October Staff Spotlight: Krissy Wilson

by Loren Guay

Staff Spotlight: Krissy Wilson

This month, we’re spotlighting Senior Learning Designer Krissy Wilson! In the interview below, Krissy tells us more about her work with Distance Learning.

How long have you worked here? How did you come to join the DL team / get involved in distance education?

I joined the Distance Learning team as a Learning Designer in November 2015 (almost 7 years ago now!) and was promoted to Senior Learning Designer in the summer of 2018. Before coming to Northwestern SPS, I was an Instructional Designer at DePaul University in the School for New Learning (now School of Continuing and Professional Studies), working with faculty to develop engaging and accessible online coursework for adult learners.

However, my path to distance education was not linear! Before I took a job as an eLearning Content Developer after graduate school, I was a special collections assistant in a collection of artists’ books, developed library and museum exhibitions, cataloged rare books, digitized archival materials, taught and tutored undergraduate students, and worked at an Apple retail store. When I discovered there was a profession that combined pedagogy, graphic and web design, writing, and technology, it felt like a natural fit.

Describe your typical “Day in the Life.”

For me, no two days are the same. That’s one aspect of this job I really enjoy! On any given day, I may be:

  • Coaching faculty on pedagogy and technology topics in online course development meetings
  • Providing detailed feedback on faculty-created documents
  • Getting hands-on with course development, from building course sites to designing graphics and interactives
  • Corresponding about project status and curriculum with course development stakeholders
  • Co-facilitating one of our online faculty development courses
  • Developing presentations for delivery at local and national distance learning conferences; writing blog posts and book chapters on distance learning topics
  • Collaborating with Distance Learning peers on internal projects, such as our Quality Review Rubric and participating in the Technology Committee
  • Collaborating with academic team peers on program-wide or school-wide projects, such as development of Osher Online, a new online program with a national reach for older adults; the new online undergraduate program’s portfolio sequence; and course site templates for the new Healthcare Administration (HCA) program

And that’s just for my role as a Learning Designer! I also teach professional communication in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at DePaul University, so I am often engaged in online teaching tasks such as writing announcements, answering student messages, participating in discussions, grading, and providing feedback on written work.

On top of that, I’m a coworking streamer on Twitch, so I regularly lead three-hour streams structured into 25-minute work sessions with 5-minute chat and game breaks. As a community, we help hold each other accountable as we work and study remotely.

Krissy's Twitch coworking setup with smaller inset screens, large clock in background, and office
Krissy and her Twitch streaming setup.

What’s something about your job that might surprise readers?

One common myth about instructional designers is that they are strictly for technical support, or that the relationship is transactional (perhaps receiving content from faculty members and building out the course site). My approach is much more collaborative, and I often approach a course development like a writing workshop: we draft work, provide feedback and discuss, and make changes.

What’s your favorite resource or tool that not many people know about?

Although this is not necessarily an obscure tool, I would love for instructors to consider using a simple graphic design tool like Canva as a teaching and facilitation tool. For example, I love creating custom headers for announcements. They add polish and help catch students’ attention! I also quickly created thumbnails for Panopto videos and a Gantt chart to help students visualize course activities that extend over multiple weeks of the course.

Tell us something you’re passionate about.

I am a volunteer with Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM)! We “[work] to protect and recover migratory birds that are killed and injured in the downtown Chicago area each spring and fall migration.” Stunned birds are collected and driven out of the city to continue their migration; injured birds are taken to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center Clinic. Dead birds are bagged and donated to the Field Museum to be logged and studied.

As a kid, I thought I’d grow up be a scientist of some kind; volunteering with CBCM allows me to be a citizen scientist and make a small difference. I also get to walk around the city at daybreak and watch the sun rise. It’s a fantastic way to meet people and connect with the city of Chicago.


The Distance Learning team is part of the Northwestern School of Professional Studies (SPS). To keep up with news, staff spotlights, online education insights and more, subscribe to the new DL newsletter (The DL Digest) and check out the rest of the Distance Learning blog!