Category Archives: Communication

Relationship Building Excels Instructional Design

Working-togetherRelationship building is sometimes an overlooked aspect in the instructional design field. However, relationship building is an integral part to successful ID development. Subject matter experts, course reviewers, and design teams all contribute to the Instructional Design process and if one does not cooperate, the integrity of your project can be at stake. But with collaboration and solid relationships, your Instructional Design project can excel. Therefore, it’s important not only to advocate for sound instructional design practices, but also to advocate for the needs of your contributors.

Liz Ryan, CEO Human Workplace, states “project Management is a collaboration among people who all want the same thing and/but have widely varying views on the best way to get there. A project manager’s job is to keep everyone on the team feeling valued and listened to while keeping the many moving parts on track.” (source:

How do you keep your team feeling valued and listened to?

Respect Their Ideas and Expertise

At BlackLine Systems, the Product Training team works closely with subject matter experts in deciding which content is relevant and valuable. The SMEs have input in the initial course planning and script-writing steps, as well as with the final course review. Their input is invaluable for creating accurate course content.

Respect Their Time

The Product Training team is cognizant and appreciative of our SME’s time. We work on a schedule that best meets their needs, even if it means arriving at the office before 7 am or staying past our normal work hours.  The key is being flexible so that our SME’s are comfortable with recording with us.


When you spend a full day in a recording studio with your SME, you become pretty close to them in a short time. I spent a lot of time with a SME who was from out of town and was staying at a hotel. Even though we had met only prior to recording, I invited him for dinner and bowling after work with my friends. We spent all day cooped up together, I couldn’t imagine him staying cooped up in a small hotel room all night either. He accepted the invitation and we had a fun time relaxing outside of work. Now, whenever he’s at headquarters, he stops by my desk to say hello, an indication that we’ve developed a good relationship.

Praise Publicly

I think it’s also important to praise your collaborators. At BlackLine, we have a points system, called You Earned It, in which you give points to your colleagues that can be redeemed for prizes. The points seemed hokey at first, but it’s a positive way to thank your colleagues for their help. You can also set the points award to be public, which is a nice way to let the entire organization know that “hey, this person went out on a limb for me”. This public acknowledgement spreads good will and feelings of being appreciated.

Acknowledge Their Contributions

Our Product Team recently presented at the company’s monthly meeting (each month a different team presents). This was yet another avenue to express our gratitude to those subject matter experts, course reviewers, and designers for their help. Recognition is not necessarily a driving factor for why colleagues help Instructional Designers, but it’s a positive way to show mutual respect. I’m glad our company offers these ways to encourage collaboration.

With respect and acknowledgement, instructional designers can build successful relationships with their colleagues, which in turn will aid in the creation of excellent training and educational materials.


Sharing is Caring: Knowledge Sharing

downloadWe all do it. We share information, skills, and expertise with those around us. This activity is formally called Knowledge Sharing, but the free flow exchange of information is an important part of everyday professional development.

Recently I shared with a colleague in the sales department my eLearning planning toolbox. This toolbox included an instructional design document, a template PowerPoint, and a draft roadmap for building eLearning programs. Sharing these design templates with my colleague helped her to start planning her own eLearning program. She also received training on recording and editing tools. By providing her with this information and helping her get started, she will be able to create a program that adds value to her department.

There are several different modes of communicating and sharing information. Examples include Wikipedia, workplace shared drives, and informational meetings. This Web site is another example of how information can be shared. Formal knowledge sharing experiences include conferences, conventions, and publications created by professional organizations. Knowledge is also shared informally- conversations over coffee and in the break room can have great impact on a person’s work.

Knowledge sharing has specific benefits. It promotes cross-functional training. Knowledge Sharing promotes participative decision-making and shared expectations. It fosters good will among colleagues and it fosters an open and trusting environment. When you’re on the receiving end of information, you learn and better yourself. When you’re on the giving end of knowledge sharing you exhibit your professional expertise, which can help establish a positive reputation in your field. Knowledge Sharing also helps to establish professional relationships.

Some people use information as a way to control power. Keeping information and tips to yourself may give you an edge over your colleagues. But I strongly feel that the more you share the more value can be added to the company.

Women, STEM, and the Breaking of Stereotypes

In the last several weeks there has been a lot of media coverage regarding women in technology and girls’ dissatisfaction with gender stereotyping in consumer products.

stem1As a female Information Technology Manager, I’ve had several years experience working within Information Technology and online departments. My colleagues have been mostly men (very supportive men). At times, my “customers” don’t believe what I say about their computers. Only after they sought additional help, would they come back and say, “Julie, you were right after all!” My response is typically to smile and say, “I’m glad it has been resolved for you.” When in reality I’d love to thank them for wasting both their time and my time. I’m not right all the time, and I’ll be the first to admit when I need to confer with another colleague to resolve an issue. However, I was hired for my specific skills, knowledge, and expertise. Just because you don’t like what I’m saying, doesn’t mean I’m incorrect.

Too frequent are women in technology judged not by their actual skills but by their gender.

Some recent examples include Goldman Sach’s swag at a Harvard hackathon event for women. The biggest sponsor of the WEcode (Women Engineers Code) event handed out cosmetic mirrors and nail files to the attendees. They’ve since apologized, but what does this message send to young females? “You can code and make cool things, as long as you are pretty when you do it”?  Would Goldman Sach’s have provided deodorant and razors to a men’s hackathon?

When women are brave enough to display their STEM skills, they are often “thanked” with comments about their looks or sexuality. Emily Graslie discusses natural history, science, and the artifacts found at the Field Museum (Chicago) on her YouTube channel, “The Brain Scoop“. In her November 27, 2013 post, Where My Ladies At?”, she discusses how her comment feed is flooded with inappropriate innuendos and statements about her physical appearance. She also states that there are very few women on YouTube who discuss STEM. Women fear being judged on ridiculous irrelevant topics (ie their looks), instead of their expertise. Therefore, many women opt out of making their knowledge public. The problem with this is that it shows the younger generation of females to hide their skills and to be ashamed of their abilities. 

nintendoGender stereotypes are also played out in consumer products. The Nintendo Girls Channel on YouTube was recently launched and was very much a disappointment to female gamers. The channel is clad in pink and contain gaming mods that take girls on shopping sprees and spa makeover adventures. Pink is definitely for girls, and I have purchased quite a few pink items in my day. But that’ a strategic move– if I had a pink travel coffee mug or a pink baseball mitt, it was guaranteed it would remain mine and not confiscated by my brothers.

Girls are seeing beyond the pink and asking to break the stereotypes. A young girl recently wrote to Lego asking why there are not more Lego Girls with cool jobs. She was very aware that Lego boy characters had many more adventurous careers and wanted the company to rectify this inequality. A teenager also wrote to Disney, petitioning that they design their Princesses with more diverse body shapes. It’s uplifting to see the younger generation speaking out about gender stereotypes and their discontent for the world as designed by adults.

And there’s still more hope. “Hello Ruby” by Linda Liukas succeeded in funding her children’s book on kickstarter. Her goal is to teach children about programming. The use of a female main character, Ruby, positively encourages girls to pursue an interest in technology and programming. Another company, GoldieBlox, encourages girls to build and pursue an interest in inventing and engineering. The company has turned “construction toys” from boys toys to a gender neutral toy. In the process GoldieBlox has introduced the fun of engineering and problem solving to girls. If I could, I would work for GoldieBlox.

 GoldieBlox  Hello-Ruby-tech-book

Another uplifting story is the recent report by TechCrunch that Berkeley’s Intro to Computer Science course now has more women than men enrolled. Granted, there are only two more women than men, but it’s still progress. This progress was attributed to a change in the curriculum that included team projects, open-source resources, and opportunities to become teaching assistants.

It’s important to continue to encourage young girls and women to pursue STEM classes. To continue to question a company’s idea for girls’ toys. And for those of us who are currently pursuing STEM careers, to be forthright in our skills and to publicize the benefits of pursuing challenging careers. In doing so, we can encourage youth to pursue their interests in STEM without fear of judgement. 

Not Just a Game

The video game culture is no longer about staying up all night playing games alone. In fact,  this is a major misconception of what it means to be a gamer. This definition is the most basic bare bones description of what it means to be a gamer; it’s reminiscent of your parents and grandparents saying, “it’s just a game”.

The truth is, it’s never just a game.

It’s a form of art.

It’s a story.

It’s a technical holy grail, created by skilled programmers that pour their heart and soul into developing a smooth playing, glitch-free, creative world.

LANTo me, gaming is about the shared experience, the connection to your friends near and far. I play video games to share experiences with my friends who live far away. We can play sitting right next to each other or we can play together even when we’re in different time zones. My favorite is when we have a LAN party with friends located in the same room and others located far away, all playing the same game, at the same time, collaboratively.

I play co-op games because I love working with teams to accomplish goals and I get a thrill from a virtual fist-bump. I may be a newbie player compared to my friends, but they never leave me behind. They share in my excitement when I get my first kill and they watch my back as my health declines, often warning me to get out before I get killed.

I also play battle and first person shooter games to relieve stress. I can rage out, curse like a sailor, and destroy things without the social repercussions– well, sometimes I get laughed at by friends who don’t usually hear me swear.

I play world-building games, like Minecraft, to stimulate my curiosity and creativity. I envision structures and landscapes and make them in the game. I plant crops, hunt, and fish to survive. I build fences to prevent creepers from attacking me.

Gaming is good, it’s an active activity (unlike passive television watching) that encourages teamwork, collaboration, and creativity.

Games I’m currently obsessed about: Minecraft, Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, Words with Friends, NBA Jam, Orcs Must Die 2, NBA 2K13, Super Monkey Ball (Monkey Flight).

Ooh, Shiny & New! Using a Project to Meet Colleagues

Pepperdine University School of Law spent several months planning and designing a classroom upgrade, fondly called the educational technology update (or ETU).

As a new member of the Information Services team, I joined the project in its initial planning phase. Funding had been approved but information regarding the ETU requirements needed to be collected. I spent the first couple months of my new job interviewing the School of Law Faculty. This was fruitful in two ways. The obvious, we received valuable input on what technology was needed in each classroom and thus secured faculty buy-in on this great change.

The less obvious reason why the Faculty interviews were fruitful is that it introduced me, the new Manager of Instructional Technology, to the Faculty.

There’s nothing like jumping in the deep-end to get to know your colleagues and gain respect.

I spent hours meeting with Law Faculty members interviewing them one-on-one about the classrooms, their expectations, their hopes, and their needs.

These meetings provided me with an opportunity to show the tenured and adjunct faculty that I was knowledgeable and credible in my field of Educational Technology. It also showed the faculty that I had a genuine interest in their opinions and skills. It also opened up conversation and started relationship-building. It showed my constituents that I was someone they can come to me for technical support, problem solving, and brain-storming.

As a new employee, I highly recommend communicating in person. Get out from behind the computer and off the telephone. Knock on doors, make your face and voice known, but above all, listen to what your colleagues say and follow-through with the best of intentions. Doing so will reiterate the fact that you a valuable part of the team.

Learning: Changing Orgs at the Micro Level

As I begin a new semester as a part-time instructor for my Alma Mater, Ithaca College, I think back about my time there as an Ithaca Collegeundergraduate.

I earned a communications degree studying Organizational Communication, Learning & Design (OCLD). I loved my classes from the beginning. How organizations change, grow and work effectively intrigued me. Discussions about how communication and design can impact on an organization made me giddy.

imagesBut more specifically, I loved (and still do) learning about how individual learning can have a significant impact. Not only is the individual impacted by learning, but their organizations are affected as well. When an employee decides to better themselves by learning a new tool or soft skill, the effort they put into it eventually goes back into the organization. Achievement on the individual level should be considered a win for the organization.

Learning on the micro-level (learning by the individual) can impact an organization on the macro-level.

And for this reason I concentrated in Instructional Design.

As an instructional designer, I believe that if a single person wants to learn a new tool or skill, they should be able to do so, and should be supported by their organization. Therefore, it’s my initiative to host weekly “Coffee Talks” even if only one person RSVPs. I’ll even prepare for and be available during the sessions when no one RSVPs, just in case someone decides to attend my learning sessions on a whim.

Making Social Media Work For You

In the past, I’ve discussed how I used Twitter and Facebook as an educational tool to reach my online students. (See also my EduSoCal Presentation)

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of expanding my professional network and professional opportunities by leveraging Twitter and LinkedIn.

newspaperI first started using Twitter as a way to get my newspaper headlines each day by following my favorite periodicals. This was a great option for when I was commuting by train and didn’t want to bring a lot of books and papers in my bag.  Many of my IRL (In Real Life) friends had not yet begin using Twitter, so my use of the micro-blogging site was  informational, but passive.

Still to this day, when someone asks me how to use Twitter and they don’t think the tech is useful to them since they are self-proclaimed Luddites, I provide them with the example above stating, “I get all of my favorite newspapers in one place!” With that example, they “get” Twitter (at least in the very basic basic use of it).

Then, when I moved from the NYC Metro area to Los Angeles, and consequently starting working remotely, I began twitter-bird-light-bgsusing Twitter and LinkedIn more frequently. This allowed me to connect with and collaborate with professionals in the fields of Instructional Design and Educational Technology. I may not have been able to meet face-to-face with my network back in NYC, but these social networking tools allowed me to stay connected to my peers. And even more so, meet others!

I have two more stories to share with you.

One, I owe social networking to my latest professional opportunity. I am now a Contributing writer to EdTech Magazine: Focus on Higher Ed because I read one of their articles via Twitter (remember, I read periodicals via Twitter?) and replied to their Tweet with a relevant comment. The Web editor contacted me and asked me to write about the topic of computers in the classroom. And it’s been fun!

Second, I was reading through the hashtag #EdTech and noticed someone talking about an EdTech Meetup in Los Linkedin_Shiny_Icon.svg_Angeles and NYC. My heart stopped! I sent a message to the person and asked for more details about the EdTech Meetup in LA. Unfortunately, there isn’t one. He is based in NYC. However, he has provided me with valuable tips and resources on how to start my own Meetup. And it’s underway! I have a small group of interested participants and we’ll be meeting to discuss Instructional Design and Educational Technology. It’ll be great to have a network of ISD/EdTech professionals in LA to speak to and collaborate with. After we meet in person, I plan on hosting some synchronous TweetChats to continue the discussions online. Look for a future article on how the EdTech Meetup is progressing.

How do I Leverage My Networks?

Publicize my Web site (this Web site, in fact!)

  • Each new article has a Tweet, LinkedIn update, and Facebook Status Update
  • Use hashtags # to make sure the right groups of people sees the posts

Use hashtags

  • To start conversations with groups that share the same interest
  • To view and contribute to already established conversations

Reply to Tweets

  • With relevant questions or comments to establish credibility, start a dynamic conversation and to gain followers

RT or Retweet and follow industry leaders

  • This is how I gain followers and get more information

My favorite use of Twitter and LinkedIn- Making Connections

  • Not just with myself and others, but Introducing people to one another, for example “Dear @username, meet @username2, he has successfully implemented BYOD in his grade school class. Something we’ve been discussing.”

How do you use Social Media to advance your professional network and gain professional opportunities? Feel free to tweet me @julietausend or connect via LinkedIn.

Making Lemonade from Workplace Conflict

I realized my experience is not limited to Educational Technology and Instructional Design. I’m also a Manager and a communicator, yet I have not written about these experiences. So I’ve added a new category to my website, Management. In this section, I will share with you my experiences in Management, Communication, and Project Management.

My first story relates to customer service, handling a tough workplace conflict, and how you can make lemonade from workplace conflict.

Let me set the scene for you. I was just out of college, recently hired at my second professional job. Awe struck at all the possibilities at my feet. A couple of weeks into my new position, my boss asked me to conduct a quality review of several of the online courses currently running. He showed me the form that was to be used, how to log in to each course, and asked me to send the results to the Professor of each course. He was even kind enough to guide me through the first couple of reviews.

No sweat, I got this. I am an Instructional Designer, after all. If I can’t evaluate the effectiveness of instruction in an objective way what else am I good for?



Try Again.

reviewI sent the quality review results to a Professor. I won’t go into detail about the actual report except to say that his students were not effectively being interacted with and course content seemed sparse.

Within a few hours I received a scathing reply email detailing how I have no right to provide feedback, would I give our President of the United States such a review, where did I get off, etc. etc. Choice words were used. I was blown away by his email, and not in a good way.

It was so negative, blaming me as a person, that I even sneaked away to the bathroom and cried a little. Oh poor me, fresh out of college newbie. What was I to do?

Well, there was a problem, it needed to be fixed.

As a new employee, I handled the situation the best I could. I assessed the situation and addressed the professor’s concerns as diplomatically as possible. But more importantly, I realized the professor was also “blown away” by the Quality Review. He was not informed that the Review would take place or given a reason for why it was conducted.

Once I realized this, I adjusted the Quality Review Process to include a “Pre-Review” phase. This included emailing the selected Professors and informing them of the benefits of the Quality Review while assuring them that the information gathered would be in no way used during their employee review.

Since changing the process, roughly 200 course sections have been reviewed, and I have not received any negative responses to the reviews taking place.

Consider the lesson learned- Open Communication is necessary for acceptance of constructive feedback.

Lesson 2- no matter what the situation is, try to look at it from different perspectives to see if a change is necessary to better the task in the future. Then take steps to make that change.

%d bloggers like this: