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

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session HBCU Leadership

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Instructional designers (IDs) will engage in discussion about their experiences with faculty during the pandemic and the transformative changes those experiences inspired. Participants will actively engage in scenario-based activities as they reflect on ID perspectives based on three emerging themes: 

  1. Redefining ID roles

  2. Cultivating design thinking mindsets

  3. Sustaining future partnerships


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, I am passionate about finding innovative solutions to inspire others to reach their fullest potential by creating positive and inclusive learning experiences. During my journey, I learned the value of clear communication, building relationships, active listening, and establishing trust. Through my role as an Instructional Designer, I partner 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, I gained experience in the private sector, where I worked for federal and military contractors. My 15-year background in education and dedication to learner-centered teaching led me to higher education. In my current role, I work with faculty to support student growth and achievement.

Extended Abstract

In 2020, the global pandemic forced many institutions to move 100% of their courses fully online overnight. This abrupt shift in the educational landscape generated a reactionary response during the midst of spring breaks with merely a quarter of time left in semesters and terms. Sheepishly, there was an expectation that we would be returning to normal, teaching back in the classroom, and happily gathering together on our campus quads and within our learning spaces. As the initial shock wore off and the reality quickly set in that this would not be temporary, institutions scrambled to make ends meet in an effort to create continuity for student learning. 

This change in course delivery was not new; however, it put a spotlight on the integrity of online course design and how to develop quality online courses. These critical conversations did not immediately occur, which created frustration and new challenges for students, faculty, and administrators. On the other hand, as instructional designers, now there were endless opportunities to cultivate rich relationships beyond simply supporting faculty with quick fixes typically related to the learning management systems. The pandemic created the silver lining needed for greater visibility related to the importance of universal design and quality online design. The pandemic also created safe learning spaces for instructional designers to intimately support faculty with how their course design informed their course delivery for their online teaching practice. This discernment invited instructional designers to have more thoughtful and intentional conversations about inclusive course design for all learners. 

Reflecting on the consequences of the pandemic this past year and rapidly moving courses online, the landscape of higher education, and education in general, has been forever changed. Although we are all in the business of education, each institution has its own unique brand, culture, norms, and priorities. Nonetheless, the sustainable future of education cannot continue to thrive without the role of instructional designers having intentionally thoughtful conversations and interactions with faculty about their online teaching and learning practice. While the significance of the role of the instructional designer has come into focus with the pandemic, this unprecedented experience has served as a wake up call for all educational institutions and their stakeholders. In the process to sustain teaching and learning, there was little time to focus on high-quality and inclusive practices in all modalities. This is where the vital role of the instructional designer works to help develop positive experiences for students, faculty, and administrators and foster a sustainable future for learning success. 

In this session, instructional designers from two institutions will share their realities and takeaways in supporting faculty throughout the pandemic. This session will use engagement tools such as Poll Everywhere and Padlet to invite participants to share stories in a scenario-based conversational format. The session outcomes highlight the key role of instructional designers, how collaborative thought partnerships between IDs and faculty help to cultivate design thinking mindsets, and how to sustain the pivotal role of instructional designers for the future of education.