he term “accidental instructional designer” tends to bring with it associations of happenstance rather than deliberate intent. This is not, however, the case. What a traditional background in education, instructional design, or instructional technology is that the decision was made earlier on in the process rather than an organic series of choices following logically from each other.
Starting as an Archaeologist at James Madison’s Montpelier, while the day-to-day job was focused on data recovery and public archaeology, my additional focus was with education. Initially the production of educational materials for archaeology field schools, then curriculum design, and classroom-based teaching.
It was teaching at James Madison University that brought me to instructional design when I realized that, to be blunt, I sucked. The lack of engagement by the students gave me two options: I could either blame it on the students, or I could look at the literature on teaching and instruction to bring me into 21st-century. When the opportunity to create e-learning courses came up—something that merged my educational focus with long-standing tech geekery—this became the next logical step.
Since that time, I’ve moved into instructional design at The George Washington University where I support and manage the design of the Masters of Professional Studies in Homeland Security. My initial focus is bringing the courses into the 21st century by making the courses responsive, adaptable, and bringing in focused interactivity to make courses engaging and highlighting ‘sticky’ points in learning based upon instructor and student feedback. The resultant courseware is highly flexible and designed to be rapidly modifiable to respond to the real world issues facing the US security and intelligence agencies in a matter of hours.
Ultimately, however, scenario-based learning will figure prominently in a program that is focused on professionals. While initial courseware will be focused on Adobe Captivate and Camtasia to serve specific needs, in the long-term, however, gamification elements will be explored with Blender/Unity/C#.