About Me

One of my favorite lines from a 1988 movie called Beaches: “But enough about me, let’s talk about you… what do YOU think of me?”

Work Life

Photo of Max Anderson.
Photo by Matt Kosterman.

I work for the University of Illinois College of Medicine (UICOM) and currently based in Chicago, IL. Some of my professional experiences include instructional design, educational technology, management, and librarianship.

If you want to know more about my personal life, check out Up Close and Personal.

I began my formal career as an instructional designer in 2013 when I was the first person to be hired for that role in the college of medicine. In 2018, I was promoted to be the first-ever Director of Instructional Design and Learning Innovation for the college. This was a new role created specifically with me in mind. I continue to work closely with faculty to design, plan, and evaluate the curriculum. I lead a regular series of workshops designed to create stronger communities of teaching and learning. I am also an instructor in the Department of Medical Education, the oldest and largest such department of scholarly research in medical education in the world.

My focus is mainly in medical education though I have experience in many subject areas in traditional higher education, non-profit, and corporate environments. I have designed and developed instructional methods and curriculum in different formats (e.g., face-to-face, hybrid, blended, fully online – synchronous and asynchronous) for a wide variety of learning styles.

I have more than 10 years of experience collaborating with faculty and other subject-matter experts (SMEs) in academic medicine employing a wide variety of instructional design theories, frameworks, models, and processes including: the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT), ADDIE, SAM, Quality Matters, Gagné’s Nine Events, and Mayer’s Multimedia Learning Model.

Instructional Design

The term instructional design refers to the systematic development, delivery, and evaluation of effective and engaging learning products and experiences with which to motivate learners toward specific learning outcomes. As an instructional designer, I begin by identifying where there are opportunities to improve skills and performance among a targeted set of learners. This is followed by the design and implementation of learning experiences that meet these opportunities by building courses, instructional manuals, tutorials, workshops, simulations, and more.

It is imperative that we as instructional designers work to create learning experiences that motivate learners and that foster deeper and more meaningful levels of skills development and knowledge transfer and retention.

I asked ChatGPT to ‘”‘describe the role of an instructional designer in the form of a poem.’ Here is what I got in return:

An instructional designer, oh what a job, A master of learning, a true education knob. Their goal is to create materials so fine, That learners can thrive and knowledge can shine.

They start with a goal, a clear learning aim, Then assess and analyze, to remove any blame. They research and study, to find the best way, To help learners learn, and not go astray.

Next, they design, with creativity and flair, To make sure that learners truly do care. They make it interactive, with stories and games, So learners stay interested and remember the names.

They build, and they test, and then they refine, To make sure that everything is perfectly aligned.

They create assessments, to check what is learned, So they can fix any gaps, and knowledge can be earned.

Finally, they deliver, with passion and care, Making sure that learners are fully aware. They guide and they mentor, until the very end, To ensure that learning outcomes, they fully comprehend.

An instructional designer, oh what a feat, To craft such great learning, is really quite neat. So next time you learn, and knowledge you gain, Remember the designer, who made it all plain.


Sounds about right!

An important aspect of my work is to use evidence-based pedagogical research and practices to ensure a positive experience for the learner. There are many theories and models in the ID world. Here are some of them:

  • ADDIE Model
  • Elaboration Theory
  • Inquiry-based Learning
  • Merrill’s Principles of Instruction (I have met David Merrill a few times – very great guy!)
  • SAM & SAM2
  • Sociocultural Learning Theory
  • Situated Cognition Theory
  • Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT)

Implementing Instructional Design in Academic Medical Education

As an ID director at my current institution, I design solutions that are functional, attractive, and appealing to the end-users – our medical students, staff, and faculty. I have established problem-solving procedures to aid in making informed decisions about curricular design. instructional technologists (ITs) help facilitate educators’ use of various technologies that they need to accomplish their jobs. It is certainly realistic that one can have either title and the capacity to have both skill-sets. There is a lot of overlap between the two.

I work closely with the faculty at our three campuses of UICOM (Chicago, Peoria, and Rockford). I bring my experience in learning theories, online teaching methodologies, learning management systems, and creative ways to incorporate effective web tools and technologies to engage our students and hopefully enhance instructional experiences. Medical education draws on the following disciplines: physical, human and biological sciences, humanities, social / behavioral sciences, and clinical sciences. In today’s medical schools, these disciplines are combined together rather than like in the past, as separate courses. Our faculty members have attained mastery of the course content and valuable classroom experience to inform course development. I work with them to develop a shared understanding of the course content and sequencing. To aid in their professional development, I created, manage, and am the primary contributor to a faculty and staff development website for the University of Illinois College of Medicine (UICOM): http://comfaculty.uic.edu. An aside: I prefer the term upskilling over faculty development because the latter makes it sounds like people are somehow under-developed. Maybe it’s a semantic thing, but I digress. 🙂

At the most fundamental level, instructional designers and technologists are intermediaries, bridging the intellectual and attitudinal gaps that exist between instructors and students, and facilitate the use of those supported technologies which they need to accomplish their roles. While faculty members are experts in their respective fields of study, they do not necessarily possess all the knowledge and skills needed to handle and manage the myriad (and often changing) technological tools which they are expected to use, particularly in an online environment. It falls to instructional designers and technologists to offer them as-needed guidance, training, and technical support.

Another key role which instructional technologists play is to continually explore new ways in which technology can enhance the educational process. As new and sometimes transformative technologies regularly emerge, it is the instructional technologists that use their technical aptitudes along with knowledge of pedagogical principles and theory to innovate new and improved solutions to educational challenges.

In addition to my skills in instructional design, I have a Masters of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) from Florida State University (’99). Most of my library career has involved helping others learn (e.g., other librarians, public health workers, clinicians, scientists, etc.) how to use technology more effectively for specific purposes.

My experience in the library world gives me a unique ability to be an excellent searcher in library databases. I can easily synthesize the medical education and instructional design literature to advise administration and faculty on current theories and trends and to meet the ever-changing demands of the academic environment.

UIC uses Blackboard as the learning management system (LMS). I work closely with faculty to determine the best student-centered design using evidence-based principles. I am a member of the Learning Management System Governance Board for the University of Illinois. This group has the awesome responsibility to determine how to best make use of our LMS for a wide variety of purposes. I have also partnered with other offices in our college to analyze confidential data on student performance, faculty instruction, curriculum content, and delivery. I create longitudinal benchmarks with this data for our teaching faculty and staff.

Academic Studies

NIU Huskies Logo

I earned a Ph.D. in Instructional Technology from Northern Illinois University (2020).  I’m proud of this achievement as completing a doctoral degree has been a life-long dream. Completing this just as the pandemic caused lock-downs was a unique experience to say the least.

My dissertation topic: Assessment of Faculty Acceptance of, Behavioral Intention to Use, and Actual Usage Behavior of Technology in Inquiry-Based Learning in Medical Education: Using the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology. Yes, perhaps one of the longest dissertation titles ever. 

With my friend, colleague, & dissertation chair, Dr. Cindy York at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) conference in 2019.

My research aims to understand and improve teaching, learning, and participation in inquiry-based learning (IBL) environments in medical education and to determine the appropriate educational technologies to meet their needs and goals. I use IBL as an umbrella term to include case-based learning (CBL), problem-based learning (PBL), and team-based learning (TBL). I achieve this by examining the literature, as well as practices and experiences of learners, educators, and scholars with/in IBL activities and integration of educational technologies.

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6765-4015

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?view_op=list_works&hl=en&user=7AqCy2IAAAAJ

Slides: https://www.slideshare.net/maxlibris