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Training Spotlight: Amy Norton of SOS Intl

Aug. 15, 2019
Amy Norton, an instructional designer and marketing coordinator for SOS Intl, talks about the importance of engaging learners and creating well-designed training content.

Q: How does your current position help you in developing training —and how does your past experience help you in this role?
A: I was hired by SOS in 2010 as a marketing coordinator. Although I continue to actively work on marketing projects, my role has expanded and includes designing and developing training delivery tools and content for our students. Both roles – marketing coordinator and instructional designer – allow me the opportunity to examine the needs and habits of our learners. Once those needs are determined, I develop products and services using various platforms such as training videos, podcasts, infographics, and PowerPoints. 

Over the years, I’ve seen the way we use training delivery tools change rapidly. For example, video has become an important platform to help deliver content and provide demonstrations. Videos explain everything quickly, boost conversations, and build trust. Implementing video training was a natural transition from marketing to training. 

Q: When and why did you decide to go into your particular career field?
A: At a young age, I always enjoyed taking art classes, taking pictures, and being creative. In college, I gravitated to the marketing field because it had an interesting amount of business, psychology, and design intermingled.  I still find marketing to be an exciting field that is constantly evolving, much like training for the utility industry. I truly believe if you aren’t evolving and changing, you aren’t growing.

Q: What is the best thing about your job right now? 
A: At SOS, we’ve added green screen technology, updated our equipment and improved our design software to enhance our video training quality. You only have a few seconds to capture the attention of your learners, and ultimately four minutes to keep their attention. So, it’s important to be very deliberate about the content and demonstrations included in videos.

Implementing video and using new technology to improve learning is a very exciting opportunity. Statistics show video training is a great medium to support learning and improve retention.

Q: What courses and content have you developed in the past, and what’s coming up? 
A: As we are all aware, cybersecurity is a big deal in the energy industry. SOS is helping our clients understand how important it is to ensure the safety of the bulk electric system by integrating videos into training projects.

Also, we recently released our Systematic Approach to Training Overview online course. We reconfigured our instructor-led course and made it more accessible and repeatable for our students.

In the future, I anticipate adding micro-training, or bite-sized learning, into custom training projects. I’m always thinking of ways to improve our existing training with videos to up our game and enhance learner retention.  

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your past experience as an instructional designer that you want to communicate to trainers, students or participants? 

A: Each day, all of us are bombarded with new information on various topics. As a designer, it’s our job to enhance the usefulness of this information without detracting from it. Make learning enjoyable by including relative, updated, engaging and interesting platforms that support the content for your learners.

Q: Why do you think your job as an instructional designer is important to the industry? How does it help the students and the utilities?
A: Improving training to enhance learning retention is important in our industry. System operators are highly-trained men and women that work very hard to keep our lights on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How we effectively train them is essential to maintaining the reliability of our grid. 

Instructional designers are responsible for capturing the information the operators are required to know in a format that is engaging. When learners are engaged, they retain information. When they retain information, they transfer that information to the job. When information is transferred to the job, they can recall it when needed. Well-designed training content means well-trained employees.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time—do you see that as a complete escape or an extension of your career?
A: When I have time to spare, I really like to do hot yoga. I’ve been a yoga instructor for many years and love to educate people on the benefits. Since my boss goes to yoga as well, it’s literally an extension of my career. 

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