Reaching the Remote Work Peak: Navigating the Rocky Terrain of Remote Work Policies for Ed Tech and Online Learning Teams

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

If we promote online learning, why have colocation work environments? Attaining and retaining remote work options may seem unreachable. Innovators embedded in traditional workforce environments struggle to guide leadership up the summit. Join our interactive career forum roundtable for knowledge and resource sharing as we climb the remote work peak.


Mel Edwards, CAPM, M.A. is Lead Instructional Designer for Quality Enhancement and Accessibility, and Quality Matters coordinator at Purdue University, and serves as Vice-Chair in UPCEA eDesign Collaborative and Online Administration networks. Prior to her roles at Purdue and joining UPCEA, Edwards began her career as a public educator, adjunct instructor, and served as a Curriculum Coordinator at Montana State University-Northern. She is a Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM), earned her M.A. in education from East Tennessee State University, a B.A. in English education from SUNY New Paltz, and an A.A. in liberal arts from SUNY Adirondack. She can be reached at
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.
Shaun Moore is the Director of e-Learning at Oakland University, where he earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, with a specialization in Higher Education. Along with his staff position, he is a part-time faculty in the School of Business and the Writing and Rhetoric departments.

Extended Abstract

Issue: How can we expect to be innovative when we are anchored in colocated, traditional (dare we say antiquated) work environments?

In today’s online learning environment, federal aid regulations state that institutions are required to design and deliver content with regular and substantive interaction; otherwise the curriculum is no more than correspondence courses. Additionally, market trends require that we ensure online learning environments are innovative so learners who complete these courses/program may fulfil employer needs. Conversely, many higher education online learning teams work in traditional co-located office environments, sometimes shepherding reluctant faculty into the world of online learning. Upline institutional management often require that high touch customer service be done solely in-person. The issue is further muddled because many ed tech pros would prefer to work remotely, at least part-time. Higher ed teams are increasingly facing open positions they cannot fill because their cultural norm requires all team members have a boots-on-the-ground presence. What can innovative professionals do to chip away at the remote work conundrum? And how can we belay together to reach the summit of remote work?

Join us to discuss the issues surrounding remote work options for ed tech and online learning teams. We’ll begin with getting a pulse on the culture of remote work from our participants. Then, the four presenters will give their current situations from their respective universities, discussing three different remote work use cases - Fully remote work (Johns Hopkins University), Sporadic remote work options 0-2 days/week (Purdue University), regular 1 day/week remote work (Oakland University). The presenters will share helpful resources and literature references, and free tools that can be used to collaborate with staff remotely.

After brief panel discussion, we’ll get more perspectives from the audience, starting with a group discussion on the levels of remote work at individual institutions. We will then plot the levels on a continuum as a guide for the conversation.

Following this will be a lively roundtable discussion on the status of remote work at the participants’ institutions, with specific questions to draw out the benefits and challenges of remote work. There will be several areas of focus during the roundtable discussion. Answers will be documented for reference during the conversation.

Base Camp. We will begin with general guiding questions at the Base Camp. We will explore questions such as: What is the state of remote work for your design team? Why is this is the state of remote work for your design team? After establishing the pulse of the group, we will have more in-depth discussions based on the different levels of remote work and move into Camps 1, 2, and the Summit.

Camp 1. For those in design teams that struggle to start or retain remote work options. We will investigate questions such as: What are some of the obstacles or barriers you have found when advocating or requesting remote work? What research and/or evidence for remote work would help you make a case to your leadership?

Camp 2. For those design teams with remote work policies we will explore questions such as: How many people on your team work remotely? What percentage of work time is remote? Is there a policy for remote work at your institution?

Summit. For those who are working fully remote we will explore questions such as: What are the challenges for teams with fully remote workers? Why and how was remote work implemented for your team? What resources around your remote work policy can you share?

After the lively roundtable discussions, we will report back and celebrate our movement to the summit!

Participants in the career roundtable forum will leave the session with documentation of the pulse of design teams around the country. We will share resources, tools, and policies that attendees can take back to their individual institutions. Together we can reach the summit of innovative work practices in our design teams!