Collaborative Development for Effective Online Learning: An Online MBA Case Study

Concurrent Session 9

Brief Abstract

The relationship between instructional designer and subject expert holds the key to effective online learning. Presenters share a team approach to course development for one institution’s online MBA program. Presenters unpack common misconceptions held by faculty and how these were overcome during the design process for a quantitative business course at the University of Redlands.

Sponsored By


Dr. Christine D. Lewinski serves as Director of Faculty Engagement for Keypath Education. As part of Keypath's Instructional Design Service team, Dr. Lewinski works with faculty on adopting eLearning strategies suited to their subject matter and teaching philosophies. Having served in higher education roles for over 20 years, Dr. Lewinski brings a range of strategies to support quality in online faculty development, and student engagement,. Her research interests include applied andragogy, digital learning practices, faculty preparation for learning and teaching online, and student retention.
Avijit Sarkar is professor of business analytics and operations research at the University of Redlands School of Business. His primary research interests include examination of global digital divides, spatial patterns of the sharing economy, location-based analytics, and spatial maturity models. In his research, he uses spatial statistics and multivariate analytical methods to analyze geographically referenced data for meaningful patterns and relationships. He is co-author of the book Global Digital Divides: Explaining Change (Springer). His research articles have been published in journals such as Decision Support Systems, Telecommunications Policy, Communications of the AIS, Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, European Journal of Operational Research, Computers and Operations Research, and Journal of Geographical Systems. Dr. Sarkar teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in various modalities in the area of business analytics and decision-making. He is recipient of the University of Redlands Awards for Outstanding Research and Teaching, and received his Ph.D. (2004) and M.S. (2002) degrees in Industrial Engineering from The State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo.

Extended Abstract

The session will provide evidence from a local scene of course development and the resulting insights as the faculty and program leaders craft a unique online experience for MBA students.

Helping faculty recognize, embrace and leverage the potential of technology-enhanced learning can be a rewarding, but challenging experience. This session will offer insight into how an instructional design team along with a faculty member approached course development. The institutional context of one school in its first year offering an online MBA will be presented alongside three common misconceptions often held by faculty as they begin the design process. These are:

1) Course development is mostly about meeting project management deadlines;

2) Technology tools abound, and there is too little time and training to learn them all;

3) More content means more learning.

During the session, both pre-and post-development perspectives will be explored. In the discussion of misconception 1: “Course development is mostly about meeting project management deadlines,” participants will reflect on two realities for faculty beginning the process of developing online courses. Subject experts frequently cite a lack of sufficient knowledge about online learning to develop a course on their own (Birch & Burnett, 2009).  Subject experts also frequently inherit or are assigned the administrative task to develop a course. Because of these and other factors, faculty may understandably feel resistant to a months-long development process, especially if they are assigned to collaborate with a designer. An initial transactive focus often marks the start of development –what is due and when it is due. Of course, this misses much of the richness that can be a part of the sustained collaboration that takes place during course development. Dialogue that stems from the exchange and debate of ideas is a way to awaken curiosity about how to deliver a course online.  Bain (2018) suggests that people are most likely to take a deep approach to learning when they are trying to solve problems that they have come to regard as “important, intriguing, or interesting.” While efficient development is a necessity to maximize the resources, learning is at the center. Once faculty teach online from a course they’ve developed, they better understand the role that extensive dialogue and meticulous preparation play in their teaching and students’ learning.

During the design process, subject experts consider technical solutions alongside the content they’re developing which will be unpacked with misconception 2: “Technology tools abound, and there is too little time and training to learn them all.” Often technology is the factor that seems the most disruptive to faculty who feel they have too much technology to learn and too little training to master it. Useful for overcoming this misconception, Beetham and Sharpe (2010) presented “ICT literacy” as one of the developmental elements in their digital literacy framework. This aspect of digital literacy is the ability to “adopt, adapt, and use digital devices, application and services” which develops over time. For the MBA course, interactive objects were collaboratively designed, such as knowledge-check questions at the start of the week and automated feedback opportunities as students practiced new skills. The use of technology to design self-contained activities creates a guided path for online students through complex course material. These always-available forms of instruction enable students to review content at their own pace, as frequently as needed thus leveraging one of the key benefits of online learning—putting more of the learning process in the hands of the learner. Examples will be highlighted along with their reception by students.

Collaboration between subject experts and designers includes discussions about how to move away from the impulse to replicate face-to-face teaching. This will be discussed with misconception 3: “More content means more learning.” During course design and development, subject experts often feel the need to provide more and more content to mimic an in-class experience or compensate for their lack of physical presence.  Instructional designers often interrogate with a subject expert how content will be used by the learner in each unit, and across the course. In this view, instruction shifts from transmission to probing questions and dialogue-based interaction (Coppola, Hiltz, & Rotter, 2002). Uses of active questions, video, and feedback that is revealed following an action by the student are techniques that engage advanced business students directly using social constructivist forms of learning. Accompanied by discussions of how to teach online in ways that convey presence, faculty overcome a sense that the learning experience is “disconnected” (Garrison, 2007) or even that it is so distinct from face-to-face forms of learning. Content that has a strong sense of purpose is more likely to help students accelerate their ability to construct meaning for themselves which is another means to leverage online learning potential.

The team will share evidence for what they have discovered from their work to date representing the points of view of the instructional design team and faculty subject experts during the process.

Bain, K. (2018, March 29) [Live Webinar]. Influencing Student Intentions to Foster Deeper Learning. Watermark:

Birch, D. and Burnett, B. (2009). Bringing academics on board: encouraging institution-wide diffusion of e-learning environments. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(1): 117-134.

Coppola, N., Hiltz, S. R., & Rotter, N. G. (2002). Becoming a virtual professor: Pegagical roles and asynchronous learning networks. Journal of Management Information Systems, 18(4), 160-190. Retrieved from

Garrison, D. (2007). Online Community of Inquiry Review: Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Presence Issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72.

King, E. & Boyatt, R. (2014) Exploring factors that influence adoption of e-learning within higher education.  British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(6), 1272-1280.

Meyer, J., Land, R., & Baillie, C. (2010). Threshold Concepts and Tranformational Learning (Vol. 42). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense . Retrieved from

Sharpe, R and Beetham, H (2010) Understanding students' uses of technology for learning: Towards creative appropriation. In: Rethinking learning for a digital age: How learners are shaping their own experiences, Routledge. pp. 85-99