Instructional design workshop helps guide students

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How does an instructional designer juggle meeting the needs of all the different people depending on her for a quality product?

Instructional designer Shanan Cunnington held a two hour workshop with Justin Howe, the projects coordinator at the Centre for Digital Humanities, discussing life in the real world as an instructional designer and what the job truly entails.

An instructional designer helps clients to identify the knowledge gaps of their staff, and then proceed to design unique training programs and create resources to bridge those gaps based on the needs of the target audience. Cunnington has been in the field for over five years and remains eager to help students interested in pursuing a similar path in life.

“For me as an instructional designer, I love getting in touch with people to help build them some skills and tools and awareness of what happens in the real world. I like bringing my experience to the students because it really helps to prepare them,” said Cunnington.

The workshop was held as a continuation of a series of workshops geared particularly towards the Competencies in Interactive Arts and Science ( IASC 2P08) class in an attempt to tackle some of the challenges faced within that particular field.

“We have a tough challenge over at the Centre for Digital Humanities when it comes to interactive media and the workshop is focused on the IASC 2P08 class because interactive media is a very broad ever-changing field. How do we teach our students how to learn once they’ve completed a formal education in this area? The likelihood they go back and continue in the same stream is not very high,” said Howe. “We have had tremendous success with this workshop format because it helps connect [students] to how they can continue to learn, and they have an opportunity to interact with experts like Shanan who are able to give meaningful context as to how they take that formal academic knowledge and start to translate it to advance forward in life.”

Despite the focus being placed on a particular class, there are students who, while not being associated with the department, can be found at a number of the workshops because they find value in the topics discussed.

“Shanan’s material, despite being anchored to the Digital Humanities field, is not uniquely isolated to that. The nature of the problems our experts often are talking about, barring specific tool applications which frankly are the minority of the workshops we run, are often demonstrating real world cases for our academic knowledge. Being able to get in the head of the people you are trying to work with; being able to understand and address their needs, is not uniquely related to technology, hence why digital humanities is a good lens for this. In my mind, these seminars being open to the general populace is very useful because it just provides more than one way of interpreting those problems,” said Howe.

Cunnington is passionate about serving as an example to students and sharing her experiences to positively impact the decisions they make later on.

“I’m in the real world. I have experience. I’m happy to share my experience because I know when I think about myself at this stage of life that I would have given my right arm to be able to have an experience of having someone come in and talk about the things that I loved and was passionate about; to have a real world concrete example is priceless,” said Cunnington. “I think there is value in every aspect of this seminar to everyone at this age and level and in school because they get to have just a small glimpse of what goes on in the real world. The questions that come out, hearing the personal experiences and hearing their vision and their personal plans for their future is truly phenomenal.”

The majority of workshops held by the Centre for Digital Humanities can be found on ExperienceBU alongside many other seminars that occur weekly, held by a number of other departments. Whether students are a part of the targeted class or not, workshops such as these are often available to all students.

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