When Life Gives You (Big, Complicated) Projects: The Instructional Designer’s Guide to Survival

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

So, your institution is adopting a new learning management system? Or implementing a new curriculum? Or onboarding five new academic programs simultaneously? This session presents practical approaches for successfully managing complex projects through the lens of instructional design.


Experienced instructional designer / technologist who can confidently collaborate with diverse faculty and instructional support team members to promote exceptional learning outcomes in the higher education environment; expert trainer/faculty professional development specialist with years of demonstrated success in implementing adult learning approaches. Trained and certified in application of the Quality Matters rubric for instructional design and peer evaluation of online courses. Adjunct instructor skilled in theoretical and real-world applications of technology into diverse teaching and learning environments.
Aaron is an Instructional Designer at Arizona State University and brings a diverse background in education. He studied foreign languages in Japan before devoting another six years in East Asia as an English language instructor within both online and traditional classrooms. Upon returning to the U.S. he took up graduate studies in learning sciences and distance education at the University of New Mexico. Now, he enjoys consulting on innovative course design solutions and creating instructional multimedia learning interventions at ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Additional Authors

Celia Coochwytewa has a vast background and experience in instructional design, consulting, developing, and delivering innovative and proficient technology-enhanced products and experiences in an education environment. At Arizona State University's, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, she is the Manager of Instructional Design and Learning Experience Innovation, where she works closely with faculty to design and develop engaging, interactive, and effective learning experiences, accessible to students. Additionally, Celia leads the development and coordination of faculty consulting needs around instructional technology and course design, in collaboration with program and team stakeholders. She contributes to multiple University-wide workgroups to discuss and provide guidance on instructional design and technology matters. She also provides insight both as a participant and facilitator on the podcast, Instruction by Design. Before joining the University, she spent several years as a K12 classroom teacher, providing general education, language arts, media literacy, and gifted outreach programming instruction. Her focus has remained in curriculum and instruction, specifically with technology integration. She believes that technology is a tool for learning, prepares students for their future, and should not be used for 'technology sake' but in a conscious manner.

Extended Abstract


At this education session, an instructional design team from a large state university will engage participants in exploring tools and strategies for successful management of complex, multi-phase projects such as the migration of hundreds of online courses to a different learning management system (LMS). Aspects related to scope analysis, project management, team communications, task division, and evaluation/reporting will be presented.  

Instructional design/technology professionals are often well-positioned to coordinate or lead projects that naturally emerge throughout the administration of academic programs. Initiatives such as new program design/development, curriculum mapping/evaluation, innovative delivery models/technology integrations, or the creation of faculty orientation materials may all necessitate efficient, structured project management. Project plans need to address key issues, such as supporting the unique needs of stakeholders such as students, faculty, and program administrators; leveraging existing institutional infrastructure/departmental resources to maximize efficiency; and developing mechanisms to monitor progress and identify roadblocks.

Instructional designers and related learning professionals represent an extremely diverse range of educational backgrounds and practical skill sets. However, many have little to no formal training or experience with project management, which may be challenging when initiatives rapidly scale up or require new models of team collaboration.

During this session, participants will be introduced to a variety of tools and strategies that are adaptable for managing complex projects in the higher education environment. The presenters will share examples and outcome data from a recent project involving the migration of more than 200 existing courses to a new LMS. A discussion and crowdsourcing activity will be conducted to collect ideas, technologies, and tips for successfully managing complex projects and/or LMS migration initiatives. 

Learning objectives

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

  • Describe at least one strategy or tool for managing a complex project in the higher education environment. 
  • Summarize the alignment of instructional design expertise with practical project management approaches.

Audience engagement & materials

Participants will be invited to engage in background knowledge probe/discussion moments throughout the presentation. Participants will also be encouraged to contribute to an online crowdsourcing activity during the session. Handouts will include selected presentation slides, project management resources, and a recommended reading list.