1 Practitioner Profile – Brom Kim
Practitioner Profile: Brom Kim
There are few people who motivate us in life. If we’re lucky we can find someone with passion
and fervor for shared interests who is willing to teach and guide us. So many of us get caught up
in the rapid day-to-day routines that we lose sight of what we do, and more importantly, why we
do it. However, some people have a unique perspective of the world and take the time to analyze
their surroundings and influences. These people are able to look beyond the surface and see
what really matters. They know why they do what they do. They know how to move forward and
break the routine – break the mold. Brom Kim is one of these people.
I met Brom approximately three years ago when I fell into the profession of instructional design.
I’ve had a passion for writing my whole life and was excited to find a profession where I could
earn a living doing it. However, writing and applying instructional design theories and methods
are two very different skills. Brom taught me that. He was the manager of my new department.
But more than that, he was and is a mentor. I have never before or since had the luxury of a
manager who strives to improve his employees and plays a personal role in doing so.
Brom had a vision, an environment resistant to change, and a rag-tag group of former trainers
who thought developing curriculum was easy. Through patience, perseverance, a strong
understanding of instructional design, and the unique ability to explain it to a novice, Brom took
his meager resources and created one of the most innovative curriculum development teams in
the local industry. He taught us the basics of instructional design principles, but most
importantly, he taught us how to apply them. He created new foundations and organizational
structures for the department and changed the way it ran. How often do you receive an
education and a pay check all in one?
Brom motivated me to strive for excellence. He made me look at my job as a career, and I thank
him for that. He has since moved on from the company where we met and is an independent
instructional design consultant and contractor. This assignment allowed me the opportunity to
learn more about his new role and to see how he views the current trends of instructional design
2 Practitioner Profile – Brom Kim
Q. How would you describe yourself in general? As a professional? And how do those two
aspects fit together?
A. As an individual, I like to learn. As a professional, I don’t like to stand still. When I run out
of space, I move on. I am not unkind, impatient, or arrogant. Caution is fine, but I have limited
patience for change resistance for its own sake.
Q. I understand that you’ve had a number of different occupations and positions on your road
to becoming and instructional designer and consultant. Can you please list your previous jobs
and explain how they have impacted you or prepared you for your current role?
A. All work experience is relevant, since we are called on to build diverse instruction for diverse
audiences and skills. The high point for me was as a pro ski and snowboard instructor. I taught
a lot of folks to ski and enjoy the winter mountain environment. I also learned a lot about
instructing and learning.
Q. What motivated you to move into instructional design?
A. I made up my mind right after undergrad that creatively combining multi-media, learning,
and computing would be great fun, and it has been. Database and Web development have also
been central to recent work.
Q. What is your educational background and how has it helped prepare you in the field of
instructional design and technology?
A. I consider my childhood and work experience as important as formal education. I have a BA
in history and anthropology, and an MA in instructional design and technology. The
anthropology minor has been useful in instructional design.
3 Practitioner Profile – Brom Kim
Q. What kind of knowledge, training, or experience do you believe is necessary to succeed as an
instructional designer in today’s workforce?
A. “You don’t need to create ROI… just buy my talking PowerPoint… move along…”
If you have ever taken more than a few corporate talking PowerPoint trainings, how much do
you enjoy them? I am not some Luddite curmudgeon, but the field is called “instructional
design,” not “forget design, let’s go build stuff.”
Engagement doesn’t come from a computer or a trainer, rather from the same things that have
always motivated learners, including such corny, frivolous items as the joy of figuring things out
that are relevant to your existence.
To give learners this experience, it helps to do some observing and thinking on what folks need,
and the best ways to get it to them. Analysis and design are practical common sense activities
that anyone can do, that have not gone out of style, but while temporarily obscured, are more
important than ever, by golly.
Q. Technology is a large part of instructional design. How do you apply technology to improve
instructional design and the learning experience?
A. I can do the talking PowerPoint, the branching simulation, Flash simulation, the .swf,
the .flv, the InDesign, the Snake, the Monkey, the Tiger….
Economists and meteorologists do complex modeling of big, variable, difficult to predict things.
I think computing has applications in all phases of instructional design work, not just
development. I see a lot of work on large programs coming from more whimsy than data.
The essence of good design, to me, is making a lot of small, informed decisions about things that
add up to big conclusions. Keeping track of, sorting, filtering, and matching data makes this
possible, where an individual’s memory would lose track of the big picture.
Also, communication options via new technology are great. I recently did a project with folks on
the east coast using Skype and SharePoint for collaboration. I don’t think anything was missed
because of geography, but the time and cost savings were great. Half the time I work in an
office, I use email and IM with folks I know well to save time and give them the option of
reading asynchronously. Spending in-person time with co-workers is important. Commuting is a
4 Practitioner Profile – Brom Kim
Q. How do you use instructional design methods and models?
A. People get wound up about applying learning theory and models. I just start with a problem
or general area I am thinking about, and do some general research on the Web. Wikipedia is a
great starting point. Once I find something, I think about how to apply it to a real world
situation by making prescriptions out of it.
If you take something like VAK learning styles, it’s not a big leap to come up with the
prescription that as a designer, we will be more effective if we ensure that there is something for
each learning style, visual, auditory, and experiential/kinesthetic. Digging in a bit more, I read
somewhere that Tufte says that bullets are fragments, and so not as useful as complete
sentences, so I need to have full text support for readers.
I also need to use diagrams where relevant, not pointlessly decorate with chartjunk, at least on
key slides. Adding dual coding theory to this mix, I know that a lot of talking and reading is not
good at the same time.
This iterative process, along with other project information, probably provides a better set of
specs for development than winging it, or basing the project on the last template you looked at.
Q. From my experience with you, you have a history of improving methods that currently exist.
What motivates you to make these changes?
A. I am motivated to make changes and improve methods out of sheer boredom. Humans build
better mousetraps. “Work hard! ... especially in this economy…” is a tool of 5-8 figure
management tools who lack the creativity and leadership presence to craft messages that
actually leverage the natural joy and curiosity of human nature.
Q. What’s hot in instructional design and technology now?
A. In the industry I have experienced, not the bleeding edge, e-learning is still hot. Rapid
authoring is on fire. Social media is hot in a flaming lemming plummeting toward the sea sort of
Q. What’s not hot, but should be?
A. Design and analysis should be hot. Single sourcing, proprietary authoring tools like Adobe
Captivate should be hot.
5 Practitioner Profile – Brom Kim
Q. How do you stay current with trends in instructional design and technology?
A. I like E-learning Guild and traffic lights.
Q. What advice would you provide someone who is entering the field of instructional design
A. I would only give ideas to persons keenly interested in the creative media or computing
aspects of the work. This would be to make building a strong foundation of practical analysis,
design, evaluation, and neuroscience a priority. If you enjoy the technology or media aspects of
the field, you will find time for them.
From Brom’s comments, it’s easy to see that he doesn’t overcomplicate things. He sorts through
the flood of information in this world and extracts what he can use. This skill saves time and
energy and allows him to look past the arbitrary so he can really focus on what’s what.
A central theme to my interview with him is real-life experience. From ski instruction to
anthropology to instructional design, Brom relates the experiences in his life to one another.
Perhaps a variation of this skill is what gives him the insight to extract the necessary information
and use only what’s relevant. Perhaps it also contributes to his ability to see the “big picture” and
to improve it. As he said, when he runs out of space, he moves on. Who knew boredom could
initiate such innovation? Brom makes me happy and I like that.