The field of ISD is changing, and UMBC is well poised to provide students with the new skills needed to compete in this dynamic, ever-growing landscape. Program Director, Dr. Greg Williams, of UMBC’s ISD graduate program discusses the new changes and how it has opened up a whole new set of opportunities for professionals to thrive. 

What is the most exciting part of being in this field?

The most exciting part about this industry is the opportunities for employment growth. The biggest kick that I get is when students call me up excited about getting a great job. This is a great time to get into the field of ISD because it’s growing. It’s big enough where there’s freedom for professionals to branch off into varying aspects, such as instructional technology, consulting, or performance improvement. 

I think ISD is a very exciting field. It’s poised for growth, and I think our program does a great job of giving students a good foundation and also providing them with opportunities to demonstrate their skills. One of the big things in our field really is the ability to learn. UMBC’s ISD program shows its students that the more they’re able to do, the more successful they’ll be.

The ISD field is one that you can stay in and grow abundantly, making it ideal for someone who enjoys developing themselves.

Is now a good time to enter this field?

The employment outlook for this field is very good. The United States government has identified this field as one of the bright outlook positions. The Department of Labor does projections, and they’re reporting growth opportunities for people in this field, especially in the Greater Baltimore, Washington, Northern Virginia area.

How does UMBC prepare students for the real world?

Something that sets UMBC’s ISD graduate program apart from others is our portfolio requirement. With this approach, students gain hands-on experience while creating actual work samples. They design real live industry tools that prospective employers can look at and say “wow, this is documented evidence that corroborates that you actually have this skill that you claim you have.”

Our students work with bonafide organizations and clients facing real problems. The work they do in their graduate courses is the same work they’ll be doing in the world of work after they graduate. In fact, what our students learn on a Wednesday night, they apply at work on Thursday morning. 

What skills do employers look for in candidates?

The skills we teach that will be helpful to students after they graduate include a number of things. Students learn presentation, teaching, and training skills, which are paramount in this field. The reason is that students may land in a one-person job. In this case, they’re in charge of training, performance improvement, consultative, writing and updating trading manuals.

We teach students how to make solid recommendations on how to address all of these work situations. Students go out into the real world prepared for the challenges they will face.

What do careers in this field look like?

Careers in this field vary. Some people travel a typical path, like as a trainer, and then they start to learn more about instructional design and venture there. Others will follow a path where they use technology to create learning modules. Yet others may move beyond that kind of baseline, entry-level position and function in more of a project management role where they oversee people who are the instructional designers, subject matter experts, training specialists, and technical experts. In this role, they will have opportunities to manage groups and projects.

The field is truly open, and a person can carve their own path to stand out.

Where do UMBC graduates work after graduation?

Our graduates are employed across many industries. They work in the federal government, fortune 500 companies, small businesses, independent consulting firms, higher education, K-12 education, and almost any type of organization you can imagine.

The beauty of the ISD field is that there isn’t just one niche. Our graduates work in a variety of different companies that include companies like Booz Allen, Comcast, TRowe Price, federal agencies, Johns Hopkins (both the university and the hospital), and so many more.

How is UMBC keeping up with the changes in the field?

The big change in our industry right now is that the premier professional association in the ISD field used to be called the American Society for Training and Development. They realized that they needed to be more than just an organization that emphasizes training. So they’ve changed their name and their organization to include more performance improvement. Their new name is the Association for Talent Development. Talent development is a term that encompasses a lot of different things in our field.

The biggest thing that UMBC is well-poised to address is the move towards performance improvement in organizations. It used to be that people just saw themselves as training specialists or instructional designers. Now those same people are being asked to solve performance issues within an organization. This can be a very different thing than designing the course. So our program has included new coursework to address those issues. They address things like how businesses form and how efficiencies can be created. That’s a new movement, and our courses arm our students with a lot of knowledge, skills, and information that will enable them to solve issues that go beyond training instructional design.

UMBC is not getting rid of instructional design or training. Rather, we are adding to that and making sure that students have the proper knowledge, skills, and abilities to address the performance improvement movement that’s taking place in our industry.

How can someone best succeed in this program?

Many of our students are doing well in this field and standing out in interviews because they choose to put in the work and tackle challenging projects in our program projects.

In this program, students have the ability to act as an independent consultant to design courses, create training, deliver training, use software authoring tools, and create e-learning development. There are a lot of different options that they can pursue if they’re willing to put in the hard work and choose challenging projects that demonstrate to potential employees that they can do the work.

I think the opportunity in this field is unlimited, making it a very exciting time for people in this field.

Ready to Claim Your Future?

Professionals from a variety of backgrounds are part of UMBC’s ISD Graduate program. UMBC offers a variety of resources to help students maintain work/life balance while enriching their careers. Courses are available online to accommodate working professionals from across the nation. If you would like to learn more, contact us to learn how you can get started today.

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