One of the greatest feelings a professional can experience is knowing the work they put out in the world impacts the lives of others. Dvija Maurer '20, M.A. Instructional Systems Development, embarked on a journey of learning at UMBC to progress toward a career credential that allowed her the opportunity to learn and grow in her chosen field of working in support of the United States Coast Guard in their training program.
In this podcast episode, we chat about the many facets of a career in learning and performance and the many ways the instructional design field can affect the lives of many.
Learn more about UMBC's graduate programs in Learning and Performance Technology: https://professionalprograms.umbc.edu/learning-and-performance-technology/
Dennise Cardona 0:00
Welcome to this episode of UMBC MIC'd Up. My name is Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs. We are joined by a recent graduate of our Learning and Performance Technology graduate program Djiva Maurer. We hope that you enjoy this episode. Welcome Djiva, it's so nice to have you here on UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast.
Well, thank you. I'm glad to be here.
Dennise Cardona 0:23
So you are a recent graduate of the the ISD program, now known as the Learning and Performance Technology Programs. When did you graduate?
I graduated in December of 2020.
Dennise Cardona 0:38
Right in the midst of the pandemic.
Dennise Cardona 0:43
Oh, my gosh, I know, so many things have changed since then. It's amazing. How was it being in the program, right, when all of that kind of hit the surface, if you will,
um, it actually didn't change my experience within the program a whole lot, because I was, you know, doing fully online. So that was really valuable for me, because I had already completed my internships and my full scale analyses. So I was very lucky in that regard. And I only had, I think in my final semester, I was only taking one class. So because I had started sort of on a jack rabbit path and taken a few extra a couple of semesters. And so by the time my final semester rolled around, I was only taking one. So the most challenging part for me was balancing one semester, my, just previous to my final semester, my second to last semester, I was taking summer courses, and doing a full time internship. Oh, that was a very busy semester.
Dennise Cardona 1:53
That was brave of you, I can attest to that, because I'm in the program myself right now. And it can be challenging, balancing the work and life and school. The program has set up nicely for that, of course, being online definitely helps with all of that, with all the projects that we have. It's nice to work remotely with clients as well, I think the world is groomed now to do that. So it's a, it's a nice time to be in instructional design, because the world has opened up to it at this point.
Absolutely. And that was something that I very carefully considered before entering the program. My husband is an active duty Marine, and he's been in the Marine Corps for just coming up on 12 years. And we have been together since before the Marine Corps. So I knew that whatever master's program I entered, it absolutely had to facilitate remote work. And I spent a lot of time calling programs speaking with directors of programs, I spoke with Dr. Greg Williams, he was my introduction to the program, because I gave him a call. I was like, Hey, I'm a UMBC. undergrad, I went to the MVC for my undergrad. And I'm really interested in this program, and what can you tell me about it? Who can I talk to, and he actually guided me toward some graduates of the program to talk to them about how it kind of operates in the real world. So that was great.
Dennise Cardona 3:21
It's really nice to be able to hear that kind of hands on real world experience and how people are actually applying it in the real world. That's what I would say UMBC is really so well known for is their applied programs under the division of Professional Studies. And it's what makes that a nice feature is that you are doing the work right there while you're in the program. It's not theoretical. It's not just all books, you are literally working with clients from your first class, and you are getting a firsthand look at what it takes to be in this field of instructional design.
And that was actually one of the things that really decided me on the program. Because when I found out that from Dr. Williams that this was a portfolio style program. That was every I said that that's what I want, because I knew that I wanted to be able to provide examples of my work and testimonials from clients when I started applying for full time positions. And it has worked out really, really well. It was a wonderful component of the program.
Dennise Cardona 4:30
Tell me a little bit more about that portfolio based. I mean, I'm familiar with it because I've been here at UMBC for many, many years and I'm in the program, but for those who are listening, why is that such a critical factor? Why was that so critical to making the decision to enter into this program versus others? Whatjj is it about that?
So with a portfolio based program, while coursework is present and you write research papers, etc, you are also creating a body of work out As an instructional designer, and that body of work speaks to not only the value of the program and the quality of the program, but your own abilities as an instructional designer. So as you were exiting the program, you have two to three years worth of applied work that you can present in a field where portfolios are often everything Hey, what have you done? Oh, it's great. You went through a theoretical program, but how did you apply this theory? Where is your design activity? And so I found that to be incredibly valuable,right?
Dennise Cardona 5:34
And I'm curious, because I'm curious, when you look back on your journey with the portfolio base, when you when you were graduating and examining your portfolio, because it's part of the requirement, you have to do certain things to get it in order to be able to sit in that when you looked at your earlier items like that 602, which is a foundational course and this program, what were your thoughts on like the beginning projects, and where, and how you ended up where you ended up where you landed at the end of that.
One of the biggest impacts, I think, I noticed was a comfort level with language and the application of different theories. So I was looking at the way I designed within a specific project. So one of my first projects I, I didn't realize what I was getting myself into, because I decided to design a day long eight hour in person course. And that ended up being about 125 pages, I think. And that was the first was in my first semester. And so as I went on, I started learning that these theoretical components and the understanding of how our effects of learning work, what the outcomes look like, what does an objective look like? What separates an enabling objective from a terminal objective, etc, that became much more apparent that I, as I was looking at it, that I understood it better, because my projects got a little smaller. But the pieces of the project were more precise. And it was clear that I knew what I was doing. So that was kind of a funny, not that I didn't dwell on that first project.
Dennise Cardona 7:25
But it gave you the it gave you that foundation to realize, oh, there's a lot to this. There's a lot to instructional design, a great deal.
And I think it really also helped me focus my as I went through the program, I realized how much I love adult learning. And I, I will be the first to admit that I'm not an early childhood educator.
Dennise Cardona 7:49
And I'll admit that too.
I was excited to see how adult learning was described the differences in how the adult brain might operate in a learning environment. And in particular, I loved the intersection of the different systems, I love systems thinking. And so to see the intersection of, you know, an adult learners experience impacting their willingness to learn impacting how they might accept new information. I love that. And so that's my I definitely tell people Yeah, I specialize in adult learning. That's what I'm most interested in.
Dennise Cardona 8:25
That's really that's, that's really great to hear. Before you entered into this program, what was your experience? What did you do professionally? Was it related?
I actually worked for the health and safety training program for the American Red Cross, I was with the American Red Cross for seven years, and I was their manager of the the National Capital Area Health and Safety Training. And I. So I didn't do direct curriculum development, but I did a lot of assessment of meeting standards, and ensuring that our instructors were teaching to the Red Cross standard. So a lot of not, you know, direct analysis, like JTA, job task analysis or anything like that, but just ensuring that all of we're ticking all of our boxes, were hitting all the outcomes, etc. So that was actually pretty useful.
Dennise Cardona 9:17
Now, as you were learning in the program, Did anything surprise you from because you had sort of a foundation with the Red Cross position? Did anything surprise you with your learning that you thought, wow, I, if I would have known this, it would have been really helpful.
Um, one of the things so I did a project on gamification. And so that was really interesting, because there was like little components of gamification, of course, in various in person courses, but the discussion around gamification and how it has impacted learning over the last like 10 years, and what the expectations are for the future because, because of my military connections, I did a lot lot of projects about the military community, both the spouse community and the Active Duty community, and in the military community, gamification is everything. Wargaming is essential to the development of active duty service members who are in the combat arms. And so for instance, right now, the United States Marine Corps is undergoing very large changes to their structure, how they approach things. And one of the essential components of that is Wargaming. These ideas, hey, we need to figure out how this new Platoon structure works. We need to figure out how this new usage of you know ground to air weaponry works, they wargame everything. And so gamification was not a new concept to me. But it absolutely solidified the paper that I did. It's solidified its importance in applied learning. So when you're out there doing things and when people think of gamification, they think of oh, we get a badge, or we got you know, this or that, which is great and useful. I mean, I have that on my Garmin, it's useful, right?
Dennise Cardona 11:04
But applying it in the sense of like, simulations, and we have this idea, and how is this idea going to actually operate in the real world? We need to find that out. And so that was really interesting to me.
Dennise Cardona 11:21
Have you gotten into any VR training at this point.
No, not yet.
Dennise Cardona 11:26
Or augmented learning. I haven't either. But I, I interviewed somebody recently about virtual reality training. And it's really amazing. It's kind of it's tied in with gamification as well, because you've got to go through these scenarios, as the learner with these VT with the VR lenses on, and you have to be able to hit certain marks and pass certain marks. So it's like assessment, wrapped up in learning, it's really cool. And I do think that while that is a future of learning for many of these applied fields, where absolutely lives are at stake, and you need to be able to as the learner, you need to be able to apply yourself in these situations. under that pressure, that simulated pressure. And what a great way to do that with with gamification, simulation, VR, augmented learning all of that.
Absolutely. And it's, you know, one of the things I've spoken with about with my husband specifically is the physiological response when you're doing Wargaming, or VR, because I did, I did some research on VR when I was writing this project. And so one of the valuable things about it is the physiological response is the stress response. Because what you're teaching, oftentimes, especially in Combat Arms, or where lives are at stake, you know, policing or firefighting, or paramedics, how to think through the parasympathetic response to stress. And that it's very difficult in kind of modern day society to experience the parasympathetic response, and then be able to work through it. Our lives, often, you know, for a large majority of us, we're not experiencing those high stress environments on a regular basis. So we've not learned how to come down from sort of the red zone and think again, and move on from the instinctual response. So I did a lot of combat training. And I have specifically trained to work my way through those kinds of parasympathetic instinctual responses, what they call like, the 80%, we auditory exclusion, vision. And so these VR and augmented learning experiences you're discussing, really support our individuals who are in those professions, learning how to better work through that kind of level of stress.
Dennise Cardona 13:58
What an important job that is really, when you come right down to it as instructional designers, instructional engineers, the job that being able to break tasks down first of all into manageable, digestible steps for learners to be able to apply this knowledge but also taking into account the physiological effects of stress on the body. And that is all part of an instructional designers job is to consider that when you're designing these when you're designing curriculum, to be able to incorporate those situations as application feedback situations where they are really feeling those effects so that they can practice those in a safe environment so that when they do into the real world, it's it's not if they can do absolute Absolutely, I mean, really, when you come right down to it the job of an instructional designer can be life changing for it is life changing for so many people for the for the end users. It really is an important job.
Well, I did some, it's interesting how much it comes up in my husband's work as an active duty marine because they take so many courses, Marines are constantly learning and it is actually something that is inculcated in the Marine Corps culture, they have something called hip pocket classes. And those hip pocket classes are a wonderful component of informal learning it is how learning is passed from the slightly more higher rent individuals to the slightly lower, it begins very early in the lives of junior Marines, they are passing on information, both institutional information and learning and individual. So it's a very, it's a very education focused organization. So it was so what's interesting is my husband is very critical, of course.
Dennise Cardona 15:58
Well, that's great, because you have that pilot test.
And he, we've had some very interesting conversations about how important the subject matter expert, the accomplished performer, and the instructional designer are as a team, rather than isolating the instructional designer over here, having the SMI over here, and then having the AP and like maybe talking to them at one point or another, and then maybe talking to this knee, and then trying to apply this in the instructional area, the instructional design area. So that was actually going on, he was in a course that was literally in the middle of being designed. And they were like changing things as the course went on, when I was in the program, and so I had an opportunity to sit down with both an instructional designer and one of the instructors for the course and talk about instructional design and applied instructional design. And that was one of the things that cemented for me how important teamwork is in the design of courses and applying what we learn. Because in order to effectively design a course, we have to be able to think analytically, we have to understand systems, and we have to be able to take in information from our subject matter experts, and be willing to accept certain things.
Dennise Cardona 17:28
The ego has to be laid down to the side as instructional designers, it can't be part of the equation. And you know, it's interesting, because I've heard that most a large percentage of instructional designers are introverts. And you know, a lot of people don't a lot of people misunderstand what introversion really is. But it's you know, when it's, it takes a lot of the energy, you drain a lot of energy, when you're speaking with people and such, it doesn't mean that you're not able to speak with people or that you're shy. But it's such a critical component of the job, to be able to speak with people to be able to communicate with people to be able to if you are introverted, to be able to ramp up that energy level that you're going to need to get through these meetings and be able to extrapolate that really important information from these meats and from from the team itself. Because that right there, like you said, it's the crux of a successful a successful curriculum to be developed is through that teamwork and letting the egos fall to the wayside. It's really hard to do for a lot of people, but it's really critical.
It is and those qualitative interviews that was actually one of my favorite parts of one of the projects that I did, so my husband was actually attending the Citadel down in South Carolina Military University down in South Carolina. And I have the opportunity to have the citadels Veterans Success Center as my client for one of my projects. And I remember going in and doing these qualitative interviews with veterans with people who were working there at the college and I was actually doing, you know, doing an analysis to determine whether or not what they were using for communications with veterans was working. It wasn't at that time. There were some gaps. There were some performance gaps. But that's okay. You know, the, the woman I was working with was wonderful. We got a lot of things done. And I was able to help out the school which was great. But those qualitative interviews, I learned so much, having those discussions and listening, learning how to listen is so critical, especially when you are US me yourself.
Dennise Cardona 19:48
Learning how to take in that information and go okay, what is sort of blocking me what do I I already think what new information is here that I can apply. So yes, I could not agree more. That's it was it was really, really useful. And, again, like you said, the ego has to be laid aside. It just does.
Dennise Cardona 20:15
It just does. Could you talk about what you're doing currently?
Sure. I am working in support of the United States Coast Guard, their training their training program, I have actually, I started out as an ISD, with the contractor I work for and I am now a training performance analyst. Nice. I found that I enjoyed the analysis portion of adding more than anything else, even though I liked all of it. I tend to be very nitpicky, I like finding all the little holes.
Dennise Cardona 20:51
Out that Sherlock Holmes had on.
And learning to work with data and understanding how the statistics work when we're looking at responses to surveys, and why that's important and how. And so I was lucky enough to have a supervisor who saw my interest and was willing to support it. And so I'm definitely on a little bit of a vertical learning curve right now with certain things. But I am also lucky enough to have a trainer who is just amazing. She has her Doctorate in Educational Technology. And she's phenomenal. And I think she could out research everybody I've ever met. So I'm really lucky to have a mentor like her. She's she's really fantastic.
Dennise Cardona 21:42
How did the program prepare you for this role? Like? Can you are you drawing upon a lot of the stuff that you've learned in the program?
Oh, yes. I can't tell you how many times I've taken out ISD From the Ground Up.
Dennise Cardona 21:55
Yes. That is the bible.
Oh, gosh, what am I missing? And I'm really, I've gone back and looked at my projects, and just to kind of remember certain things and be like, Okay, what order or kind of what's my order of operations? How do I, you know, look at this more clearly. I found pretty much everything from the program. So far, anyway, quite valuable. For this role, and and when I came in as an ISD, same thing, like I was like, Oh, I know, this is my language.
Dennise Cardona 22:33
I got this, I understand this. It's interesting, because with the the portfolio based, even myself, too, when I do instructional design jobs right now, I find that I go back to the projects that I've done. And I follow that as my audit process, because it was successful when I was, that was something that my brain clicked, it clicked in my brain, this process this system, it's not an art form, it is a systematic, scientific approach to creating curriculum. And as long as you've got that system in place, and you follow it, it creates that scaffolding? Yeah, it can't go wrong.
It's certainly hard for it to go wrong. But I found also that excess accepting, so I tend to be a little bit. I don't want to say it already. Because that's not the right word. I tend to be a little loose. I'm willing to be like, oh, you know, I'll try this, or I'll try that this has really encouraged me will say, to be systematic. And and I've found that that works very well.
Dennise Cardona 23:40
I think that that's an important point. Because when you have that system in place, it allows you that freedom to be creative. Because now you have your you have your points, and it's like a roadmap, you have point A to point, you know, your other way to point Z. And then you're allowed, you know, knowing that knowing what your roadmap is, you've got those stopping points, which is the ISD process, say, but it allows you that opportunity to say I want to go see this site. Not wait, I want to go down here and see this site, but you always have that those points of reference that you can refer back to to keep you on track and the system.
Yep, absolutely. Yeah, it's, I don't have really anything negative to say.
Dennise Cardona 24:23
It's really hard to find something negative to say about Yeah, I just I get it. I'm the same way. I mean, what what's your what would you say to somebody listening who maybe is on the fence? Not sure if instructional design is the right field for them? What would you say to somebody like that?
Interview instructional designers? That is 100% I because it's not an immediately clear what we do. It can be a little confusing and people are like you do what exactly? Oh, you do curriculum analysis. Well, yes, but yeah, at all. And so and I encourage anyone doing any kind of career exploration, to talk to people in the field, you can't learn about the field if you don't talk to people. Because you can read all you want, you can have some sort of understanding based on Oh, well, this looks interesting and how, but until you talk to someone in the field, who has been in the field for a while, and I always encourage my, you know, peers and friends who are doing career research, talk to someone who's Junior in the field, someone mid level and someone senior. That way, you have an understanding of career progression, you understand how things develop what things look like, you need to know what if you're senior in the field? are you just sitting in front of a computer? If you're sitting in front of a computer, what exactly are you doing? Right? You prefer to be outside, if you want to be outside, I assume it's probably not for you. Right? If you want your actual work to be outside.
Dennise Cardona 25:57
Right, unless you're facilitating something that happens.
But if you're designing, you're probably going to be in front of the computer. So that would be my most important piece of advice is to always talk to someone. And if you're interested in a particular program, talk to someone who's graduated that program.
Dennise Cardona 26:18
You heard it, folks, I've heard that great advice. That is really great advice. Great insight. I couldn't agree more with you. And I just want to thank you so much for your time today. This has really been a fun conversation. I love talking to ISD. And I just really enjoyed this conversation to learn what you are doing to apply it in the real world. And it's really exciting, and I wish you continued success and everything you're doing.
Well, thank you so much. And thank you for reaching out to me. It's really been a pleasure.
Dennise Cardona 26:49
Thank you for taking time to listen to this episode of UMBC Mic'd Up podcast. We hope that you enjoyed it. If you'd like to learn more about UMBC graduate programs in learning and performance technology, please visit us at lapt.umbc.edu.