm grasp on both tools and processes.

You can find out more about Dr. Luke Hobson, his podcast, and his Instructional Design Institute at


The following transcript was auto-generated and may contain typos or spelling errors.

Leslie Early 0:00

Okay, today I have the instructional designer, Dr. Luke Hobson here with me. And thank you so much for joining me first of all,

Dr. Luke Hobson 0:08

Of course, thank you for having me.

Leslie Early 0:10

Um, would you like to take a couple of minutes and just kind of introduce yourself to listeners tell about yourself or about your journey and instructional design?

Dr. Luke Hobson 0:20

Absolutely. My journey is a really weird one too. So I won't try to take so much time, but my name is Dr. Luke Hobson. I also say the doctor title in there because there is a famous actor named Lou compson. So if you Google my name, he pops up. So that's like, Alright, I have to beat this guy in SEO. Mike, how am I going to do this? So I ended up taking the domain name of the full Dr. Luke Hobbs. And that's what my website is Dr. Glue cops just a little behind the scenes thing.

Leslie Early 0:50

But you also earned it. I mean, anyone who has a doctorate, I mean, you you've earned the right to be called doctor with cops.

Dr. Luke Hobson 0:55

Oh, sure. But the first couple times I said it like, I don't like that. It's kind of like I don't want people to think I'm stuck up or something. And it's just a, it's the way that Google works. So you know at that Sam is roll with it. Now it is what it is. But as far as for my career, for everything for education, I started off as a lab assistant. Actually, I went from my bachelor's in graphic design, my Master's in marketing, I was a lab assistant the whole time, actually, for a digital music course, which is interesting. I ended up teaching the music course afterwards, because the professor retired and moved on to something else. And while I was doing this and going for my master's, at the same time, I was always working with an academic advisor. And I had a fantastic relationship with her. She was absolutely awesome and was really helping me in a variety different areas who are wanting to go for my career. And it just so happened at that same time that Southern New Hampshire University that has now become this massive online school went back then it was really just starting to grow. And they had a position open for an online academic advisor. I was like, Ah, that sounds awesome. If I could do the same thing, but she's been doing it make an impact on all these students lives like I'm in, sign me up. So I applied, I ended up getting the job for there. And I was a undergraduate and graduate academic advisor helped up 1000s of students over the years, which is so cool to be able to speak with them and email them and hear them about their challenges, celebrate their wins of them support them a variety of ways. And for being able to do this through all these online courses. It got me more and more interested in the online learning experience. I was thinking like, wow, how cool would it be if I could transition into learning how to build and design these online courses. So from there to make a long story short, I ended up becoming the creative resources manager for them taking my graphic design, academic advising abilities and kind of combining them to design online learning communities and different resources for peer tutoring center. The Writing Center eventually transitioned over into instructional design for Northeastern University, did that for a while and then now transitioned over to MIT, as my title was a program manager, which is like half instructional designer, half project manager to keep it simple. I say ID and what I'm still doing today.

Leslie Early 3:09

Yeah, so you're here to talk about higher ed. So you have quite a lot of experience in higher ed. And I mean, you're at MIT now. But how long? How long has it been actually that you've been in the higher ed world?

Dr. Luke Hobson 3:23

Oh, geez, combining everything from lab assistant advisor ID and all these other roles? Probably about 10 years in total? Yeah, 10 years, 10 years in total, if you add all the jobs I've had.

Leslie Early 3:38

And so I mean, clearly you like it, because you You're still there. And yeah, you probably plan to stay there.

Dr. Luke Hobson 3:44

That's the plan. Yes.

Leslie Early 3:46

Well, what is it? I mean, I have zero understanding or knowledge of what an ID position in the higher ed world is, like, especially like on a day to day so like, I'm just curious about, you know, what you like about it, what's kept you there so long? Why you feel like you're gonna stay for even longer?

Dr. Luke Hobson 4:04

Sure. Well, the entire concept of education is is something that I am so passionate about, it's the greatest gift you can give to someone is education. And if I can be a part of that in any way, any shape way, or form or size of that one. If I'm a part of that purpose, then like, you know, sign me up. That's, that's all I want to do. And whenever I am working with somebody who, like a professor, or a Smee, it's kind of funny, like, I have a script for explaining what it is that I do, because mold now as far as for with higher education, since remote learning and emergency learning has happened to many people now know what I do before though, everyone's just like, what do you do? So every time that I'm in a kickoff call, like, you know, talking about a project scope, and we're going around the room and introducing themselves, I always say that for my job, I understand how people learn. And then I use this knowledge and I work with a professor, like someone who you know, we're just talking about and that lets me to create a meaningful learning experience and this leads me to this designing and developing curriculums, resources, materials, that all linked to course outcomes to competencies and skills. So my job really is that I get to be a learning nerd like this is really what I'm able to do is that I am able to design these types of online courses that focuses on real tangible skills for folks. And then when I'm able to actually interview them, speak with them read about their testimonials, online, everything that I design, they're able to go into this one module, learn something and then go apply it into the real world, because I'm focusing on professional development and higher ed in particular to that's kind of like, that's my sweet spot. It's Yes, of course, the traditional college student you would think of can definitely take my courses? Absolutely. But really, I'm designing these for working adults who have kids and jobs and always ever different commitments, and how do I provide a top level education for them to keep them super engaged, because you have to be able to keep these folks engaged, to retain this knowledge of information. And really just make sure that what you're doing is not going to be boring, it has to be fun. The whole point of my job is to make sure that you are really learning about something that you find useful, and that has a purpose. And that is really why I you know, I love what is that I do.

Leslie Early 6:13

And that's sort of that does crossover a little bit to you know, that it has to be something that people want or enjoy engaging in so that they can better themselves, or that it's immediately applicable, you know, and in professional development. So, I mean, that is sort of a crossover into the corporate world. But

Dr. Luke Hobson 6:34

there is there's a lot of crossovers. Actually, I and I learned more about this recently the other day, too, because Heidi Kirby from the block podcast came on my podcast, and we just talked about this for like two hours, it was a, it was a two parter, because there were so many things to cover, it is talking about a similarity or difference or what we're going through. And we ended up taking a job posting and just going down one by one by one of talking about the technical skills, the random other duties that we have assigned to us that we didn't plan on it, but it just kind of falls out of the sky, the benefits and the perks. Yeah, there's a ton of different crossovers, as long as two as there's offer things that you would never expect about the differences. But they're they're definitely there. And my role is kind of like a, like a weird freak hybrid as well, too, because I also have plenty of corporate folks take my courses from a higher education institution. So I kind of get the best of both worlds as well.

Leslie Early 7:33

So tell me a little bit about like the day to day because I know there's some people probably listening who are considering transitioning into higher ed or an ID position in higher ed. So what what does that really sort of look like if you can give a snapshot of what that looks like.

Dr. Luke Hobson 7:50

So a typical day in my life, I will say it's certainly all definitely depends upon the day, but in my world, I will be working with a Smee. But in this case, my SMI is typically the name of the best and the brightest types of professors that I get to work with out there, and being able to really explain about online learning and how this all works. Because everyone has this type of a preconceived notion or a perception of what online learning is, which is typically like, Oh, it's got to be a video, an essay and a discussion board. And that's definitely not there is to it. That was the traditional way back in 2000, when online learning really started to, you know, get a bit of publicity. But certainly things have changed since then. So I will typically work with somebody like this being able to design everything as far as for the courses go from practice questions, applications, reflections, building the content, potentially, for doing video recordings or shoots that day, I'm involved in that as far as your feedback, coaching and guidance to make sure that those videos are going well. I'm also communicating with a lot of people to that as far as for with my role, I have to make sure that everyone is included in the loop with every step along the way of how a course is being designed from marketing to accounting to the multimedia team, like you name it, I had to basically make sure that everyone's just in the know as far as for where the course design process currently is. And then for the courses that are currently running as far as for the maintenance and the day to day, I'm certainly working with students answering questions, kind of doing like a customer support side of things just to make sure that everything is going well. That's a typical day besides the fact that I'm on like 7000 zoom calls now, which I wasn't before. But now that's my thing is is constantly doing that. So that's typical day of what my life looks like. And you know, some days are definitely more video shoot heavy, and other days are certainly a little bit different.

Leslie Early 9:47

And it sounds kind of like you do a little bit of everything, which is kind of what I kind of do and in my role too.

Dr. Luke Hobson 9:54

So pretty much if there's new things are also always popping up. So like something else that I'm going to be doing. Next, which is like something that I wasn't planning on, but actually this podcasting, public speaking ability that I keep on finding myself and now is that I usually do these webinars for students where we kind of do the q&a as we walk people through things. And for the new marketing, promotional material, I'm now going to be involved in that far more. So I'm going to be more doing the voiceovers doing things like what we're currently doing on zoom, but obviously make it much more professional and better looking and polished. But now those skills that kind of come into play, which never really happened before, so there's always something new, it's always like an ever evolving job. It's never the same.

Leslie Early 10:38

I did want to ask if you had, from your perspective, what do you think are pros and cons of working in higher ed? I mean, I know that you don't have experience necessarily working in the corporate world. But just from your experience working in higher ed, like, any pros or cons that come to mind.

Dr. Luke Hobson 10:57

Yeah, million, I could go on like a huge list. And I remember a lot of them actually, from those episodes, because some of them were things that I didn't even think about, which is why it's stuck in my head is that I had all these assumptions. And then Heidi kind of blew my mind and some answers where I was like, wow, okay. But as far as for the pros and cons go, I mean, definitely one for the Pro, which I've already talked about is that the people who I get our smoothies are people who are really passionate about education, they love teaching, but level learning experience. And now it's it's kind of my job to be able to take already there great material, and craft in a way that makes sense of how to learn about online. And by doing so obviously, I am learning about just a million different things that I never thought I would. And now all of a sudden that kind of become like, in a way, my own subject matter expert of random, higher education topics, which has kind of been like a really cool probe of how that goes. And with all these courses, there is a lot of time, energy and resources that are dedicated to making sure that the projects are on track, and that they're going well, I think that was one of the biggest things that hearing from Heidi and her for her stories is that sometimes you get folks who just kind of walk into your office and say, I want this right now. And you're like, that's not how it works. That's that's not how a successful training program works, or a course or whatever it is. And I have never had that problem before. All my years in higher ed, I have never had somebody randomly just knock down my door and demand something immediately. Because we know of that, like everything that I designed, there are so many months ahead of time, there's planning, there's research, and for all my courses, I conduct pilot programs before they're ever launched. So I never just launch something out into the universe and hope it's good. There is always something as far as me being able to collect data and information, interview folks, and really to see like, how can I make it even better the second time, the third time it kind of keep on going?

Leslie Early 12:45

Well, that's one of the things when I was listening to that. Those episodes, is that stuck out to me is that it seems like in higher ed and with the courses that are being developed there, there's a lot more opportunity for iteration, where it's like in the l&d world, you're usually making something for a client. Or I guess you could be doing it if you're an internal l&d department, but it's more like where we have this training need, we're gonna make this course about it, or training learning experience about it. And then we're just gonna put it out into the world and not really think about it ever again.

Dr. Luke Hobson 13:24

Right? And that's that someone in higher education that is like mind boggling. This is like, What do you mean? because the whole point of everything is that we're talking about making sure for assessment items. I'm always thinking about, like, how I design my rubrics, and I think about what's going to happen three months, six months, a year down the road, like there's all these different forms of evaluations, but I'm always thinking about of how to make it better every single time. And if I did that, like, I would just give myself a heart attack being like, What do you mean, I'm never revisiting this course again, like, that's not how it works, you know?

Leslie Early 13:54

Yeah. Yeah. All right. Well, I think we're coming up on time here. But, um, I guess, again, for those listeners who may be I think I have quite a few listeners who are actually trying to transition out of K 12. At this time.

Dr. Luke Hobson 14:10

So many folks. Yeah.

Leslie Early 14:11

Do you have any advice for those people if you know, if they're looking at higher ed as a possible career option?

Dr. Luke Hobson 14:21

Absolutely. So what I would say to them because as you were saying, many people are doing this is this they're trying to transition right now. And the thing that I've noticed is that a lot of new people, they are gravitating towards trying to learn how to use a tool with none of the reasoning behind it. And the tool is not going to be the thing that gets you the job sure and experience with something of a captivate a storyline rise, what name whatever tool you want to say, if you have experience with that cool, but in higher education specifically, what I am looking for if I was bringing someone into my team right now is really just talking about the learning design process, walking me through it, you know if You're going to show me a portfolio, the things that I am looking for is talking about the beginning parts of the project. What was your role on everything? What problem were you trying to solve? How would you conduct the research? How would you create the goals? How would you align things? What were your findings? You know, those are the things that I really care about more is you walking me through something every step of the way, don't just show me a screenshot of a finished course. And I have no idea what you did. And I was like, great. This looks pretty. But this doesn't tell me anything about you, your personality, your beliefs, like you know, I have nothing. So that's what I wanted to say to people. Because every time someone talks to me about like, I want to become an instructional designer, the first thing they say, is this, like, Alright, I just took this course and storyline, like, cool. Like what made you think that that was the number one thing you need to do, because in higher education, the biggest thing too, is that we use learning management systems. So there are many times where you will never ever touch a tool like that. It's just a common thing that we probably have a multimedia team, or we just hire freelancers, or we don't whatever, I care very much more about your brain, and thinking about all those different forms of learning how to assess these items, and really just talking about that learning experience to make it the very best it can possibly be.

Leslie Early 16:17

Yeah, and this is something I talked about with at last week's episode with Amy, Patrice ik, is, you know, the it's the iceberg analogy, right? Or like floating in the ocean. And like the top 10% is just like the tools you can use? And yes, you can show that you can use them, which is important, because you do have to show that maybe not storyline, necessarily, but something. But the 90%. Below is like do you have the learning design theory? Do you have understanding, you know, the process the entire process? Can you speak about that with confidence? And you have to have both of those things like you can't get away with just one or the other? Unfortunately.

Dr. Luke Hobson 17:01

That's true. It's true.

Leslie Early 17:03

Yeah. All right. Well, thanks again so much for joining me. I I've had a lot to think about here.

Dr. Luke Hobson 17:11

No problem. And if anyone has any more questions about what it is that I do, or the podcast or anything, if you go to Dr. Luke Hobson comm all my stuff is there. Keep it nice and simple, the podcasts, the blog, and we have a new instructional design institute that launched last month, actually, to help out folks specifically in education about instructional design skills. So that is all designed that one website, you can go there, you'll find everything about me and what is that?

Leslie Early 17:38

I do. All right. Well, thanks again. And I hope to talk to you soon, of course.

Dr. Luke Hobson 17:42

Thanks so much.

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