Megan Reynolds is a Senior Learning Experience Designer at customer relationship management powerhouse Salesforce. She is a graduate of the Instructional Systems Design (ISD) master’s degree program in the UK College of Education and is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Educational Sciences at UK.
Recently named to Learning 30 Under 30, Reynolds develops onboarding training for new account executives at Salesforce.
Reynolds shared with us more about her career path, her experience at UK, and the future of the learning experience/instructional design career field.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in instructional design/educational experiences design?
I have always been passionate about education and fell in love with learning long ago. I began my professional career as an elementary teacher at Fayette County Public Schools, where I was exposed to rigorous content and curriculum development. As I began to dive deeper into content and curriculum development, I learned that my passion for learning translated into designing learning, thus my career shifted into instructional design.
Why did you choose the program at UK?
The University of Kentucky was the school for me for a couple of reasons. While being near and dear to my heart, it also provided a rigorous, but personalized, learning experience. After reaching out to the program director, I learned just how student-centered the faculty in the program were and how important valuable learning experiences were to them. I am always thankful for my studies in the program because they provided me a tremendous foundation for my professional career. I found that the program was so helpful and such a great experience that I came back to pursue my doctorate in Educational Sciences, with an emphasis in ISD.
How has the program helped you in your career?
I wouldn’t be where I am professionally today without the UK ISD program. I’ve been able to ramp faster in my new positions and deepen my understanding for learning theory and strategy because of my ISD background.
How did COVID impact the instructional design field?
As terrible as COVID-19 has been on the entire world, I think the value of our industry really shined through the clouds because of it. Companies are rethinking their training and development models, where a trainer stood in front of a classroom filled with tens or hundreds of people to upskill or reskill. Now, they’re sending fully digital e-learnings, full curricula, and micro learning experiences. While I believe there is still a place for in-person training, when we can get back to it, gone are the days when this is the model for entire programs – I think we’ll see a lot more blended or hybrid programs appearing in corporations.
Is instructional design a growing career?
I do think this is a growing career. Companies are hiring more diverse candidates than ever before, and with that greater diversity comes the opportunity for upskilling, reskilling, onboarding, and simply maintaining the company’s status quo. I also think this career is growing just as fast internally as it is externally; learning theory and instructional practices are evolving so rapidly that new jobs continue to be created to capture the essence of the field.
What skills are needed most in this field, and do you feel the UK program helped you to develop these skills?
ISD jobs look different across different companies. Some are faster paced than others, tools differ, etc., but a few things remain constant: flexibility, strategic thinking, and confidence in the learning process. The UK program definitely helped me develop in all three of these areas and contribute to any success I have in my role. I was able to deepen my understanding of learning theory and cognitive processing, learned how to work with flexibility in mind, and always was asked to look or dig a bit deeper and think strategically.
What would you say about the UK program to someone contemplating a career change or entering this field?
Since I came from the classroom and moved into the design field, I often get phone calls or LinkedIn messages asking how I did it. I always sing the praises of the UK program to anyone I meet that’s interested in furthering their education in the field of ISD. The program provides an excellent blend of rigor, personalization, and empathy that you can’t get anywhere else. Being a student in the 21st century is hard as many of us are working full time while going through the program, have families, and have especially been impacted by COVID-19. The program at UK made me feel like more than just a number in a program. I felt like a human that mattered, which made the world of difference.
Learn more about Instructional Systems Design and apply online.