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Charting the Path to Excellence in Learning Design with Jemima Collins, Learning Designer Curio Group.

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Transitioning from a seasoned English language teacher to a learning designer, Jemima’s career is a testament to determination, passion, and the power of leveraging diverse educational experiences. Through resilience and strategic career moves, she has not only embraced the evolving landscape of digital education but also contributed significantly to creating inclusive, impactful and transformative learning experiences. Join us as we share Jemima’s inspiring journey, exploring the milestones, insights, and lessons that have shaped her path from teaching to building a stimulating and rewarding learning design career. 

If you’re considering a career in this field or are simply curious about what it entails, be sure to read this insightful and engaging interview. 

 

Can you tell us about your career journey in learning design so far? 

  • Lots of job applications and interviews, propelled by an unwavering determination to switch careers from teaching to learning design (2019-2020) 
  • Instructional Designer, Kaplan Financial Education (2021) 
  • Digital Learning Designer, University of Cambridge Judge Business School (2021-2023) 
  • Learning Designer, Curio Group (from Sept 2023) 

 

How did you get started in this field? 

I developed an interest in experimenting with educational technology and exploring the intersection between teaching, learning, technology and design during my 12-year career as an English language teacher. I then became inspired to pursue a career as a learning designer largely thanks to experiencing the transformative benefits of high-quality online learning design while studying a fully online master’s programme. 

 

What were some key milestones or turning points in your career that led you to where you are today? 

Had it not been for posting a comment on LinkedIn bemoaning the prevalence of offensively low salaries for learning design positions, I may not have been spotted by the recruiter who eventually helped me to land my first higher ed learning design role at the University of Cambridge. Had I not made the smart decision to apply for contract work with Curio Group in 2022, I most likely wouldn’t have ended up receiving a permanent job offer in 2023. And the rest is history! 🙂 

 

What aspects of your job bring you the most satisfaction and joy? 

Having the opportunity to combine and leverage insights from my broad educational experience, research, and professional development (as a teacher, student, and designer), and ultimately contribute to the realisation of exceptional, inclusive, and transformative learning experiences 

 

What are some of the most important skills you’ve developed in your career in learning design? 

  • General digital literacies/skills 
  • Specialist technical skills (e.g. VLE administration, e-learning development, web development / HTML, GenAI prompt engineering) 
  • Digital accessibility, inclusive/universal design, and user experience design 
  • Project management 

 

Can you share a specific project or experience that significantly contributed to your learning and growth in this field?  

  • Teaching experience 
  • Studying a fully online master’s programme 
  • My current learning design project with UAL (University of the Arts London): co-designing a suite of innovative online master’s programmes in creative arts subjects – involving the stimulating challenge of integrating established good practice in digital pedagogy and online education with signature pedagogies for creative education 

 

What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way?  

  1. Changing careers can be very challenging and gruelling but this pales in comparison to enduring a psychologically detrimental job (as teaching turned out to be in my case) for your entire working life!
  2. As a learning designer and a teacher before that, I have occasionally had my professional credibility questioned by people expressing strong opinions about education based on personal experience. In such situations, I’ve found it helpful to remind myself that insights gained from personal experience are no substitute for professional and research-informed expertise (as seems to be readily accepted in many other professional fields, but frustratingly not in education!).

 

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in learning design?   

Investigate the typical roles/responsibilities involved and skills/knowledge required for learning designer positions (e.g. by looking at job ads), then identify relevant/transferrable aspects of your existing experience and skill set, along with your gaps or areas for development. 

 

Are there any common pitfalls or mistakes that you would advise new learning designers to avoid?   

I think it’s common for aspiring learning designers to be overly fixated on learning how to use authoring tools like Articulate Storyline in the belief that this will improve their job prospects; in my experience, it’s ultimately more productive and worthwhile to focus on getting to grips with the fundamental theories, principles, and frameworks underpinning the practice of learning design. 

 

What resources (books, websites, courses, etc.) have been most helpful to you in your career?        

Are there any influential figures or mentors who have inspired or guided you in your learning design journey?    

 

How do you stay updated with the latest trends and developments in learning design?   

LinkedIn is definitely my primary source of up-to-the-minute learning design gossip, and I also try to keep abreast of the latest research activity and events taking place at my alma mater – the University of Edinburgh, where I was a student at their excellent MSc Digital Education programme. 

 

If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently in your career?     

I would have prioritised clueing myself up on all things digital accessibility from the outset. I would have perhaps been a little less dismissive and sceptical about the potential future relevance and implications of AI in education, but without allowing my critical eye to be blinded by hype! I might have also taken one or two courses with the Digital Learning Institute, as they receive a lot of positive feedback from both budding and experienced learning designers. 

 

What personal qualities do you think are most important for success in learning design? 

  • Empathy 
  • Curiosity/Inquisitiveness 
  • Interpersonal/Relationship-building skills 
  • Attention to detail 
  • Assertiveness and super powers of persuasion! 

 

Our conversation with Jemima Collins has provided a wealth of insights into the multifaceted world of learning design. Her journey from teaching to becoming a dedicated learning designer underscores the importance of determination, continuous learning, and the ability to adapt to new technologies and methodologies. Jemima’s experiences and advice offer valuable guidance for anyone considering a career in learning design, highlighting the significance of pedagogical knowledge, and a passion for education, combined with interpersonal and technical skills, in creating impactful educational experiences. We hope this interview has inspired you and provided clarity on the dynamic and rewarding field of learning design.  

 

Stay curious and keep exploring the possibilities in this ever-evolving profession. 

 

 

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