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July 2017
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TD Magazine
Bringing ID to Higher Ed

Jonathan Southgate considers himself a learning consultant to professors.

As an instructional designer for the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, Jonathan Southgate collaborates with faculty to design experiential learning events and develop blended courses for the undergraduate business program. He has worked in talent development since graduating from American University in 2011, and has served on the ATD Metro DC Chapter's board of directors since 2016.

What attracted you to working as an instructional designer in higher education?

It's fascinating to watch someone move from no knowledge to competency, and I strongly believe in experiential learning and problem-based instruction. Higher education strives to provide students these experiences in a systematic way.

I also appreciate that higher education's main purpose is knowledge creation, and my office's mission represents that purpose. We assist the Smith School in creating courses and curricula that challenge students to solve real business problems.

What's it like working with professors who already might have years of teaching experience?

It's a fun challenge. Most professors approach us for assistance, so there's already some trust.

When I do collaborate with a long-time professor who isn't keen on working with us, I barely talk in our first few meetings. I actively listen for what's really going on until I understand the teaching philosophy, and then I start addressing issues.

I emphasize that the professors are the content experts and I'm the learning consultant. This highlights our shared mission to educate students and usually gives me some leeway to offer solutions.

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Do you have an example of how you implement experiential learning opportunities?

I run a program from our office called the Smith Live Case. It provides students with opportunities to work on real-life corporate problems.

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We partner with companies to develop a tailored business case for a course. During class, representatives from the company present the case to students, who analyze it in small groups and use what they've learned to make recommendations.

Are there any common mistakes people make when bringing traditional courses online?

Most mistakes derive from the belief that an online course is simply a course delivered online. We see professors who just take a traditional syllabus, replace the lectures with videos, and call it an online course.

What I tell my faculty clients is that going online is a different mode of instruction, requiring a redesign. It's inherently "flipped," and students have more work outside of regular, predetermined times.

How do you research best practices in instructional design?

I read blogs and magazines, usually to solve problems. Some frequent ones are TD at Work, eLearning Guild, eLearning Brothers, and Articulate E-Learning Heroes.

How has your role as a volunteer chapter leader influenced your career?

It's very rewarding. I've built a network that gives me people to contact when I run into a problem or need outside perspective. Also, it's afforded me valuable experience managing projects, personnel, and volunteers. This makes me a better employee and member of the talent development community.

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About the Author
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.
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