K-12 Summit - Part 1: Instructional Design For Blended Learning: Essential Skills for K-12 Settings

Concurrent Session 5
K-12 OLC Session

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Brief Abstract

K-12 educators across-the-board have turned to digital resources to enhance instruction and address student needs. But not all content is created equal, and educators have been challenged to learn and scale online learning platforms when sifting through options to find high-quality material with little time for basic considerations of instructional design. This session will focus on creating and implementing online, blended and digital learning innovations within the K-12 sector that can be sustained over time. Considering that blended learning or some aspect of digital learning is likely to persist in K-12 education, we must revisit the design considerations most important for ease, adaptability, and assurance of student success in our K-12 classrooms. Blended learning calls for us to use a more systematic methodology (rooted in instructional theory) to design and develop content, experiences, and other solutions to support our students’ acquisition of new knowledge or skills. 



Alexander (Alex) Case is the OLC Associate Vice President of Strategic Partnership and Grants. In this capacity, he is responsible for growing OLC’s reach in the areas of grants, strategic partnerships, and consulting. Alex brings a diverse array of experience to this position from federal civil service, K-12, and higher education leadership roles. He is eager to affirm OLC’s thought leadership while managing multifaceted relationships with institutions, organizations, associations, foundations, and corporate partners. He is also committed to charting our community’s growth in the K-12 and international sectors. Prior to joining the OLC, Alex served as the Interim Director of Student Services (Dean of Students) and Associate Director of Instructional Design and Development for the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Online program. NOVA is a member of the 24-school Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and is among the largest community colleges in the nation. There, he oversaw creation and maintenance of an online portfolio of 400 online asynchronous courses spanning all academic pathways, offered in over 1,200 sections per semester, and serving 23,000 students per year. He was also involved in his state system’s work to extend program completion outcomes state-wide via the Online Virginia Network and oversaw his entire online program portfolio’s learning management system conversion. Alex began his education career in the K-12 sector where he was a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, and school-based administrator for a decade. His final role was as principal of socio-economically and racially diverse high school where he led 2,600 students and 350-person multigenerational staff on a three-building campus in Fairfax County, Virginia. He successfully led his school out of accreditation with warning status in one year, oversaw the development of a governor’s career and technical education academy, and deepened its Blue Ribbon Award-winning fine and performing arts center. Prior to teaching, Alex held positions in training, business management, and strategic planning for the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. Alex completed his B.A. in history, political science, and secondary education from the University of Mary Washington (Fredericksburg, Virginia), instructional design coursework from George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia), a M.Ed. in Education Leadership from the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia), and is presently completing a dissertation towards a Ph.D. in Education at George Mason University.
Adam Davi is a Senior Instructional Designer at the University of Arizona who works with faculty to design engaging online courses. Adam has a Master of Science in Educational Technology as well as a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership. He has experience working directly with students as a teacher and learning specialist before transitioning to his role as an Instructional Designer. He is passionate about developing innovative courses that foster student success and promote ownership over one’s learning. He loves working in a field that encourages collaboration and creativity. When not working, he spends time volunteering for Arizona Camp Sunrise and Sidekicks, a children’s oncology camp, and enjoys playing games, watching baseball, and talking Star Wars with anyone who is willing to listen.
Laura McAllister Smith serves as a Senior Instructional Designer focused on global courses for Digital Learning at the University of Arizona and the Office of Digital Learning. She has a M.S. in Instructional Psychology and Technology, a M.Ed, and a B.S. in Elementary Education. Laura is passionate about education and is always looking for innovative ways to engage learners, create positive learning environments, and reach broader audiences.

Extended Abstract

K-12 educators had little time at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to employ systematic methodology and consider instructional theories and models when designing and developing content, experiences, and other solutions to support their students in the acquisition of new knowledge or skills in a virtual format. Sheer grit and resilience have gotten us through to the present. However, as we look to a future of increased virtual learning experiences, hybrid course and school structures, and the potential for blended learning to be the norm for most schools and classrooms, we can start to refine the instructional design work we undertake as more intentional and planned virtual learning experiences which complement face-to-face classroom instruction. 

Instructional Designers create instructional experiences that make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing. K-12 teachers are likely now and in the near future to be their own instructional designers. So how exactly do we go about this workload in the context of all other classroom responsibilities? Extending the regular planning process to include digital considerations may actually ease workload when considering its potential for differentiation and explicit mapping to learning outcomes. 

Instructional designers begin by conducting a needs assessment to determine the desired learning outcomes of a digital learning event, including: what the learner should know and be able to do as a result of the online experience and what the learners already know and can do. Instructional design is rooted in cognitive and behavioral psychology, though instructors most certainly choose the best mixt of behaviorist and constructivist learning experiences to match their sense of student individual needs and how learning design can support the achievement of those goals. Determining the current state and needs of learners, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating a digital opportunity to assist in the transition becomes more manageable when we consider fundamental tasks of instructional design. Let’s lean in on our collective experience to go from the quick transition of instructional materials needed to make compulsory virtual operation in a pandemic work to the more exciting, strategic, and student-supportive opportunity of blended learning instructional design opportunities in the world after COVID.