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Katie Gibbs’ Journey From Teacher to Instructional Designer

What were you doing before Instructional Design?

A year before I joined AIDA, I was miserable. I had a M.Ed. in Curriculum Development, had left a great (but taxing!) 20-year career in teaching a few years earlier, and found myself where I *thought* I wanted to be–working for an education non-profit. But even after 4 years there, I was earning less than half what I’d earned as a teacher, and only had 3 weeks of vacation a year. It was a stressful and rather thankless job, and I was miserable. I knew I had so much more to offer. And I wanted to LIVE.

In February 2020, I decided that I was tired of NOT being brave, tired of living scared, and ready to make a change at age “forty-eleven.” It took a ton of courage, but I decided to quit my job and take some time to figure out next steps. I’d heard of Instructional Design, and thought it sounded like a good fit with my background in education technology and teaching. So I set out to figure out how to get to my Point B


What made you decide to join Applied Instructional Design Academy (AIDA)? Did you have any hesitation about joining?

Lo and behold, I heard about Jill’s program, and attended her July 2020 Instructional Design Jumpstart workshop. I’d done a TON of research on how to get into the field of Instructional Design and eLearning. Did I want to get a second Masters? NO! I did a LOT of research in professional ID forums, and found that it was not necessary.  I saw so many people who had new M. Ed.s in Instructional Design–even Ph.D.s–and they couldn’t get jobs (and were talking about how little they knew about the *actual job* of an ID!). There are a lot of scattered resources out there–videos, webinars, podcasts, books, blog posts, etc.–but I knew I’d flounder on my own. I needed a roadmap, a mentor, and a community.

I did more research to figure out what WOULD help me, and it all pointed to: PORTFOLIO! That, and learning how to actually work in the ID field. I needed to learn about how to translate my experience teaching kids into teaching adults via e-Learning. I needed to learn about andragogy, adult learning theory, and how to develop adult learning artifacts. And I needed to develop some sample eLearning modules.

Money was a huge factor to me in what I decided to pursue in order to reach my goals. First off, I am stingy. Second, I had a limited amount of time and money to accomplish my goal of getting hired as an ID. I decided to pursue Jill’s Applied Instructional Design Academy alongside a certificate program in Instructional Design and eLearning Development through the University of Oregon. Together, these were less than the cost of another Master’s degree–which would NOT have given me a portfolio or any experience in the world of eLearning Development. I am getting practical work experience and preparation for freelance work in JIll’s program while getting on my inner nerd and updating my education creds with the OSU program.

I’d been impressed with how REAL and helpful Jill was during the July jumpstart.  Jill truly cares about each of her students. And she is so accessible, so dedicated to helping us all achieve success.


What was your experience like in Applied Instructional Design Academy?

Here’s what makes the program really valuable to me:

  • The credentials you will earn not only prepare you for real-world work, but they lead you very clearly through all the things you need to learn (using resources provided on the website)
  • The mentor sessions and coaching calls–several a week–are where you will get to ask whatever questions you want, get feedback on your work, and learn sooo much from others’ work and questions
  • There are multiple co-working sessions a week, where people just hop on Zoom, share their goals, then go on mute/video off for a good 90 minutes, and then rejoin to share and ask questions. These are soooo valuable, and I cannot give them enough credit for my progress (they were started while I was in the program)
  • And did I mention community? I am SO not the rah-rah type, but I truly feel like I’ve made lifelong friends in this group–and we will always be resources for each other as we grow our careers. In fact, I’ve already gotten contract work through another member who I met in a co-working session!

The best news is that the Applied Instructional Design Academy just keeps getting better!. A Master’s program won’t offer this, and will cost you double or triple. The co-working sessions, the coaching calls, the working groups, and the *community* of this group are unrivaled. The personal network I’ve built just keeps expanding. I am excited to finish up, because I am starting to get recruiters pinging me via LinkedIn! I can’t wait to sign my first freelance contract!

There were many times I thought success was for others; that’s not true. You work the program, and when you feel like you’re floundering (and you will!) people are THERE to prop you up and help you. And sure enough, one by one, everyone who started with me started with a contract here, a longer contract there, that turned into a job, and lo and behold, now even I am working on 2 projects now! ME!!!

So yes, it’s a lot of money. But I truly do believe that it will cost you more in the long run in lost opportunity to go it on your own.

What are you doing now?

I started getting contracts while in AIDA and have been working pretty much full-time since May 2021–a month after graduation–doing really interesting contract work (through an agency) for Google and some autonomous vehicle companies. Member of AIDA have continued to be a constant source of support even though we have long since graduated. In fact, I heard about this opportunity from a fellow AIDA member who was working at the same agency!


How has your life changed? 

I love the freedom of doing contract work and flexibility of working from home!

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