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Walden Magazine // Jan 11, 2012

Learning by Doing

January 2012—What do you do when the funding for your entire program is threatened? If you’re Hollis Easter, an MS in Instructional Design and Technology student who specializes in Training and Performance Improvement, you create an easy-to-understand, 11-minute presentation complete with a voice-over.

“We realized it was likely no one had ever taught our local legislative members about the mental health laws we encounter every day,” says Easter, who is the hotline coordinator for Reachout of St. Lawrence County, a nonprofit 24-hour crisis intervention, information and referral hotline in Potsdam, N.Y. In a little more than 10 minutes, the presentation helped turn hostile negotiations into an invitation for training sessions.

The presentation also strengthened the hotline staff’s working relationship with the legislature. “They appreciated that we understood their lack of background wasn’t a lack of intelligence,” Easter explains. “Now we have an alliance.”

Easter submitted his presentation for consideration by the Association for Educational Communications and Technology for the 2011 Nova Southeastern Award for Outstanding Practice by a Graduate Student in Instructional Design—and he won.

“Historically, the award is given to projects that are very large, like multiple-day workshops or a semester-long class,” Easter says. “I have to package training into shorter pieces to accommodate people’s busy schedules. I wanted to focus people’s attention on the value of a short, targeted intervention. Less can be better.”

The project is just one example of how the MS in Instructional Design and Technology program has improved Easter’s work life. “Everything I’ve been asked to do relates to my work,” Easter says. “My degree program is about making learning and training easier, more efficient, more effective and more enjoyable. Instructional design is the art and science of how people learn. I think anyone is a good candidate for this degree.”

If he were to design the presentation for the legislature tomorrow, he admits he might not do it in the same way. “It’s an iterative process. You can revamp a project in a totally different way and make it better,” he explains. “The training program got us to the next step on the road at that stage, but I’ll probably change it in the future.”