Establishing Instructional Design Partnerships at Institutions with Faculty-Driven Course Design Processes

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

There is huge variety among course design processes at higher education institutions.  This session discusses building instructional design partnerships to support faculty who are the primary online course designers and provides strategies for utilizing the partnership to create quality online courses and for shifting the institutional culture toward collaborative design.


Caitlin's primary role involves partnering with teaching faculty to create and develop courses in the online, blended, and face-to-face environments. In addition, Caitlin serves as the designer, facilitator, and instructional design consultant for WPI's online faculty development workshop, the Faculty Institute for Online Teaching and provides professional development opportunities on a variety of topics including online learning, project-based learning, flipped classroom strategies, and assessment and evaluation methodologies. Caitlin holds a Master of Science degree in Learning Technologies and Instructional Design from Drexel University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Lebanon Valley College. Prior to joining WPI, Caitlin taught high school chemistry with a focus in inclusion classes for students with special needs.

Extended Abstract

The push for online educational opportunities continues to grow, which has helped instructional design gain growing traction within higher education institutions. However, the implementation of instructional design into course development continues to vary greatly among institutions.  This can range from situations where faculty members are completely autonomous to fully standardized design by a team of relevant professionals.  This session will focus on the process of moving from faculty autonomy in course design to a model that involves collaboration and structured support from an instructional designer.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has been implementing distance education for over 30 years, beginning with video tape based distance learning.  From there, WPI grew with the technology, embracing Blackboard in 1999 for course management and moving to online delivery in 2001.  However, WPI has maintained a model in which the faculty are the primary course designers and are almost entirely autonomous in the process.  With the addition of an instructional designer to the staff in 2016, WPI is beginning to shift toward a course design model that involves a collaborative partnership between faculty and instructional design to better meet the pedagogical and learning needs of online learners.

One of the major struggles of redefining the course design process involves gaining buy-in from both the institution and from individual faculty members who have been left to their own devices in creating online courses for over a decade. This session will allow participants to view this struggle from both the faculty and instructional design perspectives and openly discuss strategies for creating a more effective design model that fosters a collaborative partnership.  Factors that influence the institutional context, such as organizational structure, funding, and resources will be included within the discussion.

Steps taken by WPI to build partnerships and shift the institutional paradigm around course design will be discussed within this session.  In addition, strategies for developing the partnership to create effective online and blended courses will be shared from the perspective of both a faculty member and an instructional designer.  Participants will have the opportunity to explore factors that affect their own institution’s course design process and begin planning action steps for addressing the factors.