Instructional Designers as Researchers: A conversation about changing roles and opportunities to advance the science of teaching and learning

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

In this conversation, leaders from Oregon State Ecampus will briefly present findings from a national study about instructional designer participation in research. Attendees will discuss instructional designers’ current roles, barriers and opportunities inherent in current organizational structures, and potential benefits of engaging instructional designers in research on teaching and learning. 

Presenters

Shannon Riggs serves as Executive Director of Course Development and Learning Innovation for Oregon State University Ecampus. In this role, she supports Oregon State’s land grant mission by providing leadership and direction for course development and learning innovation throughout the division. She directly oversees several units, including the Ecampus Course Development and Training Team, the Ecampus Research Unit, and Ecampus Open Educational Resources. Since coming to Extended Campus in 2011, Riggs has served as an instructional designer, as director of the Ecampus course development and training unit, and on the University’s Faculty Senate and several of its subcommittees. Active nationally in the field of online and continuing education, Riggs regularly presents at conferences and has written for publication about online course development, faculty development, leadership, and innovation. She is currently serving a three-year elected position for the Quality Matters Instructional Design Association leadership team and a three-year elected position for the WCET Steering Committee. Riggs is also a contributor to High Impact Practices in Online Education (Stylus, 2018) and The Business of Innovation (Stylus, 2018), and is the author of Thrive Online: A New Approach for College Educators (forthcoming in 2019 from Stylus Publishing).
Mary Ellen Dello Stritto is the assistant director of the Ecampus Research Unit at Oregon State University and is involved with the design and implementation of research studies on online/distance education. She manages and oversees statistical analyses for the research unit. Dello Stritto also directs the Research Fellows Program for faculty. She has a background in psychology with a specialization in quantitative methodologies, survey design, and statistical analysis.

Extended Abstract

Recent literature has started to explore the importance of the role of instructional designers within higher education. However, one area that has received little attention in this literature is the role of instructional designers in teaching and learning research. In this conversation, leadership from Oregon State Ecampus will briefly present key findings from a national study about research preparation and engagement of instructional designers, which provides a better understanding of how instructional designers are using and engaging in research on teaching and learning in their current roles, what previous training they have received in research methods and design, and whether they feel prepared to conduct research on teaching and learning in their current roles.

To begin the conversation, the speakers will provide a brief overview of the study, focusing on five key takeaways from the research:

  1. Takeaway: Many instructional designers want to collaborate on teaching and learning research with faculty and their peers.
  2. Takeaway: Many instructional designers feel under-prepared to engage in research on teaching and learning.
  3. Takeaway: Although research on teaching and learning is not included in the job descriptions of the majority of instructional designers, a large number are engaging in research collaborations.
  4. Takeaway: Instructional designers face a range of obstacles when attempting to engage in research on teaching and learning.
  5. Takeaway: The majority of instructional designers in this study think that knowledge of research design and methods enhances their work and that they will be perceived as more credible if they are conducting research on teaching and learning.

From there, the speakers will lead attendees in a discussion about the roles of instructional designers as they currently exist on their campuses, will consider the opportunities and barriers inherent in current organizational structures, and will explore the potential benefits of engaging instructional designers in research on teaching and learning.

Discussion questions will include: 

  1. How would you describe the role of instructional designers at your campus at present?
  2. What is working with that structure? What are some areas for possible improvement?
  3. Are instructional designers at your institution expected to collaborate on research?
  4. Are Instructional designers at your institution able to participate in research? Is this part of their job description?
  5. Are Instructional designers at your institution discouraged from participating in research?
  6. What barriers do your instructional designers face if they do wish to participate in research? (e.g., the ability to submit IRB, lack of a “seat” at the research table, perception of instructional design by academic researchers)
  7. What potential benefits exist if instructional designers were encouraged to participate in research?
  8. What kinds of preparations and professional development would be necessary for instructional designers to successfully participate in research? Other supports needed?
  9. How might participation in research impact the credibility of instructional designers?
  10. How might participation in research impact innovation in the science of teaching and learning?
  11. How might participation in research by instructional designers contribute or advance your institution’s or organization’s mission?

Participants in this conversation will explore the changing and maturing profession of instructional design, and will consider possible changes in current organizational systems that exclude instructional designers from research activity. Attendees will be encouraged to consider advantages of expanding the role of instructional designers to include research responsibilities for their institutions, for the profession of instructional design, and for the scholarship of teaching and learning.