Instructional Design Summit - Part 1: Thrive, Don’t Survive: Affective Labor, ID Burnout and Designing Your Work Life

Concurrent Session 8

Brief Abstract

Join us for an interactive education session where we’ll explore how negative affective work states contribute to Instructional Designer burnout. As a remedy, you'll participate in three work life design exercises that highlight the importance of recognizing negative affective states, help align your passions and personal values with your vocational and academic pursuits, and ultimately, reconnect you with a sense of purpose, problem solving and intrinsic motivation relating to your role.


Lynn leads the Course Production Team in UNC Charlotte's Center for Teaching and Learning in the School of Professional studies in their work with faculty in the redesign and development of blended and online courses, the development and implementation of media and interactive learning objects, and quality assurance efforts and initiatives. Lynn is passionate about creating successful faculty and student learning experiences in online and blended learning and growing as a leader. Lynn received her M.Ed. in Instructional Technology from Idaho State University and M.A. and B.A. in English Literature from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. With over 15 years of experience in higher education, Lynn is a two time OLC Best in Track award winner, frequent volunteer with OLC Accelerate, Innovate, and IELOL, a thought leader in instructional design, and is a graduate of the Online Learning Consortium's Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning.

Extended Abstract

Within our current post COVID landscape, many Instructional Designers in HigherEd have reported experiencing ‘burnout’ in record numbers. Patricia Torcivia Prusko has noted the prevalence of the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ attitude towards IDs and academic technologists within HigherEd institutions that demands that they ‘do more with less.’ (Prusko, 2020) Within this framework, IDs are expected to serve broad swaths of an institution by performing a plethora of complex tasks, all the while maintaining kaleidoscopic, up-to-date expertise in the learning sciences, educational technologies, instructional-design theories and online faculty development stratagems. Many IDs have reported that the demanding expectations placed on their jobs has left them bereft of dedicated professional development time, disillusioned with the field, and exhausted from feeling obligated to work well over the 40 hour per week they’re compensated for until the myriad of tasks and projects at hand are done.

While the field of instructional design continues to gain traction as a respected vocation that functions as its own specialized field of study, many IDs report that the instructors they partner with fail to see the value and expertise they bring in relation to applied online course design. Additional factors such as the lack of defined upward mobility for Higher Ed IDs, and comparatively low salaries to similar private sector roles have all contributed to a widespread feeling of ID ‘burnout,’ defined as:

"A syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed [...] characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy." (WHO, 2019)

In order to help unpack the phenomena of ID burnout, presenters will explore the idea of ‘affective or emotional labor,’ defined as work that is done to "induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others.” (Hochschild, 2012) This exploration of affective labor will call into question the taken-for-granted status of negative human emotion that can arise as the result of instructional design work.

Presenters will propose that ID burnout should not be the status quo, and that the application of introspective design thinking can allow us to reflect on our inner lives/affective states in ways that offer solutions to the challenges imposed by workplace elements beyond our control. As a solution, presenters will draw on the work of Bill Burnett and Dave Evans who employ design thinking strategies to help disaffected communities redesign their work life. (Burnett & Evans, 2021) Attendees will be presented with 3 hypothetical work scenarios that correspond to 3 work design exercises. Each exercise will highlight the importance of recognizing negative affective states, help align one’s passions and personal values with their vocational and academic pursuits, and ultimately, reconnect them to a sense of purpose, problem solving and intrinsic motivation as it relates to their respective ID or ID Management roles.

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

  • Identify the connection between affective labor and negative emotions that can arise in ID work.
  • Analyze their workplace and work experiences for instances in which negative emotions can induce burnout.
  • Practice reframing their outlook and negative emotions through design thinking exercises.
  • Plan for implementing the insights garnered from the session exercises in their day-to-day work life.

This session will also include an interactive game, small group discussion, and hands-on problem-solving using design thinking.

  • Polling software will be used to gauge how meaningful participants feel their ID work contributions are.
  • The audience will be asked to share their own experiences related to the way negative affective events in their workplace have influenced their overall work outlook.
  • Attendees will be asked to complete three work life design exercises that should contribute to reframing their outlook/work practices and offer pragmatic solutions to avoiding/overcoming ID burnout.

Attendees will receive a copy of the presentation, along with a digital workbook that contains additional work life design exercises.


Prusko, P. (2022). The emerging story of burnout in educational design - EdSurge News. EdSurge. Retrieved from

Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases. (2019). Retrieved, from

Hochschild, A. (2012). The managed heart: commercialization of human feeling (3rd ed., p. 7). University of California Press.

Burnett, B., & Evans, D. (2021). Designing your new work life (1st ed.). Vintage.