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Lessons from Terrible Students: An Instructional Design Podcast

I guess I should explain the name first, huh? To put it simply: we are terrible students. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t paying attention, that we don’t understand the course content, or that we can’t pass whatever assessment is at the end.

It means that if we’re in a class, we’re probably evaluating the course itself more than listening. We are listening to speech patterns, evaluating how the course is put together, and if the flow is how “we would have done it.” My hot take, one of many discussed in the podcast, is that the most effective IDs are actually terrible students. This type of ID is the training SME you want when it comes time to engage other “terrible” students.

We want to create open and honest conversations about training and training industry so that you can be terrible students too! Sharing is caring, after all. We decided to put together a podcast series to address a few things that we think could improve the L&D space. But beware, while we are SMEs in L&D, we are NOT SMEs in podcasting.

  1. We will talk through some of the theories and relationships that IDs work with as we create learning deliverables but do it honestly and openly. Not everything is rosy and positive, and to act as if it is, is a detriment.
  2. We want to introduce the key players in an L&D project: the SMEs, the Stakeholders, the IDs, and the PMs. I know that is too many initials, but we will explain them later. (Gotta love those teasers.)
  3. We want to provide our listeners with real and workable solutions to some of their issues. Our goal is to include practical tips that you can use to address the topic we are discussing.


You may be thinking: Who do you think you are and what gives you the idea that you can do all that you say you can do? Well, I am glad you asked, and thank you for staying with me this far. Let me introduce myself and then I will hand this over to the Doctor.

My name is Jeremy Brown. I went to college at a small private college in the mountains of North Carolina because they gave me the most money in scholarships, and I graduated with a B.S. in Computer Information Systems. I quickly found out that there were no jobs near me using that degree, so I had two choices: Keyboarding teacher at the local high school or installing cable for the local ISP. Installing cable paid more, so that is what I chose.

I installed cable in homes for 7 years, being good and terrible at that job, depending on the day. Trust me, if you talked to some of my fellow techs, they would tell you the same thing. I knew I was not the best tech out there because I didn’t enjoy my work. I knew the processes, I could do the calculations, and I knew what needed to be done to solve the issues; I just didn’t want to do it. Being a technician is a long and thankless job where the work never stops coming, and you are judged on how fast you move, and frankly, that was not for me.

Luckily, I found something I was passionate about when I applied to work in the training department. To start with, I was a go-between for Field Operations and the L&D department. I like to think of this as a “translator” role, where I took what the field employees said, removed the expletives, and gave it to the corporate L&D team. After working with the L&D team for a while, I was promoted to an ID. Since then, I

have developed training mostly for front-end employees, with the occasional compliance training sprinkled in to make things interesting.

My role in this podcast will be to remember what it was like when I was the front-end employee, and to bring that experience as a SME, and my experience as an ID, to each topic that we discuss.

Now to introduce the co-host of this podcast: The Doctor. Take it away, Doctor!

My name is Tara Roberson-Moore. And yes, I have a doctorate in Workforce and Adult Education. That said, I have been an instructional designer/developer a lot longer than I have been a doctor. And no, you don’t have to have a PhD to be an ID. My pursuit of an advanced degree was strictly me being a dork. I LOVE to learn new things. I totally backed into ID work – just like Jeremy – and just like many IDs, I was the SME who was asked to teach other people how I did things.

I started my career as a journalist (B.S. in News-Editorial Journalism) – back when journalism was very different. For that job, my success depended upon making connections with sources, interviewing people, taking great notes, analyzing documents and information, and figuring out how to best present all the info to my audience in a limited space.

Sound familiar?

I did all this as a news editor and a cops and courts reporter. When journalism began to change, I decided to get my master’s in criminal justice (See? D-O-R-K!) and moved to the other side of the story. I worked with victims and witnesses for my local prosecutor and then for the state agency that governs them. It was in these positions that I really started to “teach” other people. Part of my job locally was to make these people – who had already been through some horrific things – more comfortable with the criminal justice process. I ended up teaching other people around the state about the processes I developed and our approaches to the administrative part of the job. When I went to work for the state, I was honored to be a regular presenter for the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women at national conferences.

My ID role? Total accident. I just sort of ended up presenting and teaching best practices. And I was doing just fine. But I am a person who likes to know the “why” behind things. That is what my formal education provides me – the “why.”

Now – all that said – I am really a TERRIBLE student. When I attend a training event as an adult learner – I look at the techniques, methodologies, and other parts of the event. I am either thinking about how I will borrow a technique and make it my own or what I would have done differently.

My role in this new adventure is to provide some of the “why” behind what we do as IDs. My hot take, for now, is this: Never forget that as an ID, you are also a SME on the projects you work. YOU are the SME in learning. And yes, it is ok to remind project SMEs about this – but you will have to listen to find out the best way to do this!

Now you know who we are and what we will talk about, so the only thing left is to listen. We will post new episodes twice a month and hope you join us. And, since this is a new journey for us – we are NOT Podcast SMEs after all – we would love your feedback along the way! Feel free to engage with us at

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Check out our first episode!

Meet our hosts, hear a shout-out to author Cammy Bean about her book “The Accidental Instructional Designer,” and get some insight into the roles and responsibilities of the array of professionals involved in developing and building training initiatives in the workplace.

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