How A Junk Mail Flyer Changed My Career

junk mailWho would have thought that receiving a junk mail flyer in my mailbox would have changed my career? How was I to know that this one particular flyer would have a significant impact on my professional life?

Dr. Greg Williams, Program Director for UMBC’s ISD Graduate Program, shares his story of how junk mail changed the trajectory of his career.

Junk Mail Offered a New Direction

In 1999, I was living in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. One day I received a flyer in the U.S. mail from an online university. They were recruiting potential faculty to teach online for them. I had wondered about teaching online, but never really did anything about before. From my research, reading and conversations with professional colleagues, it seemed like eLearning was poised to grow. And now, a supposed piece of junk mail confirmed it!

At the time of receiving this flyer, I was working at Towson University at the time in a staff position. I mentioned to a faculty member that I was thinking about going through the online university’s faculty training program. To my surprise he said that he knew someone who had gone through the same program and thought that it was excellent.

It All Started with a Junk Mail Flyer

I decided to enroll in the course. I thought it would be good for my career. I was right. Prior to this training course I had never taken an eLearning course myself, nor had I taught one. I had some limited experience with eLearning, but I never taught a complete online class.

This particular class required us to be available for 20 hours of class time, homework and studying each week. There were no exceptions for anyone. If you missed class time or were late on your assignments, you were removed form the class and had to start over again.

The course was modeled after the online university’s regular 5 week format. We experienced the same thing as students taking our courses. This helped to develop empathy, as well as to “walk a mile” in the students’ shoes.

It was a demanding and challenging experience. However, I learned a great deal. It was the foundation for developing my eLearning skills. Here is some of what I learned.

What I Learned About eLearning
1. It’s not “easy” being an online student. Online learning is not for everyone.
2. Online students need good time management skills, be motivated and disciplined.
3. eLearning is not about the technology. While online teachers use technology, a successful course is more about their ability to facilitate their learning.
4. Communication is very different. We know how simple email communication can easily get misunderstood. That misunderstanding can grow exponentially when it comes to eLearning.

Other Lessons Learned
1. Be open to change, it’s how we grow.
2. You never know where or when opportunities may pop up.
3. Use critical thinking and don’t believe everything you hear.
4. Take some calculated career risks.
5. Your career is dynamic, so you need to be dynamic too.

Because the flyer, my career would never be the same. It opened up a number of life-changing opportunities for me. Maybe you have some opportunities coming your way too. Would you recognize them? Be open-minded and give them a chance.

Lastly, take a quick glance at your junk mail before you throw it away.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

The Emotional Impact of Schematic Faces

Many might agree, schematic faces, or emoticons, have a way of sweeping into our minds and filling us with joy, sadness, anger, and many other emotions. How amazing is it that a simple line drawing can affect us on such an emotional level?

schematic faces

The Power in Schematic Faces

Smiley faces can make us laugh, giggle, and smile back. These smiley schematic faces can soften a sentence, add humor to a serious discussion, and offer a friendly tone.

Expressions in Schematic Faces

As human beings, we pay attention to faces. We connect to them. We interpret vast amounts of information in seconds just from laying our eyes on them. Our basic survival depends on our ability to interpret and digest non-verbal cues from a person’s facial expression.

Findings on Schematic Faces

Connie Malamed, a consultant, author and speaker in the fields of visual design, online learning and information design, wrote an article on this subject titled, The Visual Language of Schematic Faces. In this article, she discussed the idea of Facial Codes. Malamed explained, “The conveyance of facial expressions are uncannily reflected in schematic faces. This is probably due to our competence at reading and interpreting what is known as the facial code, which many believe is universal to all people in all cultures.”

In her article, Malamed references research conducted by Paul Ekman, one of the most well-known researchers in this field, and his findings on prototypical facial codes that express six distinct primary emotions, joy, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, and anger.

Importance of Schematic Faces on ISD Professionals

Our faces hold great communication power, and even in simple line form, human emotions can be expressed clearly and concisely. As users of technology and imagery, this wonderful ability of the human brain to interpret data from schematic faces can have far-reaching benefits by ways of helping to improve the way we communicate visually, and how this communication is then absorbed in a profound level.

Do you make use of schematic faces in your ISD work?

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

www.umbc.edu/isd

Dr. Greg Williams, Program Director of UMBC’s ISD Program, Interviewed by EdTech Magazine

In a recent article, A New Seat in the C-Suite: Chief Digital Officers Find a Place on College Campuses, Amy Burroughs of EDTech Magazine, investigated the many challenges that colleges and universities are facing as a result of the digital era’s evolving landscape. She discusses the roles of Chief Digital Officers (CDO) and how they help organizations respond to the changing landscape.

Ed-Tech-MagazineEdTech Magazine asked Dr. Greg Williams, Program Director for UMBC’s ISD Graduate Programs, how UMBC is dealing with the challenges and opportunities of new technology. Because UMBC has relatively few online programs, there is no official online coordinator; instead, Williams fills that role by virtue of his expertise. Schools are spread across the spectrum, from informal advocates to CDOs, with many roles in between. “Often, individual professors drive online programs because of their personal interest, while the university maintains a neutral stance,” said Williams.

Read the entire article here.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now