Sara Krieger has always had a knack for graphic design. She is beefing up her toolbox to be even more versatile by working toward a Saint Leo master's degree in instructional design.

The 43-year-old, whose last name means 'warrior' in German, hails from Virginia Beach, Va. where she currently resides. Her dad, Richard, served in the Navy for 20 years originally as a deep-sea diver. She has two Cairn Terriers, Marley and Duncan.

A graduate of Salem High School, she was a foreign exchange student who spent time in Germany. While in high school, she attended the Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center (Vo-Tech) as an advertising design student for two school years. This program allowed her to work at a publishing company in Hamburg, Germany as a foreign exchange student for three months at the end of her junior year.

"I was honestly bored and tired of being around kids who didn't want to be in school," she says.

In this program, she got to study advertising design under Judy Doyle, an award-winning package designer. She was one of 44 students selected for this unique opportunity.

"I stayed with a host family outside of Hamburg. I observed at Axel Springer with another foreign student from North Carolina. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me."

Higher Education Pursuits

She first earned an associate degree in computer graphics at the Visual Arts Center for Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth, VA

"They taught us about the psychology of color and what certain colors represent to people. I also took classes on photography, drawing and painting."

Krieger then went on to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Human Resource Management from Saint Leo University. She took a blended approach with classes at the university's JEB Little Creek Education Office and online.

Pursuing a Saint Leo Master's in Instructional Design Degree

Krieger enrolled in the Saint Leo master's in instructional design program in the summer of 2018. She hopes to complete this Saint Leo master's degree by the summer of 2020.

"I looked into several master's programs out there," she explains. "I talked with one of their enrollment counselors and knew this online degree program could work well with my schedule."

She explains what she thinks is a difference maker in the coursework compared to other instructional design master's programs.

"I really like how Saint Leo gears this program to the AECT Standards [Association for Educational Communications and Technology]. They teach us about all of the design theories, not just a certain one. I have really enjoyed the curriculum."

Plus, she feels very connected to her instructors and classmates.

"One nice thing about how this program is structured is the collaboration you get with your instructors and fellow students. You get to hear everyone else's voices and will feel like you're truly connected."

She points out several professors in the Saint Leo master's program who have positively impacted her academic experience as a graduate student.

"Dr. Jane Adamson is so cool and teaches very structured classes. I really enjoy her classes because she is willing to talk to students after hours and makes you feel like you can handle whatever is challenging you. Dr. Keya Mukherjee gets me thinking about how to approach certain things differently. She gets me talking in class, and then others start to chime in once they hear us talking. Also, Dr. Laura Gray has helped me develop my problem-solving skills."

Professional Resume

Her first big break came at age 23 when she got a job with Information Spectrums (now General Dynamics) as a graphic artist.

"I got to do lots of 3D animation and work in Flash. We did projects for the military, and I got to model F-14s and other fighter jets used in the military."

While in this role, she received an opportunity to work for NATO as a military contractor.

"I went to work for NATO in Norfolk back in September of 2009," she says. "I started out as a Flash animator and a graphic artist. Then my title changed to multimedia designer. I had to do audio recording and editing, animations and create e-Learning courses for predeployment training. These courses were used for military members in NATO who were being deployed."

According to Krieger, she has had the opportunity to visit countries like Italy, Greece, Germany and Estonia during her career contracting for NATO.

"I started out teaching five-day courses. However, now it has turned into a two-week course. I will teach NATO members how to develop courses for their team members using multimedia."

She says the process of developing methods for people to learn is pretty rewarding for her.

"I really like teaching and designing courses and interacting with people," she explains. "It's a lot of fun figuring out how people mentally work through things and how they figure things out. I've always been intrigued by psychology, which is a big part of this work."

From her vantage point, her field is evolving because of how many more skills instructional designers are required to have these days.

"I've found that employers today want employees who have both multimedia skills and instructional design skills. They want people who can create videos, graphics and animations but also are adept at designing courses or training materials that will be effective throughout the learning process."

Succeeding in Online Degree Programs

For those who have never taken an online class, Krieger says there is no reason to fear online degree programs.

"Don't be afraid of enrolling in online degree programs," she says. "I know I'm a bit biased since I have worked on computers doing design work for a while now. But as long as you structure your time right and map out some time each day to work on your classes, you can do this."

She offers up some further guidance.

"Just like any class, you can't wait until the last minute to get things done," she says. "You also have to dedicate a certain workspace and time on a regular basis to focus on your coursework. My neighbors know not to call me on Monday nights when I'm in the live class session."

Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog article were provided by Sara Krieger and are used with permission.