7.1 Instructional Design in Higher Education

License:  Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed) Attribution: Andragogy vs Pedagogy: A Comparison of Learners by Lee Rusty Waller

Instructional designers in a higher education environment wear many different hats on a daily basis. The designer understands there are differences in how adult students learn as opposed to the way children learn. You will rely upon and apply this knowledge to the best of your ability in designing effective, engaging, learning experiences for the student while aiming for ease in facilitation for the instructor. Let’s take a look at what a typical instructional designer may face on any typical work day in the higher education world.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the types of duties an instructional designer may face in a higher education environment.
  • Describe some obstacles an instructional designer may face when training an instructor.
  • Describe how an instructional designer can utilize the instructor’s knowledge to effect good course design.
  • Identify recommended items to check for when conducting an effective course review/evaluation.
  • List some available resources when researching available open educational resources textbooks.

Training

If you are hired as an instructional designer in a higher education institution, your role at some point in time may involve acting as a trainer.  Often times, one challenge you will face as a designer training faculty who are not comfortable with technology, or, the learning management system (LMS) selected by the institution.  This is where the instructional designer may need to step in and create learning modules for training faculty on how to use the new LMS, or, provide one-on-one training.  Even if your institution requires faculty to complete a training course for certification to teach online, there will be instances where certified faculty have forgotten their training on how to accomplish a specific task within the LMS. They will need assistance from the instructional designer to walk them through step-by-step how to complete the task at hand. This may involve meeting with the faculty member in person, emailing step-by-step screenshots and instructions on how to troubleshoot and fix an issue, speaking over the phone to walk the faculty member through step-by-step, or, if necessary, through video conferencing to screen share with the faculty member and show them how to complete the necessary steps to achieve the desired task.

Take into consideration there may be some obstacles to assisting faculty. Time constraints and physical location may play a large role in which resolution style will work for you and a faculty member.  The instructional designer may be located stateside, while a faculty member may be teaching oversees.  In this event, time zones could become a great challenge in conducting a phone or web conference.

Training is always something an instructional designer must be prepared to be involved in. You must be able to communicate step-by-step instructions adequately to the faculty you are working with.  In this instance, there is a need for excellent verbal, written and visual communication skills on the part of the designer.  The communication skills you have learned about in previous chapters will be invaluable to you. Be sure to practice those communication skills on a regular basis and, when the time comes, you will be ready. In the box below, you will find a potential training scenario that you may face as an instructional designer.  Think about how you might handle and resolve this issue.  If the faculty member were located across the world and they are having urgent problems with an assignment that is due immediately and students are unable to access the assignment. Should you fix the problem for the faculty member, or, do you take the time to train them so they can fix such an issue in the future?  Keep in mind the visual picture of your going fishing to provide someone that is hungry with meat, but, if you teach that person  how to fish, they will never be hungry again. (Well, as long as the fish are biting, they won’t go hungry.). Listening with patience, caring and empathy are essential ingredients in accurately accessing and meeting the needs of the faculty member.

TRAINING SCENARIO: Imagine you are serving a faculty member who is teaching oversees for your institution in Japan, while you are on the east coast of the United States. Your day is their night, and vice versa. There is a limited window of time to work and walk the instructor through any training that is needed. The technology challenged faculty member has emailed you, panicking that a turnitin research paper assignment they have developed in the LMS is not allowing students access to the course assignment.  The faculty member does not know how to troubleshoot the issue, the paper is due on the day they’ve emailed you and not only is the faculty member panicking, but the students as well.  Obviously, the time difference is going to cause a great challenge in working with the instructor one on one in a video conferencing situation. What do you do? How would you handle working with this faculty member to help them solve their issue.  Keep in mind fixing the problem for them will help the students immediately, but does going into the LMS, troubleshooting and fixing the problem yourself actually grow the faculty member’s skills in using the LMS?  How can you help the instructor, without potentially doing the work for them, but teaching them how to trouble shoot these kinds of issues so they are able to do this on their own in the future? 

 

License:  Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed) Attribution: Andragogy vs Pedagogy: A Comparison of Process by Lee Rusty Waller

Course Design

As an instructional designer in higher education, you will be asked to help faculty, departments, etc. build courses from scratch. Whether it is a new course to be offered for the first time, or, the complete redesign of an existing course, you need to have a plan in place. Where do you start? What do you do? Who do you work with? This is your first job as an instructional designer, your anxiety is kicking in, and you are not sure where to start?  You begin by pulling from the learning theories, instructional design processes like the ADDIE, and Bloom’s Taxonomy previously learned in your instructional design courses and by pulling from your learned and practiced communication skills. It is always best to start with an initial meeting with the instructor and/or department SME(s).  Discover in this, your analysis phase, what their instructional goals are for the course.  Ask the SME to help you understand the prerequisite skills (entry skills) the students planning to take the course may already possess or know. Then, you carefully start to follow each step of the ADDIE model (or your institutions preferred instructional design model) to build the course modules and units, identifying instructional materials and media to include in the course that meets the instructional goals of the course.  Meeting with the instructor or department SME(s) on a regular basis and at each stage to evaluate and determine if the alignment of the decided upon learning objectives and assessments are appropriate for the course level and whether they compliment each other.  Evaluate at each stage of the process. Once the course is close to completion, if there is time, it is a good idea to have the instructor or the departmental SME(s) assume a student role and take some of the assessments and work through the course modules to ensure that the appropriate items, are being assessed and that the assessments meet the criteria, learning objectives, and the set instructional goals of the course. Additionally, taking the assessment from the student’s viewpoint is also a good idea to ensure that the assessment itself is functioning properly within the LMS and that the instructions and the questions are understandable for the student.

When designing a course, the instructional designer will draw upon the theories of pedagogy (the instruction of children) or, andragogy (the instruction of adults). In the higher education world, you will be predominately pulling from the andragogy theories since faculty are working with adults.  An instructional designer understands that children and adults do not learn similarly. Therefore, we must first consider the appropriate learning styles to fit the courses we are designing.  Challenges that you may face as a designer may be in assisting faculty (especially in higher education realm) that do not know the theories of pedagogy or andragogy. Although the faculty is the submit matter expert, they may not have any training in teaching or theories of instruction and learning.  This can present difficulties for the designer. You must be able to explain the learning theory behind the design. Learning theory and Bloom’s Taxonomy may not be in their vocabulary.  You as the instructional designer will be the one to bridge the gap for such faculty between their mastery of their content knowledge with the incorporation of learning theory as you assist in the design of their courses.

You will find that instructor’s can get very excited about new technologies and will throw an idea to their instructional designer wanting to use this new technology they have discovered into their course.  Remind faculty of the importance that the technology or media selected must meet the instructional goals of the course. If it does not, it is not appropriate for their course. Another challenge may be your unfamiliarity with this technology and the faculty are expecting you to figure out how they can use the technology in their course?  The instructor will see you as the expert in instructional technology.  The research skills you have learned during your educational program will assist in bringing you through challenges of this nature along with a lot of patience and empathy for the faculty member. Research skills are invaluable to an instructional designer in researching a new technology to find out how it works, and to effectively assist the instructor in determining if the technology is appropriate for use in their course.  Don’t be afraid to let the instructor know that you are unfamiliar with the specific technology and that it will take you a little time to research. Always be sure to think about costs involved, the available budget allowable, and also the integration with your institution’s LMS, any time a new technology is recommended.  Sometimes, it make require getting your educational technology or information technology staff involved to determine the integration details of a new technology. Sometimes, the costs may outweigh the benefits of the technology. Clarity, comfort level with technology, and a good understanding of your institution’s policies are also useful here.

In higher education, there is a culture to share faculty among various institutions, including those on an international/global scale and often times, international faculty may only be visiting for one semester, or for an academic year.  Language can often be a barrier between the instructional designer and faculty if one of the individuals first language is different from the other.  Good communication skills are essential here for the instructional designer. First, listen with empathy and understanding, exercising patience with the faculty that is asking for your assistance. Remember, do not get frustrated, keep your tone always friendly and helpful, and open to their ideas.  This will help ease tensions from both sides of the table.  Remember, you are there to assist faculty, and to ultimately create a rich, engaging, valuable learning experience for the student.  This opens up opportunities for you to learn something new about a new culture that you did not already know, which grows your experiences, knowledge, skills and value to your institution as you learn to work with individuals from other cultures than your own.  Remember that you and the instructor have the same goals in this situation. Finding common ground and working through the language barrier is doable and extremely rewarding for all.

COURSE DESIGN SCENARIO: You have been contacted by a visiting international instructor who is teaching a new graduate mathematics course online for the first time for your institution. The course starts in two weeks. You panic, math is the one thing that almost kept you from graduating from college, and the whole idea of helping design a math course when your skills are limited in this area frightens the life out of you.  Not only do you have to get over your fear of math, but, the faculty member’s English skills are limited, and, they have never taught online before.  This instructor has gone through the university’s LMS training, but still doesn’t know where to go from there.  The instructor has reached out to you to assist them in developing their new graduate online math course from scratch.  Where do you start? How do you navigate the language barriers? How do you help the instructor get their course developed and ready to deliver in less than two weeks?  Adding to your stress, the instructor has a new writing pad that he has never used before and has indicated that he wants to use this new device to make instructional videos for his students so that he can walk them through solving complex graduate level equations. You believe instructional videos would be very useful for the students.  However, you are unfamiliar with this writing pad the instructor has. How do you teach them to use it when you have never seen one before? 

Course Evaluations/Reviews

Depending on your institution’s organizational structure, you may be involved in evaluating or reviewing courses to determine if they meet set institutional standards.  We recommend that prior to being involved in any course review that you participate and complete the Quality Matters “Applying the QM Rubric (APPQMR) workshop.  Quality Matters.org workshops (QM) are nationally recognized standards for online education, and will give you a great sense of what should be included in an online course. These standards can also be applied to improving  any face to face course as well.  There are specific costs for attending QM workshops, but well worth the professional development and time invested for an instructional designer benefiting the institution in which you work and serve. Perhaps checking with your institution, as they may help pay for professional development for instructional designers.

Below are a few items that we recommend you check for when conducting a course evaluation or review:

  • The Instructor has provided contact information and that it is easily access in their course.
  • The Instructor has provided clear instructions on how and where to get started in their course (perhaps in a “Getting Started” or “Start Here” module.)
  • That the course is easily navigable for a new student.
  • The instructor has provided clear learning objectives for both the course and for each learning module so that students will be able to understand what is expected of them at the end of each learning module and at the end of the course.
  • That learning materials and assignments are provided in units/modules that organize the learning into digestible chunks that meet the instructional goals of the course.
  • Check for alignment between the learning objectives and assessments and that they tie to the instructional goals of the course.
  • Check that learning objectives are appropriate for the course level (undergraduate or graduate).

At any given time, you may be contacted or approached by an administrator (dean, department chair, associate department chairs, program coordinators, etc.) requesting an in-depth course review.  You will need to know what to look for, and what suggestions to make for improvements to a course. You will apply the ADDIE in this situation, as well as recommended national standards and set institutional standards in determining whether a course is of high quality. In such instances, you may feel that your ethical and personal loyalties are divided.  It can be a difficult situation.  In such instances, always maintain a professional tone in your review.

We highly recommend in your in-depth review summary report that you begin with a compliment of something the instructor is doing well in the course. This will ensure a positive tone of voice. Do not use the words “the instructor failed…” or, any similar verbiage as this could be detrimental to the instructor’s future at your institution.  Instead, stick to the facts and do not interject personal options.  Use such verbiage as “it is highly recommended that the instructor include clear learning objectives in each unit/module, which may improve student learning outcomes.”  This is a much more positive tone, and gives advice on what to add.  Do not criticize the structure the instructor is currently using, but recommend potential improvements for organization or navigation for a course.

Recommendations for any improvements to a course will always be better received if it is not condescending in nature. Be positive, upbeat, and present your findings in such a way that it may improve student learning, content retention, and helping to meet the instructional goals of the course. Remain positive in your tone and always use a formal, professional written communications style. Following this format will serve you well in any higher education environment.

COURSE EVALUATION/REVIEW SCENARIO: You have been working for less than a year as an instructional designer, and, you are contacted by a department chair asking for an in-depth course review of a faculty member’s courses because students are not performing well in their course.   You have worked with the faculty member in the past and respect them as a person, but already know that their courses need a great deal of work to be considered effective from an instructional design perspective.  How do you handle this?  You like the professor and do not wish to cause them any potential harm or risk their losing their job. However, it is your job to provide the service the department chair is asking for.  How do you approach this situation?

Creating Instructional Videos

Depending on the structure at your institution of higher education, there may be opportunities for you work with the instructor or departmental SME’s to actually develop and create instructional videos.  If so, such software as Camtasia can be very helpful in doing so.  Camtasia is very user friendly, and very easy to edit video materials and some of the newer versions allow you to upload PowerPoints directly into Camtasia and then add voice and animations very easily.  Other potential options, may be Voice Thread where you can create voice overs of a PowerPoint presentation and make it into an instructional video of sorts.  There are many others, these are just two options available for you to consider should the need arise in the future. Always remember to keep in mind when creating instructional videos, it is wise to create a script, and include that script into the course so that there is a transcription of the video already available to any student with a disability that may need the text version.  Being proactive is wise in the instructional design world. When creating instructional materials or interactive assignments, always keep in mind potential accommodations that may be necessary for students with a disability and how you might meet those accommodations before the need occurs.

Open Educational Resources Research

Open educational resources as stated in Chapter four of this text, is a growing initiative among higher education institutions to compete for students and to provide their students with high quality, low costs, instructional materials. As this initiative grows nationwide, you will need to be well versed on where to locate Open instructional materials. By doing your homework now, you will be equipped to adequately assist your institution in growing this endeavor while significantly decreasing the costs of a higher education for the student.

Here are some available resources to help you in your quest:

Open Educational Resources Research Scenario: An instructor that you are assigned to serve contacts you and indicates that they want to begin offering their course as an Open educational resources course where the students are provided online materials in lieu of a textbook purchase. Your institution has not yet openly embraced this new initiative, but you are aware that it is a growing trend.  Since your institution has not yet created a specific policy regarding this, you are not sure where your institution stands regarding open educational resources.  Where do you go first? Who do you talk to? If your institution has not yet adopted a policy or plan for handling such matters, what do you tell your instructor?  Do you take a leadership role and present this as an option to your institution’s administrators? 

Maintaining memberships with national consortium’s, etc. such as the Online Learning Consortium and MERLOT, and taking professional development courses with Quality Matters, etc. will keep you apprised on current and emerging issues in the field of instructional design. Maintaining these memberships either personally or institutionally is a good idea to keep up with new and emerging trends.

Special Projects Can Grow Your Leadership Skills

Without a doubt, at some point in your higher educational career, you will become involved in some special projects.  You may even be assigned as a leader in some of these projects.  What do you need to know about juggling special projects with every day assignments and tasks?

First, you need to determine and know what your supervisor’s policy and wishes are regarding clear timelines for special projects that you are assigned.  Taking on a special project with a fuzzy or vague completion date can be difficult to manage and you may go on for a long time “spinning your wheels in sand”.  Always try to get a clear understanding of what your supervisor’s expectations are for completion of the special project.

Next, if you are taking the leadership role in the project, determine who needs to get involved in the planning of this special project (this usually also means consulting or collaborating with your supervisor) and immediately set out to schedule meetings with these individuals to determine the scope and process for meeting the goals of the project.
Next, work with these identified individuals on a timeline for the project and determine if other departments or individuals need to be included in on the planning. If there are others that need to be included, schedule another meeting to inform and include them in the process before you go any further in the planning stages.
Hold regular meetings of this group (if applicable or necessary) to keep everyone informed of work progress and assignments to keep the project moving forward. Follow-up on assignments at specific agreed upon intervals.
Once the project is complete, it is always recommended to hold a debriefing or send out a brief survey to determine improvements for leading similar future projects and how you might improve upon your skills as a project leader.  Information you derive from such an experience and evaluation can help you improve your professional skills and value to your institution.

Key Terms

  • Pedagogy the instruction of children.
  • Andragogy the instruction of adults.
  • Interpersonal conflict occurs in interactions where there are real or perceived incompatible goals, scarce resources, or opposing viewpoints.
  • Intercultural communication competence (ICC) is the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in various cultural contexts.

Key Takeaways

  • Challenges in training new faculty may include time and location constraints as well as the comfort level the faculty may have with technology.
  • An instructor’s excitement about a new technology may not always serve the instructional goals of the course.
  • Continually researching new technologies and media that is available is essential to stay current in your field of knowledge as an instructional designer.
  • Know what items to look for when completing a course evaluation or review.
  • Be aware of software that can help instructors create instructional videos for their courses. Always keeping in mind potential accommodations for disability issues that may arise.
  • Maintaining a professional or institutional membership with such organizations as the Online Learning Consortium, MERLOT, etc. so that you remain current in the field of instructional design is highly recommended.
  • When assigned special projects, know your limitations, deadlines, and who to involve in the project to get it done efficiently and effectively.

Exercises

  1. As an instructional designer in higher education, you are assigned to complete 125 course reviews in the coming five day work week. Your supervisor has just given you a special project assignment with a tight deadline (asking that you complete it by the end of the current month) and requesting that you take the lead over the team of instructional designers to create an online new faculty on-boarding development course and would like you to get started immediately. Describe the steps you will go through in getting this project started, and how the project may progress over time.

 

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Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology, Chapter 7.1 Instructional Design in Higher Education. Provided by: the authors under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

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License:  Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed) Attribution: Andragogy vs Pedagogy: A Comparison of Learners by Lee Rusty Waller

License:  Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed) Attribution: Andragogy vs Pedagogy: A Comparison of Process by Lee Rusty Waller

 

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Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology by Joshua Hill and Linda Jordan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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