Building Bridges of collaboration for Successful Course Design

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

In education, you often hear the phrase “Content is King”. Yet, during the course design process, the content can also become a major limitation when trying to develop innovative, high-quality learning experiences. In these circumstances, the development clock runs out while design teams wait for the prized content. When the content is received, there is often little time left to review and implement any revisions. While this is not always the case, this scenario happens more often than we prefer. 


Megan Kohler is a Learning Designer with the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute at Penn State. She has presented at international conferences, such as Open Ed 2010 in Barcelona, Spain, the International Conference on Arts and Humanities in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the Online Learning Consortium in Orlando, Florida. Megan relies on her training and experience as a professional actor to create a fun and engaging experience within her presentations and design work. Among her professional accomplishments, she is recognized for her work as the lead instructional designer and project manager on Penn State’s highly-rated Epidemics MOOC. She conceptualized the MOOCs by Design Webinar series and served as the pedagogical lead for the Penn State Digital Badges Initiative. She continues to explore interesting opportunities focused on improving the online learning experience for higher education.
Penny has designed online courses since 1997. She is currently a senior instructional designer for the Penn State World Campus. Her research interests include student perspectives of quality and how this impacts the design practice; and the use of games and simulations in online instruction. She has presented at various regional, national, and international conferences and is a former chair of the Quality Matters Instructional Designers Association. She co-authored the book MindMeld: Micro-Collaboration between eLearning Designers and Instructor Experts with Jon Aleckson.

Extended Abstract

Design Perspectives:

Designers are focused on helping faculty understand the processes and procedures which are proven methods for developing quality education. Designers share tools such as blueprints, timelines, learning design models, technologies, links to sample courses, etc. all in an effort to facilitate content creation. In the end, the result is often the same. The course design process encounters multiple delays and design teams rush to put it online in time for students to access. Integrations of new technologies and innovations fall by the wayside. 


Faculty Perspectives:

Faculty want to gain an understanding of what it actually means to create an online course. During the initial consultations, their minds are buzzing with a million questions they are hoping to find answers to. 

  • What is the time commitment for creating an online course?
  • What is it exactly, they are supposed to be creating? 
  • What technologies are available to make the course engaging for their students? 
  • How are they going to create the content given all their other responsibilities?
  • What will their course look like when it’s finished?

To address these questions, faculty are provided with a plethora of documents, links, and other resources intended to support the course design and development process. These resources address a number of questions, but other questions are unresolved because they depend on the content. 

Not being able to obtain answers to all of their questions can leave some faculty feeling confused. Others can feel the entire task of creating the course falls on their shoulders with the only task being writing the content. As a result, they may disengage from discussions with designers and cancel meetings. The course creation process stalls as they work to create content on their own while managing numerous other teaching and research priorities.  


The Solution:

We’re all invested in reaching the same goal - providing students with a high-quality learning experience. But different visions, approaches, and working styles lead to an unproductive dynamic. The only way to move past this is by building bridges of understanding and collaboration. 

In the fall of 2018, the models and protocols for traditional course design were set to the side and a new approach was implemented. A radical shift in the dynamic occurred. Faculty became fully engaged in the content creation process. Meeting cancelations became a thing of the past. There were no more missed deadlines. Faculty left consultations feeling energized, the time was productive, and most importantly they felt the collaboration resulted in a higher quality course for the students. 

It was through this approach that designers and faculty were able to establish a deeper level of trust and to form more meaningful, collaborative relationships. With this foundational bridge in place, faculty were able to explore avenues of design strategies, pedagogical approaches, and new opportunities for innovation. This opened up a new world of course design practices to faculty and ultimately enhanced the student experience.    



Session attendees will: 

  • Learn the key steps of this new approach for course design.
  • Discuss the new approach for course design collaborations with their peers.
  • Describe either the strengths, weaknesses, or opportunities of the new approach with their peers.