Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
For my first co-op work term, I worked as an E-learning Developer/Technician in the Faculty of Continuing Education at Seneca College with the Centre for Flexible Learning (cFLEX) Design. Along with three other co-op students, we develop and create, individually and as a team, interactive online learning content from scratch and ensure that they fall within set standards (i.e. AODA and Copyright Compliance among others). These projects and developed content could vary from degree, post-grad and corporate-level training courses that cater to a variety of audiences.
As the largest continuing education faculty in Ontario, everything that we do affect approximately 30,000 online students enrolled with the college excluding those who are with our corporate partners. Realizing this, it meant every change and action we make to the course modules we handle affect close to the number of students at University of Waterloo’s campus alone. Coming into the job, I didn’t realize the expanse of our responsibilities but it did impact how I perceived my role after hearing this from our supervisor during our orientation week. During my work term at cFLEX Design, I was fortunate enough to have undergone unaccountable yet varied instances that have changed my views and the course of actions I take when given small and large tasks.
My main responsibility at work was to create interactive online learning content from its initial stages of ideation, preparation and development until its final stages. This final phase involved an immeasurable amount of editing from the team to ensure that every element of the module (i.e. a set of online pages that works much like a PowerPoint presentation) is working, each information incorporated are cited correctly, copyright claims are legitimate, and accessibility standards are adhered to. I have also been tasked to review my colleagues’ works, refine previous modules developed by past co-op students, contact subject matter experts (SMEs) and other integral members of the team as well as conduct presentations in meetings whenever required. All this is done with the goal of utilizing active learning to not only ignite each student’s passions but also to provide an inclusive platform for everyone.
While each course could consist of up to 12-15 modules, constructing one online module alone typically takes about 3-5 days depending on the content required by the course instructors. Completion of one course could take from a few weeks to several months and at times some courses, typically those that are to be offered the next semester, would need to be finalized within a few short weeks. This factor makes time our most crucial competition.
I have been an E-learning Developer at cFLEX design for almost three months now, and over the course of my stay I am more than lucky to say that I have become more matured and accomplished than what I thought possible. I came into the job inexperienced, to say the very least, although I’ve had previous experiences outside of Canada this job was my very first in a private company setting. But becoming self-aware of this factor and being open to mistakes taught me that in order to properly grasp difficult concepts, I must first start from the ground up. Similar to how any building is erected, it must start with a sturdy framework to become substantial and practical. If not for this framework, the structure would be deemed useless and wasteful of its resources. Likewise, if we were not taught about the basics of Articulate 360, the main program cFLEX Design uses, we would rely heavily on senseless judgment and exhaust ourselves on figuring out what works and what does not over longer periods of time.
When we were handed our own projects after the orientation week, I thought it was going to be a breeze as I had done quite well on our practice assignments – was I ever wrong. My previous experience in the design industry was advantageous, but having to handle such a huge responsibility of constructing a fully working online module that would not only keep students interested but also ensuring that each educational element is not neglected was far out of the ordinary. Although I have taken online classes before, I was not exposed to the various sides of what goes into the processes nor was I familiar with how much time and effort was required to complete each one. This is where I struggled immensely at work as I was used to working by myself as a freelancer and the fear of not contributing enough to the team overwhelmed my thoughts for the first few weeks.
From the very beginning, I was fearful of how my performance was going to affect my team as a whole. Even during my study terms, there have been instances where I blamed myself for getting caught up over the littlest details or of the silly mistakes I have made. This habit of mine, unfortunately, also translated to how I was at work. Even though my supervisor commended my attention to detail as a good trait to have and gave me the huge responsibility of providing the final feedback to my colleagues’ works, it made me more fearful of failing the team. It resulted in me spending more time than what was needed and being consumed over details that I didn’t need to focus so much on. I recognized how unhealthy it has become when I was partnered with a colleague for a course that was set to be offered this coming semester. Since this course has been postponed repeatedly, the window of opportunity to finish every unit is rather small. My colleague and I have worked together on a team building activity beforehand and have also done peer reviews together, but based on these experiences, I have realized that there seems to be a huge gap on how we do our work. Nonetheless, I did not allow the negative thoughts to overshadow the positive results that could arise out of our collaboration.
The course was initially handled by myself, however, as I was handling another course my supervisor assigned my colleague to assist me with the one that needed to be released first. My colleague and I decided that it would be easier to divide the work by taking up a module each and coming together at the end of the day to peer review each other’s works. The first few days went as plan, but after a having discussed which changes we should work on, my colleague has started to stray from the main ideas of our instructional designer and has instead followed her own. Although our organization grants us complete liberty of what we believe is best for the work that we do, my colleague and I had completely deviated into two different design and component structures. Our supervisor had taken notice of this and had pointed out the areas that my colleague had made changes. I felt a sense of guilt, but we both decided to put it behind us and she was more open to making the needed changes in the end.
Our differences may be apparent in how we handled our work, but I see this occurrence as a positive catalyst to self-improvement and growth. I learned the importance of understanding conflicting ideas and perspectives by listening actively to my colleague. I was able to build a stronger rapport not only with my colleague but also with myself. Learning to understand myself better taught me to be grounded and acknowledge the skills that I could offer to the team no matter how limited it could be. Although this experience was brief, it cultivated in me the importance of being flexible through adversities and the difference positively resolving make as we were able to maximize each of our strengths as a team and minimize any possible discord. All of these lessons are much like the bricks of a building I have discussed beforehand; it has given me a much more solid framework of thinking and attitude in dealing with conflicts inside and outside of my work. It has definitely shaped me for a better tomorrow and going forward, I am confident that no matter how unpredictable the situation is, I would be able to work through it in a rational attitude.
Considering what I know now, an ideal job to me would be in a position wherein I could not only grow but also become more familiar with the realm of the industries I want to work in someday such as Urban Planning or Geographic Information System (GIS). Coming into 12th grade, I did not know what I had initially wanted as I have had overlapping interests in the arts and STEM programs when university applications rolled in and this could also be said of how I was when the first round of co-op applications opened. Because of this reason, I applied to a diverse number of jobs that I know would challenge how I am as a person and push me outside of my comfort zone. In the end, I opted for Seneca College for its unique environment and interesting approach to creating an all-inclusive educational platform.
Ideally, I would like to be a part of a company that directly works with communities and the public. If given the chance, I would use the opportunity to impart what I have learned in my studies and provide support to those who are in need. As an E-learning Developer at Seneca College, our communication with students or any individual external of our projects were very limited. Growing up, I have always loved engaging inside and outside of my community as well as volunteering whenever I had time to spare. I could recall occasions of my parents telling me of all the places I could volunteer at and how I immediately light up and become eager. Wherever and whatever it may be, you could be certain that I will be there rain or shine. This is the same passion I would like to devote to communities or groups that I may work with in the near future.
Furthermore, I want to also challenge myself in seeking for opportunities outside of the province as I was hesitant in doing so. I have always been fond of travelling around the world, familiarizing myself with each country’s culture and history, but most importantly, I yearn of hearing about the stories of every person I meet. This attitude taught me to celebrate my own mistakes, become appreciative of my shortcomings and value my differences from others. But my outlook towards this idea became different when work got involved. The fear of being away from what I know as the norm coupled with thoughts of regret overwhelmed my decisions regarding where I wanted to be situated in for my first co-op term. I struggled with self-doubt, but it made me come to the conclusion that in reality, there are no clear-cut answers to all the questions I may have in my head before applying to each job and I will only end up losing more opportunities if I allow negative thoughts to overpower my thinking. With this in mind, I want to set a goal for myself to confront my inner fears by exploring more of the jobs outside of the province and become more familiar with situations that I would usually doubt myself doing. Focusing my attention on the bigger picture would help me assess the things I truly value and become honest with myself in recognizing the very reasons on why I choose to do the things I do now.