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Stories from a solo designer to working on a team...

One of the biggest changes I've experienced this year (other than the obvious increased workload and responsibilities as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak), was being a solo instructional designer added to a team. While the transition was a bit of a bumpy one (lots of miscommunication, no real plan in place), the insights and experiences I have gained from this transition were massive. Below, I discuss why.

Gaining a Network. While working alone for so long allowed me to develop my own policies, procedures, and ways about working with my faculty, I also experienced and developed these while essentially in a bubble. While I knew of other instructional designers across campus, I did not have a relationship in which I could openly bounce ideas off of them. Therefore, I often sought guidance from a faculty mentor who was an instructional designer before becoming a full time professor. Boy, was I missing out. Now, instead of searching the i internet or YouTube trying to find solutions to a problem, I can reach out to individuals. Am I doing something wrong? I can reach out to see if there is a more effective way to do something. In addition to the obvious best practices advantages, I now am part of a group that is in the "know." I often find when errors occur in the system, I know before it is public knowledge and can proactively address these with my own faculty. The streamlined process of gaining a group of peers who can help me has been a monumental change.

Finding Best Practices. Like briefly mentioned above, each designer on my team does things in a different way. From designing the course, to communication with faculty, to how they set up their time to best fit their needs (blocking calendar time to meet their own requirements). One of the first things I was able to learn as being part of a team was a whole gamut of different ways to manage time and workload. While before I may have been just swimming trying to keep my head above water, I've learned some great practices to help me manage this. For example with recent events, I've found that I'm running into literally back-to-back Zoom meetings. While it seems like I can get a lot done by not actually having to get up and walk across campus, I'm burning myself out by sitting in front of a computer screen 8 hours a day. A peer suggested making sure I'm taking time in-between meetings and blocking off calendar space for time to actually step away from the computer - even if it is just for a quick walk around the block. In addition, since I do not have a formal office set up, I try to change positions while working from home. Now, while this sounds like a "duh" moment or "gee, Holly, you could have figured that out while searching remote work practices"... sometimes hearing it from a respected peer has more weight than just reading it and making a mental note.

Problem Solutions. As an instructional designer, we are all well too familiar with the ill-structured problems we run into. Having a knowledgeable peer who may have already solved this problem or is running into the same program is a huge help. A HUGE HELP. I cannot tell you how many times I was able to meet with a colleague and work through a problem in the matter of minutes. When doing solo design, I would find a solution and then move on. Not often would I say there can be a better way about doing this... I would just use the solution as the answer. However, by asking questions and working through a design problem with a peer, I'm able to find the best solution. As an IDer, we'd like to think we have all of the answers... and most times we do. However, those answers may not be the best. Using a peer network has truly transformed my ID practice - not to take the first solution as the only solution.

Venting. Real talk. When you work alone, chances are there are elements of your job that you need to vent about. Especially in ID work - at least from my experience - no one knows what I do. So, when I come home and vent to my partner about how the LMS was acting up today. He smiles and nods, but doesn't understand my frustration. Which, if I'm being real, sometimes add even more to my anger. I now have to explain what a LMS is, what it was supposed to do, what it's not doing, why it is important to do it the way I want...and so on. Now, that I'm a part of a team, I'm able to vent about what bugs me and the best part... people understand what I'm venting about! It seems like a little thing... but to has made a world of difference.

What have you experienced or are grateful for while working as part of a team or network? Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team? I'd love to hear your points of view. Drop them in below!

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