From Freefall to Summit: Transforming Last-Minute Course Development Into Lasting Course Design

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Imagine this dystopian future: a lone instructor is hired and tasked with teaching an online course days before the semester starts. Wait - this happens all the time! Instructional designers discuss concepts and practical solutions used to build collaborative relationships and ameliorate the frenzy at the start of each semester.


Lynee is a senior instructional designer at CU Denver who focuses on online program design and faculty development. She has a background in academic libraries and is keen on researching and discussing the in and outs of the online learning experience. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is happy to be in Colorado with her husband and daughter. She has an undergraduate degree in art history and graduate degrees in library science and instructional technologies.
Sarah is a Senior Instructional Designer at the University of Colorado-Denver in the Office of Digital Education. She works with faculty on designing and delivering online courses, collaborates with instructional designers across colleges and programs, and delivers faculty professional development for excellent online pedagogy.. She has a background in communication, extensive online teaching experience, and is a doctoral candidate in education with a focus on learning technologies. Her interests include creating engaging online learning environments, improving online presence, and designing learning experiences which foster student self-regulation and motivation.
A Colorado native and graduate of both CU-Boulder and CU-Denver, Lainie is a great believer in the benefits of combining mountain air with an excellent education. She holds a Master's degree in Information and Learning Technologies, as well as a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology. She works to foster an environment of curiosity and exploration, which lends itself well to the growing landscape of digital education. Her strengths include a flexible communication style, an energetic approach to problem-solving, and a strong belief in cooperative experiences.

Extended Abstract

When faculty are assigned courses last minute, mounting stress and tight timelines can negatively impact the design, development, and teaching of new or inherited courses. As one faculty member confided, “I am in the midst of teaching my first online course which I was assigned a few weeks before the beginning of the semester. I feel like I am not really ‘teaching.’ I look forward to learning how to do a better job at this!"

Being in that situation is tough, and it’s impractical to approach course design in the same way we would with more time. Much of our particular instructional design work with faculty originates through a grant program which funds the design/redesign of an online or hybrid course. Our grant requirements include a one-on-one collaborative design process with an instructional designer, successful completion of an eight-week professional development course, and development and delivery of the course. This comprehensive process can take months to complete, and is unfeasible for instructors who find themselves with only a week or two to prepare prior to the semester start.

As collaborative partners in the course design process, we need practical, adaptable solutions that help us to connect with these instructors and to positively impact last-minute course designs. While we can’t approach these course designs with the same depth as we might normally, we don’t want to turn faculty away, or leave them to fend for themselves. After all, even on a tight timeline, course design is still important to course quality, and the relationships we form with our peers often translate to more opportunities for collaboration in the future.

Our small team of instructional designers addresses this challenge with practical solutions, while not losing sight of the importance of well-planned design. In this session, we’ll cover:

  • Our experiences in researching, exploring, and implementing potential solutions.

  • Core design principles that guide swift course development, build positive relationships, and later inform a more considered course design.

  • The application of needs assessment and the Community of Inquiry framework, along with OLC scorecards, and a proprietary rubric as starting points for further collaboration.

During this session, attendees will interact through reflection and discussion of their own roles and approaches to course design with last-minute faculty appointments. We will also discuss potential strategies and how they might be adapted to different organizational structures. Attendees will leave the session with practical action plans that address last-minute course design and development, along with ideas for adapting and applying these tactics to their own situation and/or institution.