Grand Caffeinated Adventures in Mentoring: Penn State ID-2-ID Joint Reflection

By Zach Lonsinger and Jeff Puhala

Project Deliverable for Penn State’s ID-2-ID Program

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”

– John C. Crosby

As any grand adventure, our journey began shooting for the stars. We immediately agreed on creating a presentation based around our experiences working on the Canvas Project. The goal of this presentation was to create something that could also duel as a conference proposal/presentation. This goal lasted until our first in-person meeting at Starbucks. Over two highly-caffeinated beverages, we transitioned our focus to a research project that would examine the presence of an instructional designer(s) at each Penn State college and campus. Do colleges/campuses with instructional designers experience higher faculty satisfaction compared to colleges/campuses without any instructional design support? How does this factor into course development? Student engagement? All great questions, all very time consuming research!

Well, the caffeine wore off and the holidays arrived. Before we knew it, we were coming back from holiday break. Reenergized, we were ready to tackle our little monster of a research project! However, January was full throttle for the both of us. New semester meant new courses, and new courses meant an influx in Canvas trainings and course conversions. Trainings happened and courses were converted, we drank more coffee and one of us accepted and started a new position (keep reading to find out who!), and then it was February. Whoops. What about our research project?! It’s a good thing the Horizon Report is published in February.

Zach:  “Let’s do a shared reading and blog reflection on the Horizon Report.”

Jeff:  “Great idea. We could even compare it to our current work on the Canvas Project.”

Zach:  “There’s even a section on ‘Next-Generation LMS’. Perfect.”

And now here we are, drinking what may or may not be coffee, illustrating our grand adventures through this wonderful program. So, what did we do? Here are some more over-caffeinated thoughts on our ID-2-ID experiences. Enjoy!

Our collaboration has been unique because we both worked on the Canvas Project. Jeff served as a trainer at the beginning of the mentorship program and Zach served as an instructional designer. The joint collaboration led to increased productivity in training, course conversion, and networking across Penn State.

During our mentorship experience, we met in person and talked frequently at Canvas training sessions, which Jeff led and Zach assisted, through email and on Yammer chat. During one event, we had the privilege to travel together to the Worthington-Scranton campus with a third Canvas team member for a training session. The combination of in-person and virtual conversations led to a rich experience.

Our conversations revolved around job searching and the skills and training needed by an instructional designer to successfully find a full-time position. While Zach served in a temporary role as an instructional designer, Jeff was in a temporary role as a trainer. We spoke frequently about the skills needed to transition from trainer to instructional designer. Jeff completed LDT415A through the Penn State World Campus and used Zach’s exemplar project, included in the course, to learn how to design training materials and academic courses using the Dick Carey and Carey model, or ADDIE. Jeff’s team project received a near perfect score at the end of the semester and introduced him to the development process used in the instructional design setting.

The continual conversations and mentorship paid off. Jeff applied for an instructional designer position at the College of Nursing, where Zach used to work as an instructional production specialist. Jeff was able to learn about the College of Nursing through Zach’s positive experiences as an instructional production specialist. As part of the interview process, Jeff used the LDT 415A final project as part of the requested work sample. The College of Nursing offered Jeff the position, which he accepted and now works at full-time.

Zach continued to collaborate with Jeff in his new role. The College of Nursing course conversion was underway; however, prior to Jeff’s arrival, the College of Nursing did not utilize the services of TLT where Zach served as an instructional designer. Collaboration between the TLT course conversation team and the College of Nursing is underway at the time of this writing. This collaboration went smoothly due to the relationships developed in the ID-2-ID program.

We believe the ID-2-ID program can benefit both the mentor and mentee. While Zach helped Jeff with training sessions, Zach also developed and delivered his first online and in-person training session, and his first conference presentation. Zach tapped into Jeff’s reservoir of conference experiences, as Jeff has presented at multiple conferences. Our conversations were a key element in the success of Zach’s first presentations. These experiences and conversations expanded Zach’s skillset as an instructional designer and trainer. We still plan to co-present at a future conference.

We are thankful to have been paired together. Our skillsets were different, but complimentary. We learned from each other and advanced our careers. We are proud to have been associated with the ID-2-ID program and look forward to continued collaboration.

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Strengths, Weaknesses, & Teams

Image of a chain with the quote overlaid over top of it, "You think it's a weakness? Make it a strength. It's a part of you. So use it."

Well, hi again. It’s been 11 months since we last spoke, and as you can see from my most recent blog post before this, I’m a fan of doing this. I don’t think I picked up another hobby as I mentioned previously, but I am getting married in 36 days. Two weeks before that, I’m moving into a new home. So busy busy busy.

Weakness: blogging consistently.

Strength: not hitting 1 year of no blog posts. #win

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on strengths and weaknesses, especially mine. I just graduated with my M.Ed. in Learning, Design, and Technology in May and started a new position as an Instructional Designer in February. Over the course of my graduate studies and not only starting a new position, but being a part of team inside a capital project at Penn State, it has opened my eyes even more to my strengths and weakness. Being a team player was always one of my strengths. I work well independently as well as in a team. I knew this, or did I? It wasn’t until I had to depend on other team members that I realized it’s been quite a while since I had to do this—since high school.

In high school, I ran cross country. Talk about an independent sport that required team dependence more than anything. You could individually win a race, but lose the entire meet because of your team. This required a great deal of dependence on your team to run well, too.

Fast forward 8 years, and all seems too familiar. Individually winning races does not do much for the team; it helps, but to win and be successful, a team effort is required. Sometimes we need to sacrifice our own win in lieu of helping another team member win their race. It’s been a while, but the true meaning of working together on a team is coming back to me…and it’s fantastical!