Designing and delivering learning and training using a systems approach removes the guesswork and sets learners up for a productive experience. UMBC’s Learning and Performance Technology (LAPT) graduate programs (formerly named ISD), prepares its students to enter into the workforce with this system approach in hand.
In today’s episode, we chat with Melody Wright '21, M.A. Instructional Systems Development to chat about learning and sharing in the world of ISD using the systems tools she gathered while in the program.
Learn more about UMBC's Learning and Performance Technology Graduate Programs:
Dennise Cardona 0:00
Thank you for tuning into this episode of UMBC Mic'd Up podcast. My name is Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs. Today, we are joined by Melody Wright. She is a 2021 graduate of our master's program in Instructional Systems Development and we are going to be talking about the world of ISD. We hope you enjoy this episode. Hey, Melody, it's wonderful to have you here on UMBC’s Mic’d Up podcast. Thanks so much for being here with us today.
Melody Wright 0:29
You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
Dennise Cardona 0:32
It's really great to have you now you are a colleague, a fellow UMBC employee, give us a little lowdown on like, where do you work? What do you do? For UMBC?
Melody Wright 0:45
Sure, a lot. So I've actually been at UMBC for 11 years. I'm formerly from an academic department. But for the last, coming up on a year, I have been the coordinator for Workplace Learning Organizational Development and Wellness. I know that's like a super long title for what I do. But it's because our area kind of touches a little bit of everything on campus. So you know, just to give you that, I guess, the lowdown on what I do. Part of my role is administration of workplace learning, including, you know, marketing, calendaring, program management, but, but the more fulfilling parts of my job are creating new content, facilitating portions of established, you know, programs, such as orientation, and leadership cohorts, I do a lot of the analytics. So like a biannual needs assessment to develop a two year training plan. There's a little bit of everything in there.
Dennise Cardona 1:49
Yeah, there sure is. Wow, yes, you need like three pages of award documents to list all those bullet points of what you do for you, NPCs community. That's great. So you are alright. You're in like the training and learning and development world? What drew you to that? How did you get started in that?
Melody Wright 2:12
Well, so I'm a lifelong learner, I'm just, you know, it's just who I am. I'm always learning something new, whether it's, you know, formally or not. So, what drew me to that was, so I wanted to take a diversion from the corporate world, and I taught preschool for three years. And I found that I really, really loved tapping into that, that teacher in me. And so this is kind of a little bit like that, where, you know, I get joy from seeing the light bulb go on, and people connecting to the content, and that aha moment, where you kind of given them something that they can really use in their day to day life. So that's what drew me to this was that need to, you know, I don't have had a bit of, you know, given training, you know, more on the job training throughout the years and different, you know, jobs that I've had, but this, this completely connects me to that.
Dennise Cardona 3:11
Yeah. You just graduated with your master's in instructional systems development from our program here at UMBC. Is that correct?
Melody Wright 3:20
Yeah, I graduated in August of 21. With that, so you know, I guess, not quite 18 months ago, somewhere in there. Yeah.
Dennise Cardona 3:28
Yeah. Excellent. So I'm in the Learning and Performance Technology program there. It's the same. It's the master's program, formerly the ISD. One, and I'm loving it. I'm almost done in May, I'll be graduating. And I know, yeah. I've got two graduate certificates right now while I was going through the program, and it's such a really great field, because there's so much you can do with it. And it's so varied, and there's so many different roles and pathways you can take. And so when you first entered the master's program, did you have an idea that this is what you wanted to end up doing? Or did you start it with? Oh, this is interesting. What can I do with this?
Melody Wright 4:10
A little bit of both. Yeah, I was looking for a program, a master's program that was going to help me in the job that I had at the time, which was, as I said, an academic department. I wanted something that kind of rounded out my skills a little more, but that also interested me enough to keep me engaged in the program. And so to be honest, I first went to MBA programs, because my Bachelor's is in Business Administration, strategic management and HR minor, so you know, it was hard to find something that fit well with that, that kept me engaged. And then I stumbled upon this on the UMBC website, and I was like, oh, wait a minute. This is my thing. I think this might be my thing. So I went to an information session and talked to the graduate coordinator and, and the director and, and really asked a lot of questions. And then I left there thinking, you know, I immediately applied.
Dennise Cardona 5:09
Excellent. So you went in there with your analytical hat on what you need. When you're in that design development facilitator type role, you need to have that analytical mind to be able to ask the right questions. It's all about asking great questions, isn't it? Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So what kinds of opportunities now when you were in the program, you weren't in this role that you're in right now. So you, I'm assuming this is the role you got? Was it? Well, while you were in the program, or after you graduated?
Melody Wright 5:39
After I graduated, I actually applied for this role after completing my internship with Jill Wardell in this area. And it was after that internship, that the position became available. And, and, you know, I was encouraged to apply. And, you know, and that led me to where I am now.
Dennise Cardona 6:00
The rest is history. Yeah, so the internship pays off. It really does. And I know like some people in this in learning and performance technology, new masters name, some of them will not have to go through the internship if they choose not to. I've chosen to do that internship. And I did that in the fall semester, this past fall. And it was, like you said, a really great opportunity to gain some real world experience in a role for instructional design. So I did mine at UNCP. And I helped the online learning department, being able to teach faculty how to teach better online through some courts, course modules, and things of that sort. And that kind of experience is really just priceless. Because I think, I don't know if you had this experience, but while you were doing your internship, the light bulbs went off, and my gosh, I could see myself doing this, this is what I want to do. Like, yeah, this is so cool. I don't know, like, did that do it? Do you think so?
Melody Wright 7:07
It really did, I still have, you know, tons of notes from when I'm from my internship. You know, the funny thing was, My internship was based around starting a leadership cohort program, you know, it was about teaching leaders how to coach. And so yeah, it was, it was really interesting to me, but what I, what I really loved about it was, you know, we're taught how to design from, you know, systems thinking, and, and so it was, it was really formative to me to, to, you know, sit down with someone on a regular basis for this internship that's in the field, and find it, how others design, you know, it's, you know, sometimes we're approaching the same problem from different angles, or from different perspectives, because we all bring a different background to this work. So yeah, it was, it was really interesting to me, and definitely gave me a lot to chew on, you know, and, but definitely energized me. So, yeah, it was like, okay, because I will tell you, you were, there becomes a point it, at least in my master's journey, where I was, you know, the, before the pandemic, where, you know, I had some health challenges, I'm just gonna throw it out there, but and so it was kind of thinking, why, why am I doing this? Why, why am I continuing, you know, this education journey right now, because I was, I was really happy working where I was, I was really happy doing what I was, I was really good at it. And so, you know, I was like, why am I doing this? You know, how much is it going to benefit me, and then the pandemic happened, and I thought, you know, I'm not commuting an hour each way. Let me put that to use to finish this. And it was really those last few classes that I had that were required, that really just kind of reenergized me into this field and really made me realize that this is exactly where I needed to be.
Dennise Cardona 9:06
Yeah, that's so powerful. I know. For myself, I, it was the pandemic and I was, you know, working in marketing at UMBC. What I do is, during the pandemic, we had some information sessions that were virtual, and I would help to moderate those and so the Learning and Performance Technology one was one of them that I moderated and I have been listening to Dr. Greg Williams for years because I helped to Marquette that program for I've been at UMBC, almost 16 years now. And so I'm very familiar with the program but I never thought of it as something for me. And then during the pandemic, I thought I needed to be challenged and I think a lot of people felt this way. I need to do something with this time because you know, we're here, we are on lockdown at the time and who knows how long this is gonna last. And so I think it gave permission to a lot of people to explore different avenues. And so I said, You know what, I'm gonna just be here at home not doing much on weekends or nights anymore or anything, let me do something valuable. And that's what I did. I ended up enrolling in the program, because I want you to learn from me, it's not a career change, because some people will be different. Like you didn't start the program with a career change in mind, possibly you just wanted to enhance skills sounds, it sounds like that's what your journey was at first. And well, for me, that's my journey as well. I just love what I do at UMBC. And it's not that I'm trying to change but it's, it's, for me a side hustle. I love teaching. And I would love to be able to develop courses, but learn how to do it correctly. Because I started to try to put some courses out there years ago, and I had no idea what I was doing. No idea. And it showed. So this is like a systems approach to course development to being able to help people learn, hmm. And it being in this program, the courses that we have to take are eye opening. And especially if you go step further, and you do that you do that extra you do you go the extra mile with the Capstone, and with the projects that you are challenged and encouraged to participate in, it's I think it's really what you put into it is what you get out of it, like anything in life, right?
Melody Wright 11:15
Dennise Cardona 11:16
Yeah. Now, in terms of what people need for somebody who maybe is on the fence, sounds like a good program, I'm not sure. Is it worth it? Should I do this? Well, maybe somebody has never even heard about this program. And all of a sudden, they're listening to this podcast, or watching it on YouTube. And then like, oh, this sounds like a really cool idea. What kinds of in your in your role, what kind of knowledge skills and abilities are necessary for somebody to build in their repertoire of those things, if they are really considering this as a field of study?
Melody Wright 11:55
Well, I always like to say, no matter what field you're in, you need patience. And that's true here, as well. Because sometimes things you know, move a little slowly, especially when you're dealing with a client that isn't quite sure what they want. So, so patients, but I'm gonna say communication, you need communication skills, you need objectivity, you need to be able to look at a problem objectively, you know, because you're kind of, you know, a lot of times you're from the outside coming in, and you might have a completely different view of what's happening, then what the people that are living it, too, and so being able to communicate that, and then, you know, the analytics piece, liking a puzzle, you know, to put it in real world terms, I love a good puzzle. And so, you know, that's a good skill to have. And then being able to coach and I don't mean, like having a coaching degree thing, but being able to kind of coach up sometimes to leadership, you know, explaining the problem in a way that, you know, you're you're coming in with a solution, you know, they need to know that you're gonna have a solution. At the end of the day, you're not just bringing them problems. So I think those are probably the most important.
Dennise Cardona 13:20
Yeah, I love what you just said about, you know, being a solutions oriented person. Because, and I'll admit, early in my career in marketing, you feel like, oh, I don't really know what I'm doing. And then you end up going to your director with problems instead of solutions. And thankfully, I work with a great team. And I've had great, great directors, and they help you to see like, Okay, before you come in here, let's, let's think it through from a solution oriented thing, always have a solution, you have a finding what what's your recommendation, and that has been a game changer in in my life as a professional. And I think that that is something that I brought forward in this program is to be able to, I mean, it's, it's almost required when you're doing a deep analysis of any kind of performance gap issues, or trying to find the root cause of a workplace issue so that you can maybe recommend a training solution, if that's appropriate. It's about finding the findings. But then, okay, what are we going to do about these? How, what are we going to recommend to fix those problems?
Melody Wright 14:25
Dennise Cardona 14:26
It's like a jigsaw puzzle, too, though, you know, because you've got all these puzzles that need to fit together somehow. And they will, if you take the time and really analyze them and maybe separate them by classification of what they really mean to the whole puzzle. You're right. So that's something that's another thing I took up during the pandemic was puzzle making, and it's really great brain activity. Actually, I've read a lot. I've read a lot of studies on how it really helps to keep your brain in cue.
Melody Wright 14:56
I do puzzle work puzzles every day. We do massive puzzles of them. family you know.
Dennise Cardona 15:02
That's good. So we're on the same wavelength here, Melody. What do you love the most about the field that you're in?
Melody Wright 15:13
so I just similar to what drew me to this was, you know, I love sharing knowledge, you know, it's really, you know, whenever I find something new, because I can go down the rabbit hole of learning myself, but I love sharing what I know, and, and especially if I feel like it's going to help somebody else not to say that I like to, you know, just go in and kind of monopolize. Because I, I want to learn as much from, you know, from people as I'm giving, but, you know, really, it's, it's the love of learning and the love of sharing what I've learned with other people. And sometimes we're on the journey together, sometimes, you know, I'm asked to present on things that I'm not the subject matter expert. And so, you know, obviously, I'm gonna do you know, a little bit of, you know, research and kind of at least have an idea of what I'm speaking about. But sometimes we're on the journey together, you know, and in figuring things out. I like it in real time as we go.
Dennise Cardona 16:17
I like that. And I think from somebody who was a learner in one of your workshops, or training lessons, I would appreciate that authenticity that okay, look, the little bit of vulnerability, if you will, Brene Brown talks about that vulnerability, people connect to that. And I think that people connect to that more than some person standing up and claiming to know everything, being an expert in perfection of everything, it's really nice to be able to, I think, learn from somebody who says, Alright, look, I don't have all the answers. But let's, let's work together to figure this out. I would have a lot more trust in somebody who's leading my learning. If that's the if that's the role that they take, because that's the state that they start in, because then I'm like, okay, look, this is a learning journey together. And that's really what learning is. It's always a journey. We are constantly learning something new, and maybe unlearning things to be able to learn things that are new. And I know I've been, I've been shocked at some of the things I've learned. And then I had to unlearn because I'm like, I've learned that kind of, that's probably not the best way to be approaching this. So let me try something new. And that change can be difficult for some people. And it is for me sometimes, but I think that you benefit when you are open to that transition towards change, to be able to learn new ways of doing things that you've done a certain way in the past.
Melody Wright 17:43
Yeah, let's add authenticity to that skills list. Because, you know, that's definitely something that will serve everyone well, in this field. Yeah, so just to give you an example of that, what I just did with the, with the learning with them, sometimes we don't have the opportunity to develop or design the training completely on our own. Sometimes we get too many tasks and our role, then what we can, you know, completely develop. And so there are off the shelf things that we then modify to fit our audience. And so I presented a life planning session, you know, kind of like work life balance, but life planning, you know, setting goals for the new year. And so I went right into that session, and from the very getgo, I said, Look, I am not an expert on life planning, trust me when I say, Well, we're going to work through the session together, and I'm going to actually do the activities with you. And then, at the end, we're going to see, you know, you know, really how much we all learned from each other? Because that's really, you know, that's a lot of what we do is learning from each other. Yeah, tapping into little bits and pieces.
Dennise Cardona 18:58
Yeah, and that's, to me, the most engaging thing about learning is being able to have that curiosity about the world. And like, you just did life planning. I mean, to me, that's awesome. Because then you can say, Okay, I want to teach a course on life learning, life planning. And then you go and you set out and you do your research to find what you can about it to help people. And then by teaching, you're also learning. Yeah. That's really powerful. How did the program prepare you for the role that you're in right now? I mean, what did they learn in the program that helped you get this role?
Melody Wright 19:45
Well, look, I'm gonna say right from the beginning, that it's that the systems approach that the program gave me really helped me get the job that I'm in. The Instructional Systems Development Program helped me in so many ways. Like I said before, we all kind of bring different perspectives and histories into our ISD work. And so, not everyone has an ISD degree, or a Learning and Performance Technology Degree. Sometimes it's IMSI, sometimes it's, you know, you know, there's, there's, there's a bunch of different, you know, and sometimes it's just homegrown people have learned as they went along, and they don't have the formal, you know, education for it. But they, but they know a lot. So I guess what this program did for me was not only did it get my foot in the door for an interview, because of having the, you know, ISD degree, but it helped me kind of broaden my perspective on how to develop and, and having that systems approach. It gave me a more in depth analysis, you know, structure than what I had before, definitely gave me focus group experience. Because I did a bunch of that through projects that I worked on in my degree. And so, you know, all of all of that kind of helped shape my perspective coming into this work. And the great thing was that a lot of my skills are different from the person that I would be reporting to, because, you know, she comes at the problem and solutions from a different background. And so it kind of gave us a much bigger, you know, way of looking at problems. You know, we don't just have one tool in our tool shed, we have like, you know, a hole. Yeah, I don't know what that is, I've got a much bigger toolbox.
Dennise Cardona 21:45
Dennise Cardona 21:47
What was your biggest takeaway from the program?
Melody Wright 21:51
I think one of the biggest takeaways I had was that not every problem can be solved with training. You know, some problems exist in performance and attitudes, and you just cannot train certain things away. But the areas where you can use learning to improve performance, everyone's going to benefit. So, you know, that's, that's kind of your return on investment, you know, is, is getting to that at the end. But that was really my biggest takeaway, because I think going in I might have thought that well, training solves everything. And it just doesn't. It does a lot.
Dennise Cardona 22:31
I love it. It's so true. I completely agree. And I took the class with Jeanette Monroe this past semester, the analysis class, and that's the biggest takeaway from that particular class was everything was not solved with training, you might find there are a lot of findings that are not training recommendations. And the recommendation is not to do training. In fact, the organization that I worked with, I uncovered like 25 problems, like root causes findings, and really only five of them had training issues that could be solved through training, and that was eye opening. I mean, out of 2520 of them did not need a training solution, they needed just some kind of a fix with maybe a procedure or something like that. That's not a training issue. Try to be open.
Melody Wright 23:21
Exactly. And look, you might be able to eventually train on how the procedure is going to change or if it's a system problem. You'll eventually I guess, you could rephrase the conversation about, you know, how that system is going to change. But you know, sometimes it's, it's the system in which they're operating is what's is what sort of broken?
Dennise Cardona 23:42
Absolutely, one last question in terms of the instructional systems development aspect is, do you have any, what kind of advice would you give somebody who may be thinking about entering this field? What would you say is the biggest piece of advice you could give it to them?
Melody Wright 24:00
Do it? Yeah, at least, at least take that first class. I mean, it gives you such a well rounded view of what instructional design or learning for lms technology is. And so you know, it's one class, try it, see if it's for you. You know, after that one class, I had a pretty darn good idea that this was for me, but you know, but the other thing I would suggest is, you know, make sure that you're rounding out your skills, take the elearning authoring courses, you know, at least one, you know, making sure that you kind of have, you're gathering all the tools that you can to you and take the hard classes that make you think, because you'll absolutely need them, you know, the ones that that maybe aren't required, but you know, they look a little, you know, that might that might be a little challenging. Do it anyway. Because you know, that especially the analysis As in writing, you know, right, like, one of the courses I had, was writing a white paper. And it was a forced collaboration situation, which really, I will tell you, you learn a lot, you learn how other people work and how you work differently. And it's not wrong, it's just different. So yeah, take, take everything that you can that interests you while you're in the program, because you'll, you'll absolutely use it.
Dennise Cardona 25:29
That's great advice. I couldn't agree more. That's been my experience, everything you just said, it's been my experience and more as well. And those group assignments, they're not in every single class, but they are in some of them. And they are scary at first, if you're somebody who is an independent thinker, and worker, that's who I am, too. I mean, I'm in marketing, so I'm the only one who does this podcasting and video production. And so I, you know, I kind of work within my own sphere. And I liked that. So this was really challenging to have those group assignments. And but you know, what, that's the real world, isn't it? I mean, even if my job I mean, I do have projects that I work with other people and to learn how to work with other people, there is a science behind it. There is
Melody Wright 26:15
yeah, not just from how I used to be in management, this is different. It's more about collaboration. And trust me in this field, you will be collaborating a lot with you, you know, see that now or not, you will, it's all about collaboration, and partnerships, tackle those classes that challenge you to work with other people, because you will definitely benefit from it.
Dennise Cardona 26:41
And the greatest thing about graduate school is the fact that it is a, I don't want to say a playground, meaning like it's silly, but it is a safe playground for you to be able to test out these types of skills that you want to build. It's a safe environment. So if you're not used to working with people, and that scares the heck out of you, it's a great opportunity to be able to get out of your comfort zone and learn how to do it. And then the rewards. I mean, I haven't had all the group assignments I had. They were all positive, all positive, you know, you have a few moments where you're like, Oh, am I living up to the standard that somebody else does not. And you know what those, by the end of the day, everybody is there. Because we're all you know, all high caliber, we want to succeed, but some of us are investing a lot of time. And there's a lot of sacrifice for some people with a work life balance and graduate school. So nobody's able to waste anybody's time. And that's the thing that I learned is that we're all in it. wanting the same thing we want to succeed at the end of the day. And ultimately, in this field, we want to be able to help people learn. What's better than that?
Melody Wright 27:50
I can't think of anything.
Dennise Cardona 27:53
Now, I always like to end these podcast episodes with some professional development type of questions, just to give our listeners some food for thought, maybe a book or quote that inspires you. So do you have a favorite book that is your go to that you really enjoyed reading and it's helped you develop?
Melody Wright 28:11
Oh, goodness, I love books in general, I am a voracious reader. So I've been, thankfully now a lot for pleasure. But um, my favorite book, as it relates to professional development, I gotta say that Chuck Hodell’s book ISD From the Ground Up is really spectacular. Sometimes I you know, it lives on my shelf in my office. And sometimes I pull it back out when I'm kind of stuck with an objective or something that, you know that I need to refresh my memory on. You know, from that systems perspective, but you know, that there are so many, I'll tell you what I'm reading right now. I'm reading An Everyone Culture right now. It's kind of an OD change management book. So that's kind of what's fueling me at the moment.
Dennise Cardona 29:04
I love it. That's awesome. That's great. What is your favorite quote?
Melody Wright 29:09
Oh, I absolutely have a favorite quote. I'm known for having stickies all over the place with quotes. But my favorite is if your dreams don't scare you, you aren't dreaming big enough.
Dennise Cardona 29:19
Hmm, yeah. That is very powerful. I love that. Love it. Love it, love it. My husband likes to work with wood. And he gave me this sign. And it's a quote. And so I look at it every day because I hang in my office and it's like, Do one thing every day that scares you a little bit. It's similar to that in a way. Yeah. And what about what is the greatest piece of advice that you've ever received?
Melody Wright 29:46
Look out for your quiet mentors. Those people that are mentoring you when they don't realize that they're mentoring you and kind of absorb everything you can. I had a great one at UMBC that really helped me see that, that she saw me as something bigger than I saw me. You know, we get comfy where we are and out there it is kind of scary. But, you know, these quiet mentors sometimes challenge you to think bigger than your current self.
Dennise Cardona 30:20
That's powerful. I really liked that quiet mentor. And there are so many of them who we engage with in our everyday lives, you know, as the years roll by can think back to some of those pivotal moments in life. And it's those quiet mentors that help nudge you to maybe implant, maybe put a seed in your mind and plant something in your mind that you didn't think about. Otherwise, it could be in the form of a book, it could be in the form of an actual person or a video you saw or a movie character. There's so many quiet mentors in life. And it's, it's really cool to stay open to that and be aware of it. Last question, what do you wish that you learned sooner in life?
Melody Wright 31:02
Everything I wish I had learned sooner that I was not too old. To go back to school. I will tell you, I put my bachelors on a shelf when I was a young person for career demands and things and I kept telling myself, I was too old to pick it back off the shelf and dusted off. And so at 42 I went back to school, I finished that bachelor's, and then I decided, you know, to go on for a master's. And so, you know, I'm now 53 And you're never too old to go back to school.
Dennise Cardona 31:44
I love that, Melody, so much because we're the same age. I'm 53 as well. And I'll just be graduating in May. And I you know, I was 50 when I decided I had no, no thought about going back for my masters. And I work at a higher education institution. But I was just too busy. Everything was too busy, too busy. And then I'm like, I don't really need it. And then you know, what's the best decision I ever made? It really helps a person just grow and encourages you to keep learning. And you are right. There is no age for learning. No age whatsoever. It's a matter of fact, I remember when I was an undergrad, there was an 80 year old woman in my husband's undergrad program. 80 years old, she graduated with my husband, with her undergraduate degree and the sweetest thing in the world. She just kept on learning. And I thought, yeah, you know what, I want to be like that. Just keep learning.
Melody Wright 32:41
It's awesome. Yeah, yeah. And it's okay to be curious. You know, curiosity doesn't die when we're young. You know, tap into your curiosity and figure out what you know, what's out there to learn?
Dennise Cardona 32:54
I love it. Melody. This has been a wonderful conversation. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. And I hope our listeners that you've gotten a lot of value out of this conversation if you're thinking about this program. Well, here you go. You heard it here. It's a great program. Keep learning. Thank you, Melody for being on.
Melody Wright 33:13
Oh, thank you for having me.
Dennise Cardona 33:15
Thank you for tuning in to this episode. If you'd like to learn more about our offerings, do a search for UMBC graduate programs in Learning and Performance Technology, or scan the QR code on your screen. If you're watching this in a video format.