Instructor Innovations within a Master Course Design Strategy

Concurrent Session 10

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

The Social Work program at MSU is working on a redesign of their online courses to promote a consistent and positive student learning experience across courses. A master course shell was created to aid instructors developing courses, and to guide the redesign of existing courses, while retaining specific instructor-created innovations.


Susan is an Instructional Designer at Michigan State University with over 20 years experience assisting faculty with course design needs. She is an experienced online and classroom educator, online course developer, and course management system expert (currently D2L). After completing a Master of Arts in Teaching from the Mathematics Department at MSU, Susan taught courses at Ferris State University, Davenport Business College, and Lansing Community College, as well as working in a position to provide educational technology support to her peers. After completing several online teaching and Quality Matters certifications, she came full-circle back to her Alma Mater, MSU.

Extended Abstract

During this session, you will have the opportunity to see the overall design of the master course shell, improvements to existing online courses, and variations among groups of instructors that align with the course outcomes and program goals.

Paul P. Freddolino, M.Div., Ph.D., is Professor of Social Work at Michigan State University.  He has led development of hybrid/blended social work education programs and online courses. He is also actively engaged in research related to the use of technology tools in social work practice. Current projects focus on technology for stroke victims, for people with dementia, and for caregivers of both. His latest publication is Digital Social Work: Tools for Practice with Individuals, Organizations, and Communities edited by Goldkind, Wolf, and Freddolino, Oxford University Press, 2018.

Susan Halick is a full-time Instructional Designer at MSU with over twenty years of higher ed teaching experience and is currently co-facilitating a Teaching Online Certification course at Lansing Community College.

We began the project to redesign online courses in the MSU School of Social Work two years ago, starting with the development of two new online courses as a model. We have subsequently redesigned ten more existing online courses to match the master course design strategy.

The overall response from faculty has been positive. They agree with the goals of the redesign and have been easy to work with. Part of the success is due to recognizing existing instructor skill sets and retaining course elements that have proven to be effective. So far, all existing instructor-created innovations have been retained in the redesign, even when they vary from the master course shell.

In one instance, while working with a group of five instructors teaching the same section, two decided to take a different approach with some of the activities and changed the order of the lessons. We were able to accommodate an innovative role play exercise in the pilot group while maintaining alignment with course outcomes and program goals for both groups.

We hope to address the process of getting faculty buy-in and the positive comments received about the support and course improvements provided to both beginning and veteran online faculty.

For the reflection and engagement portion of the session, we will use Thinglink with built-in hyper docs. An image of the master course shell will be the background, with visual links (hotspots) on specific course areas where innovation can occur within the overall design (for example, student introductions). Participants will be asked to work in groups of 3 to 4, to discuss and enter ideas in one or more of the linked Google Docs, listing innovative ways to vary the activity. The outcome will be a list of ideas and specific examples curated by the attendees and, hopefully, inspiration that personalization and innovation can occur within a consistent master course design strategy. We will wrap up the session with voluntary public comments on the ideas discussed within the groups.

In the event participants cannot access Thinglink, handouts of the image will be provided with the Google Doc topics listed for group discussion.

This session is appropriate for administrators, program directors, faculty, and instructional designers/technologists.