OLC Accelerate 2021 Best-in-Track Winners


Dylan Barth, Ph.D., Director of Professional Learning, Online Learning Consortium

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Pulling Back the Curtains: How the Pandemic Helped Instructional Designers Set the Stage for Today and the Future

As part of our Accelerate conference, OLC recognizes presentations that emerge as outstanding with a Best-in-Track designation. Last year, for Accelerate 2021, the Best-in-Track winner in the Instructional Design track was “Pulling Back the Curtains: How the Pandemic Helped Instructional Designers Set the Stage for Today and the Future,” presented by Dr. Lauren Kelley (University of Delaware) and Celicia Wallace (Seminole State College of Florida). We asked our presenters to answer a few questions about their presentation and about the excellent work they are doing in the field. OLC would like to offer a sincere congratulations to our presenters for this award!

Click here to register for the upcoming Accelerate conference in November.


Q&A With the Award Winners 

Q: What made you explore and present on this topic?

A: We wanted to share our collective reflections and professional experiences as instructional designers (IDs) navigating the educational landscape throughout this pandemic. We felt strongly about presenting our findings particularly because of COVID’s deep impact—not only on what we do in our work, but the ways in which this work changed in scope, and the exponential increase in our value and visibility across institutions of higher learning. In many ways, the pandemic cast a spotlight on the necessity for quality course design for optimal learning and how instructional designers are at the center of that stage. This inspired the title of our OLC session, “Pulling Back the Curtains: How the Pandemic Helped Instructional Designers Set the Stage.” The purpose of instructional design was reintroduced and we helped the academic community to understand why it is essential to designing effective learning experiences.

Q: What are a few key takeaways from your presentation that we should know about?

A: Faculty and students expressed anxiety, fear, and confusion during the rapid switch to emergency remote learning. Instructional designers felt the brunt of these emotions while trying to implement 24/7 customer support sprinkled with patience, care, and empathy. We worked to adapt to rapid college-wide changes, the never-ending uncertainty, and implemented emergency remote strategies for teaching and learning continuity. We felt the biggest shift in the scope of our work in Summer 2020. Our visibility increased as we were continuously consulting, advising, and mentoring faculty to ensure that courses were ready for online and online synchronous teaching. As we prepared for Fall 2020, our silver lining revealed itself. We were in a position to empower faculty to develop a growth mindset in their approach to teaching and learning. Our course design work transitioned from emergency remote to a more intentional design thinking approach.

Q: What other advice can you share with others related to this topic?

A: Prior to the pandemic, instructional designers were largely perceived as technical/LMS support instead of being leveraged to the full extent of our expertise. Institutions should promote greater awareness about the benefits of working with instructional designers to support effective teaching and learning practices. Quality course design and delivery should be a priority in strategic planning.

The pandemic exposed many of the difficult conversations that we began but never finished. COVID taught all of us that we can conduct teaching and learning the right way, which opened the door to more possibilities. As a result, there is no going back to “the way things were before” the pandemic. Faculty should consider being ready for students who enroll in face-to-face courses but also want the option to be remote. Faculty will also need to continue to be flexible in their course delivery because having multiple learning choices is now the expectation.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like others to know about this topic?

A: We appreciated the opportunity to share our stories and spotlight our dedicated peers across the country. It is important to note that the sustainable future of education cannot continue to thrive without the role of instructional designers having intentional conversations and interactions with faculty about online teaching and learning practices.


About the Best-in-Track Winners

Dr. Lauren Kelley is an Educational Technology Consultant at the University of Delaware (UD) with extensive educational leadership in professional development, instructional design, and strategic planning. Her expertise is in the design of learner-centric instruction for onboarding, continuing education, with a specialty in LMS migration. Dr. Kelley has a differentiated instruction-based teaching philosophy that is learner-responsive and rooted in the educational planning framework of Understanding by Design (UbD) and the ADDIE model. Dr. Kelley heads up the Academic Technology Services South office in Orlando, Florida for UD. She handles programs for the College of Engineering, Fashion Design and Apparel Studies, and several academic departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Kelley’s teaching and learning background has involved work at both two and four-year colleges with first-year students, adult learners, and other special student populations. Dr. Kelley teaches career-related courses like New Student Experience, which allow her to encourage learner-centered perspectives in her work with faculty. In her role, she believes in ‘getting to know who her faculty are and how they facilitate student learning in an effort to meet them where they are in their teaching practice.’ As a matter of fact…she has begun facilitating some workshops focused on using Canvas to effectively communicate with students and provide student feedback.

As a life-long learner, Celicia Wallace is passionate about finding innovative solutions to inspire others to reach their fullest potential by creating positive and inclusive learning experiences. During her journey, she has learned the value of clear communication, building relationships, active listening, and establishing trust. Through her role as an Instructional Designer, she partners with subject matter experts to deliver high-quality courses that optimize conditions to ensure learner success. After earning a Master of Arts in Instructional Design and Technology, she gained experience in the private sector, where she worked for federal and military contractors. Her 15-year background in education and dedication to learner-centered teaching led her to higher education. In her current role, she works with faculty to support student growth and achievement.


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