Rick Role'd: How Instructional Designers Can Overcome Their Mistaken Identities

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Although we’re never gonna give up the design classics, this session explores a new model of instructional design created to overcome role perception and collaboration challenges. You know the rules, and so do I—but it’s time to change instructional design through building trust and developing relationships with faculty!


Dr. Jason Drysdale is the Director of Instructional Design and Program Development at the University of Colorado Denver. As an instructional designer, technologist, and researcher in online learning leadership, Dr. Drysdale is an advocate for intentional design, authentic and collaborative leadership, and is a believer in the magic that happens when you trust and care for your students and colleagues. Jason's research interests include leadership in higher education, instructional design, organizational structure, collaboration, and online learning. He is a native of St. Louis, Missouri, and now lives in Denver with his wife Courtney, kids Clark and Lucy, and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Kingsley. Jason is a guitarist/singer/songwriter, avid video gamer (favorite games are Xenogears and Final Fantasy 7), and a mega fan of J.R.R. Tolkien!

Extended Abstract

There are significant barriers for instructional designers in higher education, including the struggle to collaborate with faculty (Intentional Futures, 2016). While higher education administrators recognize the significant value instructional designers offer, limited resources for staffing can inhibit the kind of growth needed for institutional leaders to effectively empower them (Fredericksen, 2017). Designers find it challenging to stay focused on their primary work: the conceptual design of courses and programs through consultation with faculty. This key role is frequently misinterpreted or misrepresented, stretching instructional designers thin and allowing secondary job responsibilities to overtake the primary work of collaborating with faculty.

Due to these and other challenges, the researcher identified four primary roles of instructional designers in higher education by evaluating the industry standard models of instructional design, comparing their structure and usage for scalability, relevance to the consultative role designers play in higher education, and their influence on vital university policies such as academic freedom. These four roles--traditional designer, course developer, technology support, and collaborative designer--are each associated with a model of instructional design, except for collaborative designer. A clear need for a new design model emerged--one specifically created for higher education instructional designers in a collaborative role--which puts relationship at the center of design, and addresses issues of scale, quality, and efficiency. As a result, the researcher created, tested, and refined the Collaborative Mapping Model.

Development of the model was informed by several key theories. Authentic leadership theory (Kiersch & Byrne, 2015) suggests that authentic leaders create environments and cultivate relationships which encourage others to be and act authentically, modeling this behavior through partnership. Shared leadership theory (Xiong et al., 2014) suggests that leadership should be a shared function, distributed to others from those with power in order to empower others and promote collaboration. Appreciative inquiry (Kadi-Hanifi et al., 2014) is a change management theory which adopts a positive-focused paradigm, positioning leaders to pursue change and growth based on the best elements of an organization or relationship, instead of problems or challenges. Finally, the Collaborative Mapping Model was informed by Lee and Jang's (2014) work on instructional design model development.

After several phases of implementation and refinement over the course of five years, the researcher administered a mixed methods survey to a group of fifty faculty who had designed a course in partnership with an instructional designer through the collaborative mapping model. The results of the survey, as well as reflections and recommendations for implementation, will be shared and explored in the session.

Brigance (2012) suggests that instructional designers are positioned to be leaders in their institutions, due to their significant expertise in online learning and instructional design. French & Raven (2010) posit that this expert power has the potential to increase social influence. Instructional designers, as leaders with influence but not authority, can use expert power to advocate for their role as partners with faculty in the instructional mission of the university: to help students make meaningful changes in their lives through learning. In this fun and empowering session, we will explore the development and usage of the Collaborative Mapping Model, examine the key influencers on the role instructional designers play in relation to collaborative design, and share survey results gathered from faculty who have designed courses alongside an instructional designer through the Collaborative Mapping Model. Expect to be Rick-rolled, but not by the content of this session!


Brigance, S. (2011). Leadership in online learning in higher education: Why instructional designers for online learning should lead the way. Performance Improvement, 50(10), 43-48.

Fredericksen, E.E. (2017). A national study of online learning leaders in US higher education. Online Learning, 21(2). doi: 10.24059/olj.v21i2.1164

French, J. & Raven, B. (2010). Leadership power bases. In J. McMahon (ed.) Leadership classics, (pp. 375-389). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Intentional Futures (2016). Instructional design in higher education: A report on the role, workflow, and experience of instructional designers [White paper]. Retrieved May 18, 2017, from Intentional Futures: https://intentionalfutures.com/insights/portfolio/instructional-design/

Kadi-Hanifi, K., Dagman, O., Peters, J., Snell, E., Tutton, C., & Wright, T. (2014). Engaging students and staff with educational development through appreciative inquiry. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 51(6), 584-594. doi:10.1080/14703297.2013.796719

Kiersch, C.E. & Byrne, Z.S. (2015). Is being authentic being fair? Multilevel examination of authentic leadership, justice, and employee outcomes. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 22(3), 292-303. doi: 10.1177/1548051815570035

Lee, J. & Jang, S. (2014). A methodological framework for instructional design model development: Critical dimensions and synthesized procedures. Education Technology Research & Development, 62(6), 743-765.

Xiong, K., Lin, W., Li, J.C., & Wang, L. (2016). Employee trust in supervisors and affective commitment: The moderating role of authentic leadership. Psychological Reports, 118(3), 829-848. doi: 10.1177/0033294116644370