Instructional Designers in Our Midst


This from a recent exchange in the Kirkwood Community College open online course on ‘Teaching Online: Reflections on Practice’

Janet’s Question:

As an instructor, I have a question about instructional designers. How does one become an ‘instructional designer’ and what are the qualifications for employment? As a faculty member for 25 years, I have designed my own courses always based on the university course outlines which have gone through the rigorous procedures of curriculum committee and Senate approval. With Web. 2.0 tools and LMS use for course delivery, it seems that instructional designers have proliferated in the educational settings K-16. Any illumination on the function of instructional designers in K-16 institutions would be helpful to me as an educator.
There is also the issue of academic freedom for faculty members, I am always a bit suspicious about uniformity-while it may be a good tool for management, I don’t see uniformity of course design as necessarily benefiting the range of students we get in our classes.


Respondent’s answer:

“The qualifications for an instructional designer at our campus are:
Earned Master’s degree in instructional design, educational technology, eLearning, or related field. At least two years experience with online course management system and synchronous communication software in a higher education setting. In-depth knowledge of instructional design, course design, learning theories, instructional technologies including course management systems with a proven aptitude for learning new technologies and trends. Extensive applied and research knowledge of course design and development, distributed learning technologies, learning theories, and course management systems. Significant experience in training adult learners in higher education. Proven success with course development with technology integration and supporting technologies. Ability to use and implement system operations and management skills to plan, implement, and oversee projects. HTML programming experience. Instructional multimedia content development experience. ”


“As far as the issue of academic freedom… that’s really a non-issue here. We don’t tell instructors what to teach, that’s their job. We just show them how to teach it online, which does not go against the spirit of academic freedom. In many cases, it’s needed. We have professors that should not be allowed within 20 ft. of an online class! We have professors that have been teaching for many, many years who still do not know the difference between a course objective and a learning outcome. And… we have professors who think that when teaching online, there is no need for interaction, or community, or collaboration. So… we have instructional designers to fill in the blank spots left by those who never thought about those things.”


Another respondent:

“We have a fairly unique role at Kirkwood. We actually don’t design the courses – the instructors are the designers with Alan and I as their support team. With some new instructors, I meet with them weekly to guide and support them. With other instructors, I may only hear from them once or twice during the development process. It really depends on the instructor and the course.
I actually agree with you on the issue of uniformity. I really like that instructors have design freedom here. I feel like they can put themselves into their class if they are able to design it themselves (with some help of course). ”



Thank you for your response. It is wonderful for faculty to have support available at an institution. We have been left to our own devices up to last year. Faculty mentoring has pulled us through some tough transitions to online delivery. I have used many external webinars and programs such as this to learn how to teach online. I also put myself into the role of student and completed 4 years of education courses @SFU in Vancouver strictly online to experience the similarities and differences between delivery choices and instructor styles. I am now doing the same thing with Moocs- I am the guinea pig, and this is how I learn.
One thing I wonder about is whether there will ultimately be fewer faculty members at institutions as online delivery increasingly goes to scale (Moocs- in whatever form). I had read somewhere that a prediction for the future of higher ed is that universities will have fewer teachers and they will be doing less. Do instructional designers play a part in this trend??



“As for instructional designers, that’s a good question. It seems to be a really trendy area right now and the skill set seems to be in high demand. I think we will be doing less of the design role and more of the support role. As online learning (whether that be in the case of MOOCs or small courses), continue to increase, somebody has to keep up with the technology to keep improving the courses!”



“I think the area of instructional design became popular because of the rapid growth of online courses. They (online courses) actually grew too fast and the quality of both the LMS and instruction did not keep up with the growth. Remember the early years of the first LMS’s? Also, the mentality of “I can teach face to face, therefore I can teach online” pretty much dominated the early growth of online. There was no transition period to fully ramp up the talents of faculty to design and teach quality online courses. I think once that became a known reality, the instructional designer emerged. ”



Resources for Online Course Design

10 Principles of Good Web Design

11 Strategies for Managing Your Online Courses

The Addie Model

Quality Matters Rubric

Experience Design vs. Interface Design

National Standards of Online Teaching

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