Faculty Forward Instructional Design: Putting the Heart in Innovation

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

Helix Education presents a collaborative approach to instructional design that supports faculty members, promotes their expertise, and creates the conditions for institutional innovation.


My passion is online education and getting faculty as inspired about online learning as I am. I have 16 years of online education experience, I have taught for 6 schools and have designed and taught between 300-400 courses in 7 Learning Management Systems. I am the former Director of Teaching Excellence and Educational Technology for Golden Gate University in San Francisco, and am now the Director of Academic Programs and Instructional Design for Helix Education. I also conduct workshops on alternatives to academic employment for PhDs for the American Academy of Religion. My PhD is from UCLA in Folklore (1998).

Additional Authors

As Director of Instructional Design at Helix Education, Emily Wood works with client institutions to develop the highest quality student learning experience. Over the past 6 years, Emily has applied her instructional design expertise to develop industry-driven curriculum, to produce courses and tutorials built on Open Education pedagogies, and to lead course peer reviews for quality assurance in curriculum. Prior to joining Helix Education, she taught courses online and in person as an Associate Professor and served as the Founding Director of the Center for Engagement and Learning at Pierce College. Ms. Wood holds an MSIS from the University of Texas at Austin with a specialization in Instruction, and she is pursuing her Doctorate of Education with a concentration in Higher Education Administration at Northeastern University.

Extended Abstract

A 2015 report sponsored by the Gates Foundation outlines some of the perceptions, attitudes and behaviors which may prevent faculty members from embracing change and innovation in technology and from adopting new teaching methods (FTI Consulting, 2015). Many of the results of this study should not surprise anyone who is in touch with the concerns and stresses which affect faculty. Not only do some faculty members distrust online learning, instructors are frequently not provided with the necessary time, training and resources to develop effective and engaging online courses, the results of which leave both faculty and learners dissatisfied. Instructional designers are supposed to help ease the load of faculty members by taking a larger role in online course design, yet, this still does not often erase faculty concerns, and in some cases can even be a political quagmire. Many faculty members approach the relationship with an instructional designer as an unsettling imposition at best and threatening at worst. Faculty members may have fears that their autonomy will be subject to the imposition of standards and methods that undermine their expertise and authority in the classroom. Additionally, many faculty members are so overburdened that the thought of developing a course in collaboration with someone else will place even more stress and constraint on an already crowded schedule. At the heart of the resistance may be the feeling that the role of "The Professor" is changing and being diminished, which is a legitimate and personal reaction to a changing educational landscape that often goes unaddressed in trying to motivate curriculum change and innovation.

So what strategies can we use to support and empower faculty members in such a way that they feel as though they can confidently invest their time and expertise in quality online course development? At Helix we believe that building a thoughtful instructional design method may help instructors to approach the online course creation process with more ease and security. We do this by consciously putting the faculty member at the heart of the course creation process and also freeing them up from the more onerous tasks, such as outcomes mapping. We have developed a facilitation strategy and set of tools around instructional design collaborations specifically designed to make faculty members feel supported and empowered. In this presentation we will provide concrete strategies for creating a positive environment for developing quality, scalable, customizable online courses which places the vision and position of the faculty member at the front of the process. We will discuss the use of course design templates, the impact of personalization and importantly how to build a collaborative environment that will still produce quality results.

In this session we will briefly outline our collaborative course design process, and share our approaches to drawing out faculty expertise so that it can be effectively integrated into high quality, personalizable and scalable online courses. We believe that by placing faculty at the center of the course design experience we create a supportive environment for broader innovation and change. In this 45 minute interactive presentation we will describe the philosophy of our approach and demonstrate the ways in which we structure the faculty/instructional design collaboration. Throughout the presentation, there will be opportunities for participants to discuss challenges and approaches with their colleagues, in small and larger group settings.

We at Helix envision instructional design support as a way to let the expertise of the faculty member shine through to help create a course that will allow them to focus on what they love, which is teaching. We also recognize that these efforts need to be supported by a wider team and a clear structure that will help keep course development projects moving forward. If your faculty members feel secure and supported and know that their expertise really matters in the course design process, it will greatly impact the institutional ability to drive innovation and change.

FTI Consulting. (2015). U.S. postsecondary faculty in 2015: Diversity in people, goals and methods, but focused on student [Electronic version]. Retrieved from http://postsecondary.gatesfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/US-P...