Instructional Design Summit - Part 1: When One Hour of Work Feels Like Ten: Instructional Designer Cognitive Load in Online Course Development

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Join us for a conversation on cognitive load in online course development, how it impacts instructional designers, and what we can do to ensure we’re balancing workload to protect time and avoid burnout. 



Lynn Wahl is an Instructional Designer in the Center for Teaching and Learning. She partners with faculty in the redesign or development of blended and online courses. Lynn is passionate about leveraging technology and QM design standards to create innovative and successful student learning experiences. Lynn received her M.Ed in Instructional Technology from Idaho State University and her M.A. in English Literature from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
J. Garvey Pyke, Ed.D., is the Director of the the Center for Teaching at UNC Charlotte. His work involves fueling the enrollment growth at the university through online course development, creating high impact student success programs using personalized and adaptive learning, promoting faculty success and scholarly teaching through innovative faculty development programs, and overseeing the provision and support of enterprise academic technologies. Garvey is also an alumnus of OLC's IELOL program (2010) and has remained an active member of this professional community of practice and served as co-director of IELOL 2018 and as a faculty member of IELOL from 2019 - 2021. He has served on various conference committees for OLC Accelerate and has served on the Steering Committee for OLC Innovate.

Extended Abstract

We’ll start by providing a brief overview and sharing resources around our data gathering and interpretation around instructional designer capacity in online course development over the past five semesters. We’ll discuss: 

  1. Creating an intake rubric for course development projects
  2. Assigning projects and balancing load
  3. Tracking instructional designers project hours
  4. Interpreting results and refining the process

More details around the process, how to implement one for your own institution, and how to interpret results will be covered in the workshop titled “Guess Again: How to Get Better at Estimating Online Course Development ID Capacity and Workload” delivered earlier in the week. 

After the brief overview of our process for balancing instructional designer load, we’ll begin a guided conversation covering the following topics: 

  1. What is the effect of cognitive load on instructional designers? 
  2. What changes can we make in course development processes to reduce cognitive load?
  3. How do we help instructional designers be more resilient in course development projects? 
  4. How do different institutions, staffing levels, and course development processes impact processes around determining capacity? 

The session will wrap up with an explanation of a research collaborative and invitation to join. 

By the end of the session, participants will: 

  • Leave with a set of resources for designing a capacity project at their own institution
  • Begin to define their institutional profile and how that might impact their projects
  • Discuss the effect of cognitive load on instructional designers in course development projects
  • Discuss strategies to mitigate the negative effects of cognitive load on ID time and resiliency
  • Receive an invitation to join a research collaborative around instructional designer capacity, cognitive load, and online course development