Two Sides to Every Story: Exploring Multiple Perspectives of Instructional Design-focused Team Leadership Strategies

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This Express Workshop explores maximizing the efficacy of team-based instructional design (ID) leadership strategies from both the perspectives of team leader and team member. Various vignettes, lessons learned, and best practices are unpacked to help attendees glean deep insights into the successes (and failures) of a higher education/federal government ID team.

Sponsored By


Joseph DiPietro, Ph.D., PMP, serves as the Chief of Academic Technologies at National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C. He and his team oversee the day-to-day operations and professional development for digital learning systems and educational software applications across all NDU components (e.g., the National War College, the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, the College of Information and Cyberspace, etc.). Joe is a former public school teacher, instructional designer, and university professor with a passion for all things educational technology-related. He has over 16 years of experience in managing the planning, delivery, support, and evaluation of online, blended, and face-to-face learning experiences in federal, private sector, postsecondary, and public education environments. Dr. DiPietro is an expert in assessing and promoting the quality of online and blended/hybrid offerings; in maximizing comprehensibility of technology-mediated course structures; and in ensuring alignment between learning objectives and various federal/national accreditation standards. He has vast experience using research- and learner-based needs analyses to engage with and lead collocated and/or virtual design teams to meet deadline-driven specific learning outcomes. Joe began facilitating online professional development in 2004 and taught his first online course in 2006. He has made mastering his craft the focus of his work, and his areas of interest focus most keenly on the fields of online teaching and learning; best practices of technology-mediated instruction; efficacy of professional development; efficiency in project management; and instructional design innovations.

Additional Authors

Mike Jacobs has worked at the National Defense University (NDU) for 10 years as both a contractor and a civilian. Most recently, he works as part of NDU’s Academic Technology Team under the Chief of Academic Technology. Previously, he worked for a single component of NDU, The College of Information and Cyberspace. He helps run the day-to-day administration of the university’s LMS in addition to providing instructional design support for faculty and staff in the form of private consultations and structured professional development sessions. He finished his M.Ed. from George Mason University in Instructional Design and Technology in May 2018 where he was exposed to a good mix of foundational learning theory, andragogy, and design process. He also has a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design and continually works to leverage his skills in visual communications as they apply to the design of instruction. He is interested in how the design process can be translated across different mediums and modalities. He has experience in course development, video production, learner-based needs analyses, visual application design, and the application of various learning theories and models within a rich array of learning contexts.

Extended Abstract

Instructional design (ID) exists in a space connecting the art and science of education. As such, oversight of ID teams raises special concerns for thought leaders as they struggle to promote academic rigor whilst avoiding the stifling and/or stagnation of a team’s creativity. This Express Workshop explores the first year of trials and tribulations experienced by the Chief of Academic Technologies at National Defense University (Washington, D.C.) as he sought to create and develop an ID team- the first of its kind at the institution. It also includes honest insights and candid critique from a team member who was privy to the entire process as it unfolded.

Five major areas (below) are unpacked from two distinct vantages: (1) from the viewpoint of the Chief of Academic Technologies; and (2) from the perspective of an instructional designer serving on the team. Frank, open, and honest discussion of what worked, and what did not, is threaded through this Express Workshop, and hands-on activities and exemplars are shared as co-facilitators explore the following concepts:

  • Flat management: Early on in the forming–storming–norming–performing process, the Chief of Academic Technologies sought to promote team member engagement and perceived appreciation through implementation of a flat organizational structure. Use cases and authentic scenarios are examined to help active attendees better understand how implementing a flat structure may (or may not!) benefit their respective institutions. Related topics also include frequency, topics, and structure of individual and team-based meetings and other logistical issues and heuristics of importance.
  • Opportunities to serve as project managers: In a traditional hierarchical organization structure, it can be uncommon/difficult for non-project managers to gain project management experience. Much like the conundrum of how someone is expected to get a job with no related experience (i.e., they cannot get experience without the job and vice versa), shaking up the status quo and promoting team members in project management opportunities was a critical link in the chain of success. Active participants will be afforded insights into various strategies and software used to help promote project management experience and growth for ID team members.
  • Team building activities: Two hands-on activities will be modeled for attendees. The first includes a requirements compliance activity that reinforces team building and group synergy. The second is a book talk overview that promotes critical thinking and strategic decision-making skills. Other examples and strategies will be provided depending on time allowed and audience interest.
  • Learning through doing: Tips and strategies including successes and failures related to technology roadshows; faculty, staff, and student workshops; instructional development murder board sessions and more will be explored to provide active participants with next steps and possibilities to take home to their host institutions. Complete documentation and templates will be provided as appropriate.
  • Promoting passions: The importance of finding ways to connect to team members will be explored from multiple vantages. Topics covered include the 80/20 approach to tackling job-related duties and the promotion of strong work/life balance through providing benefits such as alternative work schedules and telework. General strategies for promoting team member well-being will be investigated by Express Workshop co-facilitators as they tie all related content together in summation.

Most simply, active and engaged attendees will leave this Express Workshop with new ideas, tips, and strategies for fostering ID team-based success regardless of their institutional roles. For example, Design Thinkers, Instructional Support, Training Professionals, and/or Technologists who attend and actively participate in this Express Workshop can return to their host institution with new knowledge and thinking to provide senior leaders with relevant activities and insights as discussed. Alternatively, Administrators (including, but not limited to, C-level leadership, directors, and supervisors) who actively engage in this session can return to work with new tools in their belts to promote ID team success at their respective institutions and beyond.