Connection By Design: Leading and Growing a High-Performing Remote ID Team

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

“Virtual”, “remote”, “distance”… these terms describe a growing percentage of work teams and departments in many professional fields, including higher education and online learning. Join us as we share our experience with developing and leading a remote team of high-performing, engaged, and connected Instructional Designers.


Michael Braden, MA LPC has been an Instructional Designer for TCS Education System since 2010, and in June 2018 he was promoted to Associate Director of the TCS Instructional Design team. As an ID he has worked most closely with online faculty at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (Counseling Psychology, Public Health, and Clinical Psychopharmacology programs), and the residential and online faculty and leadership at Dallas Nursing Institute (Vocational Nursing, ADN, and RN-to-BSN programs). Michael is a 2008 graduate of the Clinical Counseling MA program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, where he earned a Distinguished Student Award. He has since worked both full- and part-time in the field of community counseling, with a particular focus on sex offender evaluation and treatment as well as providing therapy for children and families receiving DCFS services. Michael moved from the Boston area to Chicago in 1999 to earn an MA in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University, after which he spent several years in online education and employee performance development at the Walgreen Company. Prior to this, he had been a writer and editor in the Media Access group at WGBH Educational Foundation, creating audio descriptions of TV programs and movies for blind and visually impaired audiences. Michael is a 1994 graduate of Harvard College. Michael lives with his family in Grayslake, Illinois.
Gia has worked as a corporate trainer, curriculum developer, and instructional designer for over 20 years. She’s used her degree in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University to implement major systems and programs at several Fortune 500 companies, including Whirlpool Corporation, Sara Lee Corporation, Allstate Insurance, Aon Corporation, and MetLife Insurance. She transitioned to academia in 2008, coming to The Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s Online Campus as one of only two instructional designers when that organization was just eight employees strong. Gia has helped grow the online and blended programs from one institution with a dozen programs to five institutions each with multiple programs, introducing new technology and processes to streamline course development and maintain the high standards of the institutions she supports. She now works at TCS Education System as Senior Director of Instructional Design, and lives in Michigan with her wife and two children.

Extended Abstract

This presentation will provide insight on the evolution and continued success of one of the most effective and longest-tenured teams within the TCS Education System organization – a team that has a) remained intact through periodic layoffs and reorganizations; b) scaled up from supporting a few online degree programs in one institution, to supporting five institutions all with multiple online and/or hybrid programs; c) become more geographically diverse over time, and d) done all this with essentially the same seven people. The Instructional Design department has been operating as a 100% remote team for several years, with an average length of employment on the team of 7 years. During that time, only one person has left the team. Team members report feeling empowered and motivated to produce at the highest levels, develop strong interpersonal and professional relationships, and consider themselves respected leaders in their areas of expertise. We would like to share how this came about, and discuss how implementing several effective strategies – both short- and long-term – may lead to similar success in your organization and on your team.

Key Takeaways We Will Explore
The following 9 team leadership strategies compose the main presented material; however, rather than simply reciting and describing these in order as if they were bullet points on a PowerPoint slide, we will instead highlight and explore each one as it arises naturally out of a larger narrative, as we tell the story of how our remote Instructional Design team has grown, adapted, and evolved over the past 9 years.

  • Hire for the best fit.
  • Balance expectations and autonomy.
  • Balance fairness and individuality.
  • Trust.
  • Be available.
  • Bring the team together.
  • Grow and strengthen connections with the larger organization.
  • Nurture the team’s community and resilience.
  • Adapt and evolve.

In addition, the “three groups of three” structure will allow us to frame these strategies as being short-, medium-, or long-term interventions.

Audience Engagement

  • At the beginning we will poll audience to identify role in their own organization/institution, and whether they consider themselves part of a “remote team”.
  • During the presentation we will pose and periodically return to a thematic question or challenge for audience members to consider.
  • With certain key topics, we will use an interactive ‘dyad’ format to help the audience identify and briefly discuss parallels and differences in their own current team situation, and pinpoint which strategies they can implement right away in their own organizations.