UMBC’s Learning and Performance Technology Programs are led by a distinguished faculty of practitioners in the ISD field. Our Faculty in Focus today is Dr. Greg Williams, Program Director.
Dr. Williams has several decades of experience as a faculty member, administrator, trainer, instructional designer, and consultant in education, the private sector and the federal government.
Can you tell us a little about the path you took to land here at UMBC?
I’ve been involved in education my whole life. This goes way back to when I was a middle and high school teacher and guidance counselor after completing graduate school. Additionally, I’ve been teaching in subjects like training and human development, learning and development, and course design for over thirty years. Probably longer than I care to remember! Basically, I’ve worked with most every population from k-12 to adults. It’s been a nice journey to say the least. For the most part, I’ve always had my hands in training, teaching, and administration in both an academic and government setting. So, I’m extremely familiar with and focused on learning and development. I’m happy to be a part of the ISD field, specifically the areas of Instructional Design, eLearning, and Performance Improvement.
What courses do you teach?
The courses that I teach are mostly the field-based experiences. They are the internships and the fieldwork where students have an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. We tailor the internships to the individual needs of the student. So essentially, students have a great deal of impact on what sort of internship they have. They become part of the decision process on things like, where they intern and the scope of the projects involved. Our goal is for them to come out of the internship with a solid work project and work sample that they can put in their professional portfolio. This equips them with the tools to enter the Learning and Performance Technology field with confidence.
Can you talk about the specific benefits students gain from these internships?
Our internships are accommodating and flexible. Students are typically working adults who are extremely busy. We offer a couple of ways in which students can take an internship opportunity. One is they can do a traditional internship where they spend about ten hours a week working as a staff person in instructional design, training, or elearning development at a local company. And, we can help set them up with that.
The second way that people fulfill the internship requirement is they can do it at their own place of work. However the one big stipulation is it has to be on a new project. It can’t be their normal everyday job.
The last option is to take on a consulting project. They sit down with the client organization initially and have a meeting a to discuss project deliverables and client needs. The student can work remotely or at the client office. That is the flexible advantage.
What can a student expect out of the ISD program?
Students can expect a number of things from our program that are somewhat different and unique. First of all, we’re not a program that has a zillion and three students. We are highly accessible. Students can call me directly. In other words, they are not just a name and a number. That level of support is very important to our students. In fact, when asked how students discovered our program, we often hear a colleague in the ISD field or an alum recommended it to them. So I think that’s the highest praise of all when it comes to student expectation and satisfaction. That someone not getting paid by UMBC is recommending the program. Another thing is that students can expect to get a good professional experience that will help them in their careers. They will develop a portfolio that will serve as tangible evidence of their ability.
Being an online program, is there much interaction between the students?
The interesting thing is we’ve had some students say that they have more interaction with people in their classes. The classes are rather small, averaging about 12 students and no more than 20. So, this offers students a high ratio, high probability of making connections with other students and instructors. One of the things that I like to do is have phone meetings with students. Some students think wow isn’t this is an online course? Why are we talking on the phone? And I do it simply because it works. It’s a technology that people have and know how to use. It doesn’t cost them anything. And, it’s a good way to put in some real live communications.
Something to keep in mind, our courses are not cookie cutter. So while some courses are asynchronous, where students are online but not at the same time, we also have a number of synchronous courses where they’re online at the same time as the instructor and other students. They can see and hear people if they enable that in the settings. And it provides them with a good opportunity to interact.
Does the program offer mentorship experiences?
Yes, and if somebody were to ask me who our mentors are, I would tell them they are people who are working in the Learning and Performance Technology field. They are people who are involved in performance improvement, training in learning and education, instructional design, and in e-learning development. Our mentors come from federal, state, and local government as well as from fortune 500 companies. Others come from small businesses and nonprofit trade associations. And some of them are graduates from our program, wanting to give back. So it’s a real wide range of professionals who are mentoring our students. And, they’re doing this for free. They’re not getting compensated. So it’s not a job to them. It’s something that they want to do. It’s something they love to do.
How does the program prepare its students for career success in the field?
We prepare the students for a career in the Learning and Performance Technology field right from the very first course. They work directly with a client organization on a real live project from the very first course. So they build work samples for their portfolio with every course they take. At the end of the program, they have a portfolio with up to a dozen work samples. This is rather significant. We encourage students to choose projects that might be somewhat different, somewhat offbeat, but might show an employer that wow this is a fantastic project. It meets a real need in the field.
When students graduate from our program they won’t be a one-trick pony. They will be a person who can do a variety of things that meet a need in today’s workplace. Learn more about our online master’s and certificate programs.