The Instructional Design Files: The Double Messaging App Mystery

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

The syllabus states that Slack is to be used for team communications but when the faculty member finds out GroupMe is being used instead it is up to the Instructional Designer to figure out why.  This case study will provide a guide for Instructional Designer situated research projects.


Veronica Armour is an educator and learning designer interested in the interdisciplinary connections between people, knowledge, and information, human centered design, and innovation that inform face-to-face and digital environments for 21st century learning. She is an instructional designer in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University where she also teaches part-time for the Information Technology and Informatics program.  Her current work involves designing the student experience for the Innovation, Design, and Entrepreneurship Academy at Rutgers University. She is also exploring the potential of the design thinking process and mindset to interrupt cognitive bias and develop new models for equity in learning experience design. Her research questions include the interconnectedness of design thinking, entrepreneurship, and 21st century skills. She has served on the Executive Board of the Emerging Learning Design organization and is currently involved with the NJ Makers community.  She has experience with developing online courses, workshops, and events related to teaching and learning with technology, active learning, and maker activities.  She is a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops at the local and national level.  As Raspberry Pi Certified Educator she enjoys tinkering with technology and hosting workshops to inspire interest in STEM activities.

Extended Abstract

The role of the Instructional Designer has a dual mission of pedagogy and technology as a result of their unique placement at the intersection of academic theory, technology, and teaching practice.  Recent conversations about the role of the instructional designer have identified research as a silent yet growing role for the instructional designer. (Beirne & Romanoski, 2018; Linder & Dello Stritto, 2017)

For the Instructional Designer interested in conducting research as part of their role there are a limited number of case studies that implement current design methods with the instructional designer as the lead researcher.  As research takes on a more prominent role in instructional design it will be necessary for Instructional Designers to have a case book of methods in actions to pull from.

Current trends in instructional design favor a research approach that puts the learner at the forefront; with methods of research culled from action research, design thinking, and UX design further emphasizing the duality of the instructional design role. (Sein et al, 2011) 

It is in this context that the Instructional Design team situated within a school of a large, R1 state university decided to apply design sprint methods in Action Design Research to address a disconnect between desired student engagement in the online messaging app (Slack) and actual student engagement in a different online messaging app (GroupMe) in the capstone course for one of its programs. (Keijzer-Broers & de Reuver, 2016)  This is a work in progress research project with preliminary feedback on the solution created during the design sprint and implementation of the solution the following semester being reported at OLC Innovate 2019.

As part of the Emerging Ideas Session I hope to inspire additional research by instructional designers by doing the following things:

  • Share a working draft of a step-by-step casebook of the process with annotated resources.
  • Explain how limited time constraints were used to guide the design process and meet the course prep/revision needs of the teaching professor.
  • Reflect on the most efficient and effective design methods to ensure the research could be completed within a semester.

Conversation with attendees will emerge from the methods used during Action Design Research process:

  • What is the instructional design challenge you want to solve?
  • What do you want to create during the research process?
  • What has been created already?
  • What are the roadblocks in starting a design sprint?
  • How does the design sprint fit into the typical course revision workflow for faculty?


Beirne, E., & Romanoski, M. P. (2018). Instructional Design in Higher Education: Defining an Evolving Field (OLC Outlook: An Environmental Scan of the Digital Learning Landscape) (p. 9). Online Learning Consortium.

Keijzer-Broers, W. J. W., & de Reuver, G. A. (2016). Applying Agile Design Sprint Methods in Action Design Research: Prototyping a Health and Wellbeing Platform. Lecture Notes in Computer Science9661.

Linder, K. & Dello Stritto, M.E. (2017). Research Preparation and Engagement of Instructional Designers in U.S. Higher Education. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit.

Sein, M. K., Henfridsson, O., Purao, S., Rossi, M., & Lindgren, R. (2011). Action Design Research. MIS Quarterly35(1), 37–56.