Instructional design is about relating and empowering faculty in brief, encouraging and even humorous segments.
There was a lot of chatter on higher education social media groups, secondary education blogs, and e-learning administrator listervs on how to best help faculty adapt to the shift to fully remote instruction. Scores of instructional designers wanted to leverage the opportunity and use the momentum to school faculty on how online teaching and learning works. As an instructional designer myself, I was tempted to beat the make-the-crisis-count drum, to seize the stay!, or share the latest clever meme. Early on, I created a then-fresh, now trite, Forrest Gump meme: And just like that … instructional design became a legit field. Almost overnight, my appointment calendar had filled up. My phone rang non-stop. I had won the office popularity contest and was automagically highly valued! Why not appropriate this unfortunate situation for the benefit of would-be elearners everywhere?
The faculty developer in me rang a resounding WOAH! in my ears and gave me pause. What did our faculty really need? Did they need to learn something new? Maybe. But I had to resist jumping at the chance to teach by recognizing the opportunity to serve. We were in new territory. We were slowly discovering that emergency remote instruction is not the same as online course design. The shift to online instruction during a global medical crisis is about salvage. It’s about making it through and now an opportunity to … (to leverage, to sway, to influence). Sometimes lemons are just lemons – and it’s okay to acknowledge that, admit they are sour, and not try and sugar them up to make a refreshing lemonade.
And so, the 2-minute tip series was born. On day one of fully online instruction at our College, I created and sent out a 2-minute call to arms for going online in a hurry, a video message infused with camaraderie, championing, and cheerleading. It was not an instructive piece with overtones of flip it fast, here’s a checklist, get your e-teach on; rather, it had a take a breath, you can do this, don’t forget to laugh a little tone. Every day since, a brief tip for salvaging instruction in the online environment is figuratively gift-wrapped and delivered to the inboxes of our faculty. It’s a spoonful of help with a heaping serving of encouragement in what must seem like an impossible order to deliver.
Faculty have told me the daily tip has been a lifeline: a brief moment in the day when they are reminded why they do what they do. The feedback has affirmed what I know about the role of the instructional designer and almost forgot in the crisis. Instructional design is, first and foremost, relational. It is not about teaching new skills and methods; it is about serving and empowering in brief, encouraging and even humorous segments. I cannot relieve the load, dispel overwhelm, or hurriedly equip faculty to teach in a new way – nor should I try. I can, and should – and will! – come alongside and serve as they salvage.