Elevator Speeches Aren’t Just for Entrepreneurs

Published: May 19, 2014
There are 52 students in the growing master's program.
There are 52 students in the growing master's program.
One of the first things candidates for the Master of Science in instructional design and technology program do is create an elevator pitch — a 30-second description of what their career field entails.

“A lot of what we do is problem solving,” said Jonathan McKeown, the program director, noting the degree’s flexibility. “Instructional design principles are the same across industry. Whether I go into higher education or business, I figure out who their learners are and tailor learning to them.”

Marquis Holley ’14, a member of the first cohort of UT’s instructional design and technology program, which graduated this May, said they learned how to create instructional materials that help strengthen the process of learning.

Areas of focus could include ways to instruct employees on harassment issues, safety or general job functions; or improving return on investment by increasing efficiency through instruction. It could be developing training systems with the U.S. Secret Service, or with the airline or healthcare industries.

The growing field — the Department of Labor Statistics expects growth of 13 percent from 2012 to 2022 — means McKeown has more employers reaching out to him for candidates and paid internships than he has students to fill.

Sara Healy ’14 is completing her internship by designing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in medical education for USF Health. Healy worked in defense intelligence before coming to UT and has found an education niche “that would change clinical practice.”

Diane Olsen ’14, who was a Realtor in Maryland for 18 years before coming to Tampa, interned with Artisan E-learning where she worked on creating online certifications for the Community Association Institute. Olsen has been hired as a contractor with Artisan to work with an international retail company on its staff security procedures, designing, developing and then translating the content into 15 languages.

“I try not to use the term ‘teach’ anymore because of how I was raised. It brings to mind the old process of lecture, memorize, regurgitate,” Olsen said. “Now I think of creating learning experiences. I think teaching has to be redefined in this paradigm.”

One of the unique aspects of UT’s program is not just the versatility of the degree, but in the diversity of the students enrolled. McKeown said many who start the program have stumbled into it, and they come with all different academic backgrounds.

For Holley, this made going to class an exceptional experience.

“The conversation is so refreshing,” he said. “You looked forward to going to class, wondering, ‘What are we going to discuss tonight?’”

The diversity of the program can be found even at its head. McKeown studied music at Florida State University, at both the undergraduate and graduate level before teaching high school music as well as ballet and jazz. He started an online education program — with courses in music theory, conducting and leadership — growing the company to more than 21,000 students a year with more than 20 employees across the U.S. It was during this time he found a love for instructional design, got a master’s in the field, sold his business and then earned his doctorate.

McKeown hopes to continue to grow the program at UT in the coming years, keeping the focus on instructional design instruction.

“We want to be at the center of instruction design in the Tampa Bay area,” he said.

For more information on UT’s program, visit the M.S. in Instructional Design and Technology page.

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