Small Teaching Ideas to Generate Faculty Buy-in in an Online Course Design Partnership Model

Concurrent Session 8

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Lack of faculty buy-in is one of the major obstacles in implementing effective instructional design ideas in the online course design and development process. We will discuss the value, strategies, and examples of promoting small teaching ideas to encourage faculty to design and revise courses in partnership with instructional designers.


Ye Liu is a Lead Instructional Designer at Office of Distance Education, Metropolitan College, Boston University. She works in partnership with faculty to design and develop online courses in a variety of online programs.

Additional Authors

I am an Instructional Designer with Boston University's Office of Distance Education. I collaborate with faculty to develop new courses and revise existing courses in online masters degree programs.

Extended Abstract

Lack of faculty buy-in is one of the major obstacles in implementing effective instructional design ideas in the online course design and development process. Small teaching ideas mentioned in the session are some easy teaching techniques and strategies originally discussed by Lang (2016) – these ideas can be practiced, implemented, or duplicated by faculty with minimal investment of faculty time and preparation, while making powerful changes to students learning experiences. For example, asking a few guiding/opening questions at the beginning of a learning module can probe students to retrieve prior knowledge and predict results with new content; interspersing test-yourself questions among content learning and offering accumulative test-yourself questions at the end of the module can guide students to actively practice newly learned knowledge, to create interleaving learn/relearn opportunities, and to fix wrong understanding based on immediate feedback provided; providing muddiest-point feedback exercises at the end of each online module can motive students to review knowledge and inform missing knowledge gaps; etc.  In this session, instructional designers from the Office of Distance Education at Boston University will discuss the value of promoting small teaching ideas to encourage faculty to design new courses and/or make revisions based on faculty members’ face-to-face teaching experiences, strategies for engaging faculty in an online course design partnership model (instructional designers partner with faculty, who are the primary online course content developers), and examples of how courses have been improved by incorporating small teaching ideas in multiple online programs.

Based on the team’s instructional design partnership experiences, faculty can be easily overwhelmed by the wealth of possible emerging instructional design suggestions to achieve higher standards when beginning the course design or revision process. As a result, faculty may view rich instructional suggestions and guidelines as time consuming responsibilities and decide not to proceed and to wait for future iterations to implement changes. How can we strategically avoid the tough sell about essential and innovative instructional ideas and easily and gradually ensure faculty buy-in? We will share how we ease the process into multiple online programs by introducing and connecting research-backed small teaching ideas (Lang, 2016; Ambrose, et al., 2010) to create meaningful online learning impacts, which faculty feel confident using in their face-to-face teaching and can picture themselves implementing in their online teaching. Additionally, we will discuss how we embed these small teaching ideas as small building blocks into the course module design template, which has other big-picture critical course design components and is structured based on the backwards design framework (we will briefly explain the course design template and can share more detail if there is interest). Lastly, we will present the practical small teaching ideas and detailed examples that are suggested by cognitive research and are widely implemented by most of our online faculty members. Group discussion and small teaching ideas sharing will be facilitated.

At the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Construct at least one new form of small teaching idea inspired by the presentation.
  2. Create a list of course design improvements by examining their own online course design experiences and incorporating small teaching ideas.
  3. Share the small-teaching-idea approach with other colleagues in their own institution.

Participants interaction:

  1. Group Interaction: Participants will create a list of small teaching ideas and strategies, including one new practical idea inspired by the presentation, that they can use in your own online course or suggest online faculty to use in online teaching.
  2. Show and Tell: sharing new small teaching practical ides and strategies you come up with.


  1. Lang., J. (2016). Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA, US: Jossey-Bass.