The New Instructional Design Mindset for Higher Education

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

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Brief Abstract

What do we really need for successful instructional design?  Stanford, University of Washington and UC San Francisco will discuss many instructional design challenges facing higher education and present a new instructional design mindset currently used to successfully transform health science curriculum and how it applies to 21st century learning.


I have a deep passion for using technology and media to enhance learning. I studied architecture at UC Berkeley and briefly worked in the field then soon moved into online learning and have been engaged in creating rich learning experiences. I lead a team of rock stars at UCSF to transform the health science curriculum using technology and media.

Extended Abstract

The New Instructional Design Mindset for Higher Education

Teaching and learning with technology has significantly changed over the last few years and has now completely changed how most universities create and deliver learning.  Traditionally, universities could be characterized by faculty and students coming together in person at the same location where the faculty are expected to have all the knowledge and deliver this to the students usually in the form of a lecture.  Those days are gone forever.  Student expectations and new learning technologies have completely changed this context.  But many universities and educators still function in an older mindset which is creating some adverse consequences both for learners and educators.  We can’t just focus on one educational challenge or solution because they are continually changing - we need a new mindset for instructional design.

Many aspects of teaching and learning at universities have changed.  Some of the biggest changes come from the students and their expectations on what new technologies can do for them, which includes expecting and getting access to their instructors 24/7, getting high quality recorded lectures to study anytime and anywhere, access to electronic study materials, etextbooks, and using robust peer to peer studying tools, and a wealth of information resources outside of the university itself.  


Many universities have responded to these educational challenges by hiring instructional designers in large numbers to come into the university and help them solve these new challenges.  If educators and instructional designers continue in outdated mindsets on how best to create and deliver learning, then their efforts many not work and could even backfire.  These challenges will continue to grow which presents us with an opportunity for the new instructional designer to be a leader on campus.  If you talk to educators on campus now, most will agree there are huge challenges and they don’t know what to do exactly.   The first step to addressing these challenges is to update our thinking and the framework we use to carry out our work.  Here are six aspects to a new mindset needed to guide instructional designers as they lead in this new context.  

A New Instructional Design Mindset:

  1. Passion for teaching and learning - willingness to explore teaching & learning in any form, with technology or without, and to be engaged in how people learn

  2. Human Centered Design  – using design principles that start with the user, Design Thinking, and User Experience (UX)

  3. Team play - using team management, team communications, leading and following others to produce results as a team

  4. Creativity – part of creativity is curiosity, asking “what if?” and exploring, connecting new and old ideas together, using innovations in meaningful ways

  5. Coaching and mentoring - involves empathy for others, understanding what others need to learn and what you need to learn from them, understanding that people will advanced degrees still need to learn - and continuously sharing essential knowledge with them as if you were responsible for their professional development

  6. Project management  – other people may ultimately be responsible for the projects, but realizing that you are a central figure and need to help manage the specific details to insure quality and success of the projects

In this session, instructional designers from Stanford, University of Washington, and UC San Francisco will outline current challenges and how this new mindset can be used to solve these challenges and create more robust learning.  We will first explore some of the common challenges facing instructional designers and educators and some of the projects and outcomes from these challenges.  Each school will also share their practice and toolkits illustrating this new mindset which you can take back with you to apply at your institution.  Participants will be invited to share their ideas and strategies for a new mindset.  

Many educators and instructional designers are struggling with these new challenges and may be using old mindsets to accomplish new things.  This new Instructional Design mindset is essential to help transform the traditional university into a current institution for learning and will help guide everyone involved with instructional design and creating engaging and effective learning experiences.  The instructional designer has become a key player in the university and needs to create a deeper mindset to be truly effective.


Learning Objectives for this session:

  1. Describe many of the current challenges facing instructional designers asked to transform curriculum
  2. Describe a new Instructional Design Mindset to enable instructional designers to transform learning
  3. Describe educational outcomes when using this new mindset
  4. Apply this new Instructional Design mindset at your institution