Vice President of Learning Design for Kineo US
Cammy Bean is the Vice President of Learning Design for Kineo US. A real eLearning veteran, being involved in the industry of eLearning for more than 15 years, she has designed and worked on projects for a wide range of industries including financial services, retail and manufacturing. At Kineo, she leads learning design, working closely with clients from concept to execution. She is the author of the very successful book The Accidental Instructional Designer: Learning Design for the Digital Age and an active blogger, having founded the “Cammy Bean’s Learning Visions”, which is being consistently listed as one of the top-10 most influential blogs in the tech learning space.
How would you define the role of an eLearning Instructional designer in the modern era of education?
Everywhere you turn these days, eLearning is there. Whether it is an online program offered through a University, a Kahn Academy video, an online cooking classes, a K-12 curriculum, or corporate training, technology is there to support the learning process.
Whether you call yourself an eLearning Instructional Designer or just an Instructional Designer, you’ve got to consider technology-based solutions as part of the mix. So I’d say the role of an eLearning Instructional Designer is pretty essential to any organization’s educational strategy. We’ve got a lot of job security!
What are the most common mistakes made in the process of drawing up a training plan?
Too many corporate training plans go for event-based learning with a focus on completion rates. Will sitting in a class for two days really teach you what you need to know to succeed at your job? What if, instead, we went au natural? That is, following the natural ways in which people actually learn in the real world? What kinds of assets can we create – content, tools, apps, connections – that will help people learn and perform at their best and as quickly as possible? How can we combine eLearning assets with real world coaching and peer connections? Humans learn by doing. How can we design resources that will fit into that flow and not disrupt it, but actually enhance the experience?
You have been a succesful instructional designer, writer, project manager, and a multimedia producer. How did you manage to combine all these roles and specialties?
In that list, I see quite a few different skills – some I am better at than others. When I first got started, all of those tasks were part of the job I was hired to do as a “Junior Instructional Designer”. The instructional designers in my company were the project managers. And the writers. And the multi-media producers. I got to direct video shoots, create project plans, write scripts, QA, the works.
And this is not all that different from many organizations who have one person who does it all: the one-stop-shop of eLearning fame.
As I have, well, grown and matured, I have learned that some skills I do better than others. I am super fortunate at Kineo to have dedicated project managers who run our projects like professionals. It has made me realize how little I actually knew about project management before.
In the current demanding environment, do you believe that the successful combination of many different specialties outperforms the specialization in one field?
I do think the eLearning field is unique. Those who perform best as eLearning designers and specialists have broad understanding of some really divergent areas: they understand learning and pedagogy, they have creative inclinations and can write or do amazing visual design, they understand technology, and they have the skills to act like consultants to their organizations and to run their projects like, well, projects.
It is really a T-shaped skills model. You need to have broad skills and understanding (the top of the T), with potentially one area of deep expertise (the vertical bar of the T).
Depending on your organization and who else you have on your team, you may have a broader focus or have more specialization. At Kineo, we hire specialists in instructional design, writing, graphics, development, consulting. That is why clients hire us. And across the team, we have it all.
Smaller organizations have to put more eggs in one basket, so you may have individuals who don’t have quite the depth in each area.
Could you describe your business profile in the company?
As the VP of Learning Design for Kineo US, I oversee our team of instructional designers and content writers. I review design documents, check out scripts, provide coaching and line manager support. I do lead design for a lot of client work, which includes a little bit of everything. I learn about new technologies and think about ways to make what we do even better. I write articles and books and speak at conferences and get to schmooze a lot in the name of work. I love my job.
You are referred as «An e-learning veteran». Which would you recognise as your greatest achievements in your brilliant, long career?
My greatest achievements? There are a few.
I’m really proud that I’ve been a part of the birth and growth of the Kineo US team for these past almost six years. It’s truly humbling and amazing to see what we’ve grown into. Our main US office just burst its seams in Chicago and we’ve had to move into new space.
In those six years, I’ve been so fortunate to work with some amazing clients and to collaborate on some great programs. It actually takes my breath away when I consider the number of projects and programs we’ve produced.
And then of course, there’s the book thing. I wrote The Accidental Instructional Designer: Learning Design for the Digital Age during the late night hours after work and after my kids were in bed. It is really an homage to the leadership and tutelage I have received from my Kineo colleagues, and from all of the mentors I have learned from through the years via social media. I am proud of the book and really happy to hear from people who have gotten a lot out of it. You can order a copy of the Accidental Instructional Designer at the ATD Press page – along with a free book group discussion guide! – or on Amazon.
How has the field of eLearning changed in the last 15 years?
I will broaden the view a little bit and go back 19 years. I started in the field in 1996—before it was called eLearning. We created CBTs on CD-ROMS with lots of video. Everything was custom built from scratch. Along the way, the technology started to change. Tools like DreamWeaver and Director appeared, making development a little more efficient and raising production values. We dreamed of having tools and templates that would automate some of the process. Prices were high. In 1996 dollars, clients were paying $40,000 for one hour of eLearning. Not even factoring in inflation, that would be high by today’s standards.
Today’s rapid tools have changed the game for better or for worse, allowing pretty much anyone and their brother to create so-called eLearning. Price points have come way down and today’s organizations want to pay as little as they possibly can for eLearning.
Along with that, we’ve got the mobile revolution and technology in almost everyone’s hands to serve up content. My kids all know how to search for how-to videos on YouTube from their laptops, their iPads, their iPods.
Today, eLearning is everywhere. It is in the air. When I explain what I do for work to people these days, I don’t get the same blank stares I used to. Most people have some point of reference when it comes to eLearning -either because their kids use it in school, because they used BlackBoard in college, or because their companies require them to take it.
Why would someone choose to attend a program (Bachelor, or Master) through eLearning?
My answer is probably something along the lines of “why wouldn’t you?” As a working mom, if I were going for a master’s degree I would definitely be looking at online programs. I do not have time to commute to a campus; I would not want to miss dinner time with the kids; I would want to fit my studies into my own schedule.
On the other hand, as I consider the educational options my kids will have, I am not sure what I would recommend. So much of the college experience -at least for me- was the social life: getting out on my own, living in my own place, running my own life. But with college costs skyrocketing, online undergraduate degrees look more and more appealing. Maybe it is going to be a hybrid approach that wins. I was recently reading about The Minerva Project, higher education with a Silicon Valley mindset that combines the best of both online and social college experiences. New models are already emerging.
What has been the impact of the social media on your career?
I was really fortunate to get involved in blogging and Twitter in the earlier days, when the online eLearning community was forming. Without realizing what I was doing, I started building my own brand. I made some life-changing and lasting connections with people who continue to influence my work and who I now consider friends. Work is not just work for me. It is fun. I still blog on a fairly regular basis at Learning Visions. I also write for the Kineo blog.
What is the most important fact you have learned through eLearning?
My experience of eLearning is mostly through the lens of the producer and not the student. I have created WAY MORE eLearning programs than I have taken. And throughout the process of creating all those programs, I have learned so very much. What I love about my work is the sheer variety of it all. I can work one day on a program about digital marketing and the next day on global climate science.
Through every project, I get a different insight and view into a different slice of life. It’s like reading a great book every day.
Which kind of challenges are coming next for eLearning? What will it take for it to dominate in the global market?
The challenges for eLearning…as if it’s an actual being with thought and will. I like that.
That said, the challenges for people who think about and deal with eLearning are that the expectations are high. People will expect to have technology-based learning options and they will expect those offerings to be of high quality. And it is not just about creating courses.
We need to drop the term eLearning and instead talk about the ways people learn and how technology can best be used to support that.
People roll their eyes at lousy eLearning. One of the most popular posts I’ve written was called “Why No One Cares About Your Lousy eLearning.” People recognize that it’s out there and want to stop the madness. Lousy eLearning needs to become a thing of the past. Creating quality solutions that help people and solve the problems people have—that is the real challenge for everyone.
Technology is ubiquitous. And technology as a part of how people learn and work -well, that is ubiquitous too. So let’s get on with it.
How do you see yourself in ten years from now? Is there an optimum level you want to reach in your career?
My career evolves as I go. I might write another book. I would like to branch out into some new areas within the industry, because I have got to keep learning new things or I will get all boring and dull. The road opens up in unexpected ways. I want to stay challenged, do good work, and enjoy the people along on this journey with me.