Embracing Flexibility: Work that Works for Online Course Development

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

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Brief Abstract

Higher education institutions are seeing a demand in flexibility from students - but also from faculty and staff. In this session you will learn how one organization embraced telecommuting to meet the needs of faculty and staff in order to better serve its online students.


Dr. Olysha Magruder is a graduate from University of Florida's Educational Technology doctoral program. Her research interests include faculty development, blended learning, instructional design, and leadership. She is currently an instructional designer at the Whiting School of Engineering, Engineering for Professionals, Johns Hopkins University. Prior to this, she has worked in other higher education institutions as an instructional designer and adjunct faculty. Olysha started her career in a K-12 classroom, which sparked her love for all things teaching and learning.

Extended Abstract

Consider this definition: “Telecommuting is a work practice that involves members of an organization substituting a portion of their typical work hours...to work away from a central workplace - typically principally from home - using technology to interact with others as needed to conduct work tasks” (Allen et al., 2015, p.44). Sounds a lot like how faculty and students in online and blended courses interact, doesn’t it? Higher education institutions are recognizing the need to be flexible in how they offer instruction to students. This same shift in thinking is needed to create and sustain high functioning teams to support that effort.

The Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering (Part-Time and Online Programs) (JHU-WSE) offers a wide range of part-time and online programs to a diverse body of students and recruits faculty from all over the world. The JHU-WSE instructional designers and technologists work with faculty, who are often off-site, to design and develop online courses. The design and development process typically occurs virtually, providing an opportunity for the staff to model successful development of  robust products through effective uses of synchronous and asynchronous technology tools. Thus the online development team embraces telecommuting for its faculty and staff out of necessity and practicality.

Telecommuting can be a viable option if well thought out and supported. In this session, you will learn about a group instructional designers, technologists, and faculty who work onsite and who telecommute. You will find out about some of the technologies used to facilitate collaboration and how the team models effective uses of these technologies through virtual interactions. You will also participate in a discussion with several team members, both onsite and remote, about the challenges and benefits of working as a blended team of professionals.

Our students will soon be or currently are thriving in the workforce. The question is: Will higher education institutions provide the same flexibility to faculty and staff that today’s students are demanding?

Reference: Allen, T. D., Golden, T. D., & Shockley, K. M. (2015). How effective is telecommuting? Assessing the status of our scientific findings. Psychological Science in the Public Interest16(2), 40-68. doi:10.1177/1529100615593273