Roots and Branches: The Growth and Support of Instructional Design Professionals

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

How can we build communities for instructional design professionals to promote learning, mentoring, and collaboration? This session will review strategies and approaches of the Instructional Design Working Group at the University of Pennsylvania to inform a discussion of how to identify and meet the evolving needs of instructional design professionals. 


Jessica is an Associate Director of Online Instructional Design at the University of Pennsylvania, which is a role that bridges the Online Learning Initiative and the Center for Teaching and Learning. In this capacity, Jessica supports Penn's 12 schools in integrating instructional technologies and instructional design strategies to promote meaningful learning experiences and innovative teaching practices. Utilizing her experiences as both a designer and student of open and for-credit online courses, Jessica facilitates programs for faculty and consults with school-based instructional design staff to incorporate best practices in course design, online teaching, assessment, and student support into courses and programs. She also convenes Penn's Instructional Design Working Group, which is a monthly gathering of instructional design professionals from across the University to consider best practices and emergent issues and opportunities related to online course design, facilitation, and the online student experience.

Extended Abstract

Instructional design professionals work in a wide variety of departments and structures across higher education (and are referred to by a wide variety of titles and roles). Within these structures and roles, instructional design professionals often face unique challenges and must regularly develop new skills and strategies to adapt to changes whether those are related to technology, our institutions, student expectations or needs, or larger trends or developments in higher education. At the same time, instructional design positions are new enough within some institutional structures that professionals in these roles are put in positions where they must define their scopes and demonstrate their value to the projects, courses, and programs they support. Lastly, instructional design professionals engage in partnerships that require empathy, care, and patience. For all of these goals and challenges, it is helpful to have communities of support. 

At the University of Pennsylvania, this method of support is the Instructional Design Working Group, which meets monthly to discuss emerging and ongoing issues related to instructional design and online teaching and learning. This group provides a forum for sharing, questioning, and learning that benefits from the diversity of experiences and expertise that its members bring to the group. As a result of the group, successes and lessons learned are more effectively shared across the institution and community members can benefit from strategies and approaches used across programs and disciplines. In addition to monthly meetings focused on specific topics in the field, members are further supported through a mentoring initiative, professional development cohorts, and an online forum for sharing resources, seeking answers to questions, and troubleshooting issues. 

In this session, the convener of this group will share the structures and strategies that have helped this group grow in membership and adapt to changing needs. Our experiences will also serve as a foundation for a larger conversation with session participants about the ways that different institutions foster growth, development, and communication among their instructional design professions. 

Together, we will end by considering the types of knowledge, skills sets, and experiences that instructional design professionals will need in the future to continue to support their institutions and stakeholders and the structures that can be put in place to support the growth and development of these professionals.