April Staff Spotlight: Lynn Healy

by Loren Guay

Staff Spotlight: Lynn Healy

This month, we’re spotlighting our newest team member, learning designer Lynn Healy! Read more about Lynn’s journey to Distance Learning in the post below.

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

I began my journey as a college instructor of face-to-face classes in 2003 and then switched to fully synchronous and asynchronous online teaching in 2017, when my family and I moved to Texas. After defending my dissertation in 2014 on human rights, ethnicity, and gender in Peru, I turned my research interests and creative efforts to effective teaching practices and course design.

This became particularly urgent and important to me when I took a position at a university whose students had been largely underserved. I realized that my role as an instructor was not just “teaching” and “assessing” my students’ work, but, more importantly, cultivating supportive relationships with my students and implementing practices to help them succeed. Then, in 2019-2020, I worked as a success coach for seniors in an online high school. This experience deepened my passion for helping students succeed and highlighted the importance of thoughtfully designed courses.

I started as an instructional designer in January of 2021. Although once a naysayer of online classes (a sentiment informed by my lack of knowledge and fear of those unknown and murky waters), my research and experience have shown me that online spaces can be just as effective as face-to-face learning. My work with instructors allows me to guide them as they develop their approaches to teaching, while simultaneously co-creating online spaces in which students can flourish.

Describe your typical “Day in the Life.”

Typically, I start my day with a big cup of coffee and a cup of ice (yes, I’m an ice-eater!) as I review emails, articles, and identify professional development opportunities. Once awake (and cold), I review the day’s meetings, finalize agendas, and ensure that I am on track with my course developments. Depending on the course and the project, I might spend time reviewing content from an instructor and providing feedback, or I might brainstorm ideas with a team member or with colleagues at other institutions.

A bright and comfortable computer desk with monitors, computer chair, water glass, and a shelf with books and sunflowers.
Lynn’s work from home space.

When time allows, I research trends in online teaching and learning and reflect on my strengths and growth areas. I’m currently reading Next Generation Genres (Early) and Equity by Design: Delivering on the Power and Promise of UDL (Chardin and Novak), and I keep a copy of Small Teaching Online (Darby) on my desk for inspiration when I find myself stuck. I also try to find about 30 minutes to run every day (on my treadmill—it’s usually too hot in Texas for me to run outside), and then I drink coffee and snack on some more ice or peanut M&M’s while I work!

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

There are so many ways to grow your skills as an instructional designer! The job isn’t just about developing courses; it’s about project management, research, learning to collaborate with diverse personalities and approaches, developing people skills, becoming a better human, coaching, and reflecting.

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

I love Microsoft Planner and Lists for project management. I know, they aren’t the most exciting things in the world, but as a working mom with three young boys, I have a whole new appreciation for these tools! The discussion groups for instructional designers and instructional technologists on EDUCAUSE have been a great resource as well. They’re an excellent way to learn about conferences, what folks are doing at other institutions, and to share resources related to emerging trends, like generative AI.

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

In the three years between my MA and PhD, I worked as an adjunct all around the Chicago area. I also took a job through a temp agency to supplement my income. For four weeks, I filled bottles of different types of salad dressing (for display purposes only). I would come home reeking of Thousand Island, Ranch, or the flavor of the day.

On a humorous level, I learned that I really don’t like most of the salad dressing out there. But on a deeper level, after the job ended and my apartment aired out, I had time to reflect and recognize my unearned privilege. I thought about the people I had worked with and how this was supporting their families as they searched for full-time work. I thought about my own arrogance at thinking the job was somehow beneath me, even though it paid more than I earned as an adjunct. I thought about how fortunate I was to have had a job, and that there are more difficult and lower paying ones out there.

Let’s wrap it up by saying that, nearly twenty years later, I realize just how fortunate I am now that I have a job that inspires me, fulfills me, and gives me space to grow.


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 DL newsletter (The DL Digest) and check out the rest of the Distance Learning blog!