On Being an Outsider

Over a year ago I quit my job. I left higher education and my non-tenure faculty position. As an early career academic, I loved research, teaching and digital learning design, but the things I was doing in my actual position was leaving me feeling bored and burned out. I was not interested in fitting into a typical academic role or career, and I never really cared much for the elitist hierarchy at a university/college campus. Titles, degrees, and status seemed less interesting… and rather petty to me. As I said before, I’m more interested in the verbs and not the nouns for my professional path.

During the last few months of 2019, I was fortunate to partner with few great companies adjacent to higher ed as a faculty coach, research consultant, and learning design architect. Although it was interesting work, I soon realized I really missed being part of a team who were contributing to a shared vision and goals. In looking back, part of my job search was really to find the space and place for me to work outside academia, challenge what I know, and apply my experiences as I explore the unknown in a new field. This time spent researching professional roles require me to identify my strengths (literally, below is a screening for a healthcare L&D role) and figure out where I could use these superpowers for the next organization I worked at.

It was time to look outside the industry of postsecondary education (yes, it IS an industry as well) to see what was out there, and identify what new career opportunity I could match my purpose or my WHY:

To connect people and community, so that I can support life-long learning and career development.

Job hunts and employment applications take a while — regardless of who you are and when you are applying. I quit my job knowing I would need to dedicate some serious time (like a job) to this process instead of being distracted by what I was doing (e.g. online teaching, grading, writing, research, etc.) I kept an open mind and I was persistent as I explored a of employment opportunities from the top training organizations, and other companies I knew would present a number of job options for me now and in the future. In connecting to friends/peers, I made sure to find contacts within the companies to get feedback on my CV which brought my 18 pages down to 1. And, I also began to target roles that seemed more interesting beyond a title or rank, by reaching out to recruiters, head hunters, and hiring managers on LinkedIn to learn more about where my own talents best fit. Between November and December, I had a series of phone/Zoom interviews and on-site interview cycles for a variety of roles: marketing researcher, training manager, instructional designer, and organizational development consultant. These jobs were situated in personal law, finance, insurance, airlines, retail, hotels, and more. [Note: 2019 Laura did not move forward by choice or HR decision for jobs at American Airlines, Hilton, etc. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing.] All of this sounds quick, but the decision to leave and search was probably in incubation for 6-9 months prior to me accepting a new job. Additionally, this quick synopsis does not include the conversations, informational interviews, employment/org research, and reflection I put into before I went on the job market by choice.

Last December, I celebrated a milestone birthday by packing up to have a 18-day adventure to explore New Zealand. All of this was planned prior to this career crisis/job search, so I had the time and space to go off on one my last EPIC travels. Our departure to NZ had a layer in LAX where I received a call to offer me the job I wanted, and that I am currently in. For those of you who know me, I do like to take leaps (literally), but from the stellar interview experience, meeting the team I’d be working with, and getting to know the cool things I would get to be a part of — I was really excited for my new job! I’m a Sr. Instructional Designer on a global learning experience design (LXD) team, which means I am a program manager who supports learning/training design for technicians and associates in customer service at the “Smile” company. Our team trains associates on troubleshooting to support customers with their devices (e.g. Kindles, Fire tablets, Echo-family), digital products (e.g. Amazon Music, Appstore, Twitch, Games & Software Downloads), and, of course, Alexa.

This original blog post was going to describe more “about my job” — what I do and how I work with my LXD team — however, that isn’t really possible as it has been evolving over the past 9 months, and I suspect it will continue to change. I have focused on a few specific areas, but really, I support the focus and needs for how we are designing learning to improve customer service. Period. We’ve had to be agile to meet all that 2020 has tossed us and be flexible enough to adapt both on our team and within the larger organization. As they say, it is always Day 1. I believe it, as I am still learning and figuring out how to do what I do better — while jumping in to do all the things — those verbs — that I really enjoy:

  • Create training curriculum & think deeply about learning design
  • Offer and get peer review for projects
  • Ask questions to get to root problems and deep dive into issues
  • Identifying gaps or needs for our own standard of practice
  • Develop mechanisms improving our LXD
  • Support professional/career development to engage our larger team
  • Wrangle a program team for an internal conference
  • Supporting training delivery in various worldwide sites– in virtual instructor-led sessions
  • Produce a new LXD podcast to understand how learning design happens in the org
  • Localization (beyond translation) across a number of geographic regions for learners
  • Implement changes needed for accessibility and universal design for learning & training
  • Identify ways for inclusion & equity in remote teams and virtual collaboration
  • Consult with product teams, program managers, UX designers, content creators & more!
  • Tinker/Test new devices & digital products to enhance the customer service experience
  • Pilot new platforms & LX experiences with research and learning delivery experiments
  • Project management — seriously, I love a good sprint & checking off a “to do” list
  • Always be learning: SO MANY ways to add to my skill stack to “learn and be curious”

There is probably more — but that’s my quick list. You might hear me say on the regular that “I’m not really sure what I’m doing…” or “I don’t know…” — which is often true. I’ve learned that failure is probably a great teachable experience, and probably going to happen. It’s not the flaws, but what we have learned, especially if what you are working on is only 70% finished before you launch it. Everything I do is not always my favorite, but I am being challenged to think beyond what is required in my job. And, I’m grateful to be surrounded by some brilliant and thoughtful professionals who I am constantly learning from and with — seriously, everyone has a variety of education, professional, and work experience in LXD. So, I can always find someone who can compliment my own skills and knowledge when I need to complete a project or reach a goal.

That being said, this past year I have felt like an “outsider” from academia and higher education. I was not sure how or if I could contribute to (or influence?) my community of online learning, open, students support, and ed tech peers. This disconnect was more in my head, or at least it was until now. I was trying to sort out how my past professional identity and experiences connects to what I am doing now. Beyond the defined roles or rank in formal education (e.g. K-12 & Higher Ed), I was “othering” the contributions learning professionals who fall outside the formal education system. Learning design between higher ed and other industries does not have to be two rival gangs. The expertise and experiences are less binary and more complimentary than you might think.

“They grew up on the outside of society. They weren’t looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.” – The Outsiders

Really, there is so much we can learn when these LXD communities come together. Although my learning design is outside a postsecondary institution, there is so much more knowledge and applied skills we need to swap, share, and compare. I know that 2020 has brought all the weirds, and I’ve personally felt very remote from y’all, but I’m slowing coming out of my solitude/isolation incubation time. I hope to share more about what I am working on in my job and the other projects that I have been tending to this year, as it is relevant for my community in higher ed, ed tech, student affairs/advising, and online learning.


On Being Remote…

I’ve been thinking about being remote for a while. Not in the way you think. This blog post is not advice on “how to” work remotely or thrive from the home office. It’s a reckoning about what I have been thinking about over the last 9 months. The feeling of being remote is real. It starts with feeling so very far away from the things we know and love. Distant from close family, friends, and peers. Away from the concept of schedules and calendars. Time is moving along at a pace — and standing still. Sometimes months feel like years. Sometimes a day feels like a week. It feels like we have live a few lives and aged a bit in 2020.

Home has become a multipurpose space where we go to school, sit in “the office,” and find leisure time — if we can. Learning, working, and living are a blend and exist in a blur making things feel like we are living on a loop, often in the same location. With no boundaries comes uncertainty and awareness of the limitations in perpetual life cycle. And although the plant/fur/real kids help us remember to take a break, I often wonder if they are thinking, “Don’t you have somewhere to go?”

I used to be productive in my WFH office, but motivation fights with grief and bouts of guilt often pull my focus regularly. The shoulds got mixed with the coulds, with little being accomplished personally or professionally. How can I find some headspace when there is social inequity, increasing racial unrest, and health disparities wrapped in an economic divide? How small are my concerns and work, when there are larger issues looming?

Whether its Zoom rooms, virtual Teams, Twitter threads, or Instagram tales — there seems to be more technology to bring us our of isolation, yet there’s widening gap to easily disconnect. The infusion of the being wired for our waking life has us “always on” and it is emotionally and physically exhausting. Although these devices and platforms have the potential to bring us together, they seem to be pulling us further apart in thoughts, ideologies, and a common sense humanity. Always together, but often alone.

We morn the loss of our social selves. The festivals, concerts, celebrations, events, meetings, and reunions that once gathered us — are no more. Travel is a faint, distant memory only replaced by voice mails, FaceTime calls, and group text messages for/by those we love and miss. With this pivot to online the personal is on a choppy WiFi connection, and our professional identities are in a Zoom waiting room, asking, “Is this really what I want to be doing with my life?”

Transitions through turmoil and trauma persist. The always evolving issues wash over the relentless news cycles and challenge what actual community and civic responsibility means. The awakening of our fragile social structures were no fault of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, or other issues of today — but rather a slow reveal of what is needed to confront, breakdown, and rebuild. Other already felt this, the rest of us are just realizing. Returning to what was is no longer possible, nor should we want to go there. It’s time to invent what will be .

History is told by those who tell it. The power of the narrative now, is that it can be drafted and retold in a collaborative, open shared doc — by many, and not just a select few. What are the stories we should be sharing and amplifying today? How will we write ourselves into a future that actually improves how we live, work, and learn? From our educational institutions to corporate entities, we can no longer rest on our laurels to sit silently when our practices and positions have not called into question the policies and system injustices of an inexcusable status quo. This is not a time to be remote anymore. This remoteness comes from a point of privilege, and silence shows your complacency on issues that need to be addressed.

I’m sorry for being so remote. I’m back. The revolution won’t be blogged, but I hope to poke holes at things I am learning/unlearning, ways we can take action for impact, and how it is critical to be less remote and more of an ally for the change we need in the world. Let’s go on this foggy journey out of remoteness together…

Library Science, literacy, Reflections

How to #KonMari Our Personal Digital Archives

It’s the end of January. For many it is the realization that a new years goal, new habit, or personal objective has been met. For many, the start of a new year and new decade might even mean saying goodbye to old things that are taking up space in your life, i.e. clutter. Some of the clutter that is often overlooked are usually at our finger tips and in the cloud — digital clutter.

With more opportunities to create, capture, make, and share with emerging technologies, there are increasingly even more ways accumulate and hoard digital bits. We barely think twice about snapping multiple photos, as it is either on a digital camera and often on our mobile devices (that we have not thought about about in a while). I’ve been thinking about this issue since I left my university role last August. You would not be surprised to learn how much your life can get digital entwined and how much one person accumulates in terms of digital files, folders, projects, etc. in just one decade. Now factor in this digital mass with your personal devices (all of them), cloud-storage, and obsolete technologies you have collecting dust at home. Who knows what lies within our digital archives personally and professionally? [No really. Who knows?] Since I was studying this topic last year in INFO 5841, I thought I’d share my own research and reflection of what to do when downsizing these digital artifacts — or at least taking account and review if you actually need “these digital things” in your life anymore. #DoesItBringYouJoy

It is so easy to continually collect, hoard, and stockpile all things digital these day. There is such portability with how we carry these images, books, information, and content, that we rarely think twice about space or cleaning out these digital closets in our personal lives. Gunn (2018) defines the term personal digital archiving (PDA) as “the collection, management, and preservation of personal and family materials created in digital media,” (p. xi) such as photos, videos, documents, email, websites, and social media content. With our social media existence and how we contribute a large amount of digital content virtually, there is no doubt that our PDA contents could fill a digital abyss. With our tethered technologies, access to networking platforms, and ability to connect with others, there are more digital, social platforms collecting a growing number of written comments, image or photos, and media files (e.g. videos, music, & audio files) scattered among our email inboxes to an outdated device and even amassing real estate in the digital cloud to save it all.

Although organized, stored, and audited my my professional and scholarly life, I will need to confess I have neglected to offer any of my PDA the same attention. As a researcher and learning design consultant, it is critical to showcase and preserve the formal knowledge in academic journals, data repositories, conference presentations, and more via Google Scholar Citations, ORCID, and ResearchGate. Additionally, you can find my invited talks in SlideShare, educational video clips in YouTube, and training audio or podcasts archived on Soundcloud to offer examples of my learning experience design and consulting portfolio.  That being said, there has been very little accomplished with regards to formal wrangling of my digital footprint  outside of my career. We could all use some “life-changing magic of tidying up” (Kondo, 2014) when it comes to archiving our personal digital lives. The average American seems to thrive in digital clutter with an average of 582 pictures stored on their mobile, 83 websites bookmarked, at least 21 desktop icons, and 13 unused phone apps with almost 645 gigabytes stored on external space and between 1000 to 3000 unread emails (Booth, 2019).  These digital hoarding statistics and the European Commission’s (2017) goals to protect personal data with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws, it seemed like an appropriate time to deal with PDA aspects of any forgotten online accounts, untouched social media channels, rarely used apps, and even outdated, electronic hardware and/or storage devices.  With these factors and the need to consolidate personal digital archives, it was time to figure out how to get rid of this personal digital excess and unorganized mess.

The KonMari method (Kondo, 2014) of tidying up and clearing the clutter asks one question when as you decided to keep or discard an item: “Does it brings you joy?” For the thousands or millions of virtual artifacts in our personal archives, this question might be an exhausting practice as we sift through all we have collected and curated in our digital lives. There are a number of unused accounts that need to be closed, passwords that require updates, and artifacts that need to be preserved into a usable and accessible format (Palfy, 2019). In addition to this, we have to identify the apps, accounts, web services, subscriptions, and emails that need to be purged. With this purge comes sentimental values as we consider the text messages, voicemails, emails, photos, and videos we have been holding onto – along with the accounts, websites, and apps we no longer frequent; however, all are holding space on our devices, in the cloud, and, maybe within our hearts.

 Our digital lives are continuing to scale and are ubiquitous with how we live. Beyond a digital clean up, how can we preserve our memories and mementos we are creating and contributing online, in apps, and within virtual spaces? There always seems to be more cloud storage or added space on upgraded devices, that we forget to remove personal digital archives and artifacts that may no longer serve us. Also, these digital platforms and channels allow for communities to grow, experiences and events to happen, and information to be shared across the globe. This means that PDA may also impact and influence cultural institutions, museums, library collections, and other organizations, who often have little guidance for how to guide digital preservation digital collections and/or how to best guide public outreach to offer support for their digital archiving practices among community members (NDIIPP, 2013). This could include government documents, like the recent Mueller report, or even historical events and alternative news coverage, such as the Iran elections and political uprising that surged on Twitter in 2009-2010, as the platform allowed for communication and revolutionary protests.  PDA creates an individual mountain that is difficult to climb and a rising concern among community members and our society as we try to find ways to preserve digital artifacts connected to a time, place, and group of people. Specifically, how can we archive events, experiences, news, and knowledge as it is created digitally? Additionally, as platforms, digital file types, and ways to store and access evolve, what are the best methods to archive these personal artifacts? And how can we model and help others curate their personal digital artifacts and archives for digital preservation and future access?

This is a serious endeavor and tremendous feat for most individuals, let alone any community or organization that lives in digital environments. In reviewing a comprehensive guide from the American Library Association on conducting effective a PDA practices (Marshall, 2018), there are a number of suggestions for public and community audiences, academic colleagues, and individual efforts; however, this paper will target the individual level for PDA best practices. Beyond file organization, naming conventions, and storage and back up tips, Marshall (2018) expressed her growing concerns and issues every day users will have for being able to translate, apply, and put into practice archival standards set out by the library profession as it is always evolving and it can be quite complicated. The Library of Congress established outlines a toolkit for suggestions for hosting a Personal Digital Archive Day or Event at a conference or community organization, to help users answer these complicated questions about preserving personal artifacts, such as audio, video, electronic mail, digital records, websites, blogs, social media, and transferring data or files from devices to long-term storage options. Additionally, the Library of Congress has offered continued support for addressing issues and questions for PDA on their blog, The Signal, to guide how to preserve digital memories, strategies from real-world archiving experiences, outlining of potential issues/challenges, and offering a way to connect users to institutions, learning, or outreach to support PDA practices (NDIIPP, 2013). There is no shortage of PDA storage options, data repositories, and ways to preserve your memories; however, the sentimental aspects of identifying what you want to save and deciding what is most important might slow you down as you de-clutter and organize your personal artifacts, make copies, manage PDAs in different storage locations, and make places for an annual review to ensure storage system access and/or updates.

So beyond cleaning out your closets, selling back old books, or shredding your bills or paperwork, maybe it’s time to pay attention to the digital clutter that has been accumulating over the years. How do you account for your digital artifacts? Do you spend some time organizing, reviewing, and discarding these digital items? Tell me about it — I could use some suggestions for my own review.


Booth, S. (2019, February 6). [KM5] How digital hoarding may be damaging your mental health. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/are-you-a-digital-hoarder 

Gunn, C. (2018). Introduction: Putting personal digital archives in context. In B. Marshall (Ed). The complete guide to personal digital archiving, (pp xi-xxii). Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Kondo, M. (2014). The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. New York, NY: Ten Speed Press.

Marshall, B. H. (2018). The complete guide to personal digital archiving. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP). (2013). Perspectives on personal digital archiving. Library of Congress. Retrieved from http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/documents/ebookpdf_march18.pdf  

Palfy, S. (2019, January 26). How to “Marie Kondo” your digital life in 2019. The Next Web. Retrieved from https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2019/01/26/how-to-marie-kondo-your-digital-life-in-2019/

highered, Horizon Report

What’s On the Horizon [REPORT] for 2020?

For those of you who read the annual Horizon Report — you know that another one is around the corner. As EDUCAUSE has taken over the helm for the development of this technology forecast/guide for higher education, it has been interesting to see how this report is created as a member of the 2020 HR panel. After a few iterations of input, voting, slacking, emailing, side conversations, and exploring what is going on — it appears we have come to identify a few trends for postsecondary teaching and learning. Here are the six emerging technologies and practices for teaching and learning in higher ed identified for the next report:

  1. AI/Machine Learning Educational Applications
  2. Open Educational Resources
  3. Adaptive Learning Technologies
  4. Analytics for Student Success
  5. XR (AR/VR/MR/Haptic)
  6. Elevation of instructional design, learning engineering, & UX design in pedagogy

These will be flushed out further when the 2020 Horizon Report comes out; however, one critical piece of this document will need to include some examples and exemplars. EDUCAUSE would like to hear from you — the community — of professionals, scholars, educators, students, and more. They would like to learn about your projects or initiatives related to these six areas that best illustrate these technologies and practices in action. If you have any work from, for, and by postsecondary campus stakeholders — let EDUCAUSE know. If your institution or organization is working with any of the six (mentioned above) trending areas, I would encourage you to submit your project(s) or initiative(s) for the 2020 Horizon Report. [Pssst… you are more than welcome to submit more than one project/initiative.]

2020 Horizon Report Call: https://tinyurl.com/HR2020call

Are you piloting a new program? Do you have a research project on the topic you care to share? Or are you faculty evaluating and testing one of these emerging trends or practices? Let them know. Any initiative/project is welcome no matter what the form or stage you are at — seriously! The goal is provide readers of this report a more concrete sense of how these technologies and practices are playing out in higher education. If your work is applicable to any of the six, then you might be invited to author a post for the EDUCAUSE T&L blog Transforming Higher Ed.

Submit your work for the 2020 Horizon Report at: https://tinyurl.com/HR2020call

Deadline: December 4, 2019


Learn/Perform Mixtape Podcast

As I mentioned, I am actively reviewing all things learning and performance to prepare for the first Certified Professional in Learning & Performance (CPLP) exams. As I apply and interview for new opportunities, it has been fun to refresh and review theories, models, and concepts I studied in my PhD program. The CPLP shows up on a number of jobs descriptions and it seems to be sought after within industry for a number of learning design, organizational change management, and other talent development roles. To help me review all the Areas of Expertise (AOE) and sub-topics in the Association for Talent Development Competency Model, I decided to create a new podcast that focuses on workplace learning and performance called the Learn/Perform Mixtape.

Learn/Perform Mixtape – Podcast Trailer
Podcast Art for the Learn/Perform Mixtape

LISTEN & SUBSCRIBE to the Learn/Perform Mixtape podcast: https://learnperform.transistor.fm/subscribe

FFor the 80+ hours of prep, I will be preparing for these exams “out loud” by writing study notes and audio commentary about what I’m reading and reviewing. Processing the concepts and concepts from the ATD Learning System: CPLP Edition + reviewing books and journals in my own library, notes, and experience as individual podcast episodes has been very helpful for me. As a podcast host/producer, I always learn so much recording, editing, reviewing, and writing up the show notes for podcast episode. Since I use Transistor.fm to host my current podcasts, I thought why not share what I’m reviewing about learning and performance for others to hear? [FYI: A subscription to the Transistor podcast hosting platform allows you to to create and manage multiple podcasts with their own RSS feeds from one single account.]

There are a number of suggestions for how to prepare for the CPLP, like in-person workshops, online courses, and creating a local CPLP study group. Knowing myself and the time that is left, I thought the best accountability for me would be to document my progress as I prepare for the CPLP Knowledge and Skills exams. I am a voracious reader and avid podcast listener, because I just I love to learn! As self-directed learner and somewhat of an autodidact, I figured it would be fun to pull back the curtain on my study techniques to share what I am learning and how I am thinking about learning/performance today. I am less concerned about how many downloads or subscribers of the pod I have. Really, the Learn/Perform Mixtape is designed to map out the 99+ sub-sections of the 10 AOE and the Foundational Global Competencies. Also, it offers me another study tool to make these concepts and topics portable and accessible later — in both audio and written format.

Are you studying for the CPLP exams? Let’s Connect! Maybe you can join me to chat about how you are preparing or even discuss one of the AOE topics for a podcast episode. If you are listening to the podcast — thanks! Let me know what you think and share some love by posting a rating/review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you subscribe! If you are getting some value or it’s helping you to improve learning and performance for your work, I also welcome gratitude/donations as this podcast is self-sponsored labor of love. Thanks!