Design Lab! Developing and Sustaining Capacity to Design Effective Online Courses and Programs

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This session explains how Ashford University created the "Design Lab" for developing and sustaining faculty capacity to design effective online courses and programs.


Lisa Johnson has served as an assistant professor and instructional design specialist with the College of Education at Ashford University since 2012. Prior to this service she worked twelve years with the Colorado Community Colleges Online consortium. Dr. Johnson earned degrees in anthropology (B.A.), education (Ed.M.), and instructional design (Ph.D.) from the Florida State University, Georgia State University, and Capella University respectively. She has designed and facilitated online courses in the higher education context since the late-1990s. She has also served as an instructional technologist and an associate director of training and professional development in addition to faculty roles. Dr, Johnson's research interests are in the disciplines of applied anthropology and education, with particular emphases in topics related to andragogy, geragogy, online community formation and sustainability, academic qaulity and integrity, and collaboration.
Michael Kolodziej is the CEO and Founder of Adapt2U, an adaptive learning consultancy and ed technology firm that helps institutions more effectively leverage technology in support of learning and student success. Michael holds a Doctorate of Education in Learning Technologies from Pepperdine University, and has focused his research on the integration of Computational Thinking and 21st century skills into formal learning experiences.

Extended Abstract

Ashford University, a WSCUC accredited provider of accessible, affordable, innovative, and high-quality online learning opportunities and degree programs, recognized an increasing and pressing need to innovate its organizational structures for training faculty to develop and sustain their capacity to design effective courses and degree programs. Courses and programs are developed by faculty in collaboration with several staff teams located at the university, including assessment, quality assurance, career services, and the library, in conjunction with several Learning Services teams, including instructional designers, educational technologists, and the writing center, which are operate as a shared service with the parent company, Bridgepoint Education.

One of the challenges faced by Ashford University was how to effectively train staff and faculty who are working both on-site positions in Denver, Colorado and San Diego, California, and, for the majority of faculty, working remotely from multiple locations and time zones across the United States. Another challenge faced was the calibration of differing cultures, resources, and processes among the various colleges and their faculty and staff teams to increase communication, collaboration, and efficiencies during the course and program development process.

Under the leadership and visioning of Assistant Professor of the College of Education, Dr. Lisa Johnson, and Bridgepoint Education's Chief Academic Learning Officer, Dr. Andrew Shean, and Associate Vice President of Curriculum and Instructional Design, Mr. Mike Kolodziej, the Design Lab was conceived of in late 2014. During 2015, the Design Lab initiative informally began with the use of a SharePoint repository for supporting job aids and templates and assistance from the Faculty Support and Development team at Ashford University in offering pilot training sessions. In late 2015, a series of synchronous workshops were offered via Adobe Connect to begin training a selected group of faculty currently working on course and program development and to inform the session topics and structure to be used in the Design Lab sessions, which formally launched in January 2016.

This session will explain how focus on situated cognitive and authentic learning techniques are utilized in synchronous and asynchronous professional development and training opportunities, via the Design Lab, to support the needs of faculty and staff teams collaborating to develop effective online courses and programs. Participants will leave this session able to discuss how the solutions developed at Ashford University can be adapted for use at their organizations and institutions where similar challenges exist for developing and sustaining capacity among faculty and staff teams working on-site and in remote locations to develop effective online courses and programs. Participants will experience a demonstration of the SharePoint community developed to support the Design Lab initiative and see examples of how Design Lab sessions are structured, managed, and function for faculty and staff. Participants will also have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss their experiences with solving similar challenges at their organizations and institutions.

As organizations and institutions, both in the higher education and elementary and secondary education sectors, increasingly employee on-site and remote faculty and staff to collaboratively develop effective online courses and programs and increasingly contract with third-party entities to support these developments, solutions like the Design Lab may become more common. Therefore, this session is also designed to provide insights for participants about our experiences designing and implementing the Design Lab solution and to promote networking and communication among stakeholders, including administrators, faculty, staff groups, who are working to meet similar needs for developing and sustaining capacity among faculty and staff teams to create effective online courses and degree programs.

Session Goal Statements - Participants in this session will be able to:
1) Recognize how situated cognitive and authentic learning techniques can be utilized to develop and sustain capacity among faculty and staff teams for creating effective online courses and degree programs.

2) Recall how SharePoint or similar cloud-based repository and community can function to support curriculum development processes.

3) Adapt the management, structure, and functional aspects of the Design Lab initiative to meet their organizational or institutional needs for training teams of on-site and remote employees.

4) Discuss potential challenges and solutions for implementing blended and online training opportunities to on-site and remote employees.