Staff Spotlight: Matt Cockerell, Instructional Designer

We sat down with Matt Cockerell, a new Instructional Designer working predominately on the East Falls campus, to get to know how he’s enjoyed working at Thomas Jefferson University so far. Read our Q&A to learn more about Matt and find out how he can assist faculty.

Welcome to Thomas Jefferson University! Tell us a little bit about your background: how long have you been working at Jefferson and what brings you here?

I began working at Thomas Jefferson University at the beginning of November 2020. I come most recently from Drexel University (2018-2020) where I served as a senior instructional designer. At Drexel, I worked closely with faculty and administrators in the College of Engineering and the Kline School of Law.  Before Drexel, I was an instructional designer with the University of Kentucky (2011-2018).  While with the University of Kentucky, I was part of the College of Communication and Information, specifically the School of Information Science.   

What is your title?  How do you see your role within the university and who do you serve/work with?

My title is Curriculum and Instructional Design Specialist. My role is partnering with administrators, faculty and other subject-matter experts to design high-quality educational experiences. These experiences fall across a wide spectrum. They can be as broad as a degree program or as narrow as a particular learning activity. The middle of this spectrum can include an individual course or a single learning module.

I use evidence-based based practices and adult learning theory to guide my advice. I strive to ensure that materials, activities, and assessments are aligned with the respective learning goals and objectives. I also advise and train faculty on the implementation of technology into the classroom.

What interested you in joining the team at Thomas Jefferson University?

The strength of the Jefferson brand was undoubtedly a factor! I initially discovered Thomas Jefferson University while searching for new challenges and opportunities in my career. Upon learning more about TJU, I found a unique combination of campuses, a wide variety of technical resources, and a large community of talented individuals. It seemed like a great environment to join.

How has it been so far? It must be challenging – or at least very different – starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic!

It has been very different! From contactless laptop pickup outside of Search Hall to regular Zoom meetings with my coworkers, it has not mirrored my experience starting a new job during “normal” times. However, I would not characterize it as challenging.  Everyone has been accommodating and understanding. I felt welcome from the start and know I can reach out for assistance and collaboration opportunities.  

What is something you want faculty to know about how you can support them? Why should they work with an instructional designer?

I want faculty to know that I can support them in a variety of ways. I desire for faculty not to be hesitant to partner with an instructional designer. We are not here to pass judgment or scold. By training faculty on proper technology implementation and advising on course design, we help faculty excel in one of their most substantial areas – teaching.

What is your favorite educational technology tool and why?

One of my favorite tools is a product called Articulate, in particular an app named Storyline. It is a powerful software that allows you to create a wide range of learning activities. Storyline enables the learner to interact with the presentation. 

For example, we can present the learner with a video lesson or a PowerPoint presentation. After introducing particular concepts, we can submit questions to the learner for a knowledge check to reinforce learning. The learner can choose an answer by responding in various ways: clicking, dragging and dropping, ranking, etc. 

With Storyline, you can employ branching and flow logic allowing the learner to experience a custom path. These paths can help automate access to further readings or remediation activities. Storyline can also create graded assessments and integrates well with Canvas. You may have experienced a Storyline product during a web-based HR training at some point in your career.

What advice do you have for faculty members trying to adjust to teaching online?

Two meme-like phrases come to mind: “You’ve got this!” and “Stay Calm and Teach On.” Although faculty may feel like the entire classroom environment changes when moving online, they are still the subject-matter experts and they still know how to teach.  By partnering with an instructional designer to identify the proper technics and tools for their course, they can focus more on teaching.

I also recommend that faculty reach out to their peers with experience in the online environment.  These personal connections can be a wealth of knowledge.    

If a faculty member wants support from an instruction designer, how can they get in touch with you?

The easiest way to get in contact with me directly is via email at matthew.cockerell@jefferson.edu.  When campus activities ramp back up, I will have a presence on the East Falls and Center City Campus.  Until then, we can always connect through Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate.

When you’re not helping faculty and students at Jefferson, how do you like to spend your time?

Lately, I find myself spending most of my time at home with my wife and dog.  We still enjoy walks in the nearby Pennypack Preserve and the accompanying trails. We go down the shore whenever we get the chance. Our favorite quiet beach is Bayhead, NJ.  I spend time gardening, cooking, and listening to music. Before the pandemic, we loved to travel and experience live music. Here’s hoping those activities can resume safely soon!

Welcome to the team, Matt!