February Staff Spotlight: Heather Brown

by Loren Guay

Staff Spotlight: Heather Brown

This month, we’re spotlighting Learning Designer Heather Brown! In the interview below, Heather 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 started with DL at the end of January 2022. I have worked as a Learning Designer since 2013, primarily serving graduate and professional studies programs in not-for-profit higher education institutions. I’ve been teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in English studies since 2004, and as of 2013 I transitioned from hybrid to fully online course delivery.

Describe your typical “Day in the Life.”

My typical day, as with many people, is often filled with emails, meetings, and more emails…That said, learning design itself has a great deal of variety baked in. For example, one day might begin in a brainstorm session with an Instructional Technologist team member to determine the best way to approach a media plan for a given course. Then, I might hop over to a Distance Learning consultation with a faculty member who wants to revamp their use of Discussion Boards. The rest of the day is likely spent making progress toward completing new course developments and revisions for the upcoming quarter, attending to the unique concerns of each project.

Overall, I would say my days are marked by a satisfying mixture of collaboration, problem solving, and creativity.  

A tree-lined residential street lit with sunlight on a beautiful clear day.
Heather’s lovely walk down her Andersonville street to catch the bus to the DL office.

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

Something people might find surprising is that as much as doing this work relies on drawing from a bank of expertise on best practices for adult learning design, it’s just as valuable to practice active forgetting.  

What I mean by this is that in every course I design in partnership with a faculty developer, I come to the project from an entry point that requires me to set aside any prior knowledge or ideas I might have about what the course has been or will become. An approach that works well in one course might have no business showing up in another, and keeping a stance of openness to the needs of a particular course enables me to be present, attentive, and responsive. To quote Emily Dickinson, “I dwell in possibility.” 

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

Lately I’m excited about Adobe Express, which has all the same functionality and content as Adobe Spark and Adobe Illustrator but allows me to more quickly and easily create graphics, collages, flyers, videos, and animations with access to loads of templates, images, icons, and effects.  

What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever had? Did it give you any interesting takeaways?

I’ve had a lot of work experience in my life (babysitting, maid service, food service, landscaping, to name a few), and each one has taught me something valuable. I’m someone who really enjoys trying different kinds of food, and I owe that to my exposure to different types of cuisine from working in restaurants. Before then I was a much pickier eater— I was probably 24 before I tried an avocado! 

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!