Role and Identity of an Instructional Designer

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This facilitated roundtable discussion explores the role and identity of instructional designers. We’ll discuss how instructional designers work as consultants, project managers, creative design thinkers, and/or other roles; how to communicate roles; power dynamics and empowerment for instructional designers; and challenges and lessons learned in various roles.



Breana Yaklin is an Instructional Designer for the MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology and for Teaching and Learning Technology with IT Services. She supports faculty to design strong student-focused learning experiences, and has been conducting interviews with undergraduate students to gather student voice and better inform curriculum design. Lately, she has been working closely with academic advising units to support proactive advising and student success change initiatives.
Caroline White is a learning technology designer at Michigan State University’s Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology and MSU IT Services Academic Technology. She graduated from MSU with degrees in professional writing and English, and has previously worked as the managing editor of the Red Cedar Review, a user experience designer at FEB Digital, and a freelance writer and copyeditor. She is passionate about creating engaging learning experiences, and currently works on designing courses, curriculum, and communications and engagement strategies.

Extended Abstract

At this roundtable discussion, we will discuss the disparities around the role of instructional designers in higher education. The title and expectations of instructional designers can vary significantly across and even within institutions. This roundtable will provide an opportunity to engage in a facilitated discussion with peers from diverse institutions about how we experience our role and self-identify as instructional designers. The goal of this discussion will be for participants to walk away with a better understanding of their identity as an instructional designer, how they can clarify their role and expectations when working with others, and some of the lessons learned from their peers when addressing challenges related to the role of instructional designers.

The target audience for this career forum is primarily instructional design professionals and consultants, although this discussion will benefit from a diverse audience as instructional design professionals and consultants engage with faculty, administrators, and other professionals on a regular basis. While the discussion will center around the role and identity of instructional designers, we might better define our roles and identities via our relationships and interactions with others in higher education.

This career forum will be structured similarly to a previous roundtable conducted at Michigan State University’s Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology in August 2017. At this prior roundtable, we co-facilitated a discussion to clarify the roles and identities of team members at the Hub in an open forum. We would now like to elevate that discussion to a global level to engage with our peers and colleagues in further clarifying how we understand our roles as instructional designers. The conversation and topics will also parallel a workshop conducted by the state of New Jersey in 2015 at the annual Instructional Design Symposium (2016). Miller and Stein explain that the goal of this workshop was to “learn about instructional designers’ roles at different institutions” (2016). This career forum and these conversations are necessary because the role of instructional designers is often in flux. A report on the 2017 ELI focus session “New Directions in Instructional Design: Keeping Pace in a Time of Rapid Change” discusses the changing role of instructional designers and how we can adapt by embracing the culture change at our institutions (2017). By coming together to discuss role and identity at this career forum roundtable, instructional designers will gain a better sense of instructional design roles at a global level and will be more equipped to adapt to change at their respective institutions. We plan to address the following topics and related guiding questions during this roundtable:

  1. Roles
    1. What roles have you played as an instructional designer? What are the roles that allow you to be effective? What kind of roles can or should we play for this effectiveness?
  2. Communication
    1. How do you communicate your expectations on a project? How do you clarify your role when working with others?

  3. Power Dynamics and Role Empowerment

    1. What different power dynamics have you experienced in your role(s)? Do you/have you felt empowered in your role(s)?

  4. Challenges

    1. What are some of the challenges you have faced in defining your role? In the role you have played?

  5. Lessons Learned

    1. What lessons have we learned? How can we address the challenges?

As presenters, we will be prepared to share from our own experiences grappling with these questions and the outcomes and lessons learned from our previous roundtable at Michigan State University’s Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology.

Works Cited:

Dobbin, G., Brown, M., Diaz, V. (2017). New Directions in Instructional Design: Keeping Pace in a Time of Rapid Change. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). Retrieved October 13, 2017 from:

Miller, S., Stein, G. (2016). Finding Our Voice: Instructional Designers in Higher Education. EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved October 13, 2017 from: