The Evolving Role of Instructional Designers in an Ever-Changing World

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

The field of instructional design and learning technology, as well as the roles within them, are constantly evolving. Join us to discuss the evolving roles of instructional design and learning technology professionals across educational sectors and how we can position ourselves to be ready for the next evolution! 


Dr. Nicole Weber is an Assistant Professor in the Educational Foundations Department at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where she also coordinates the Instructional Design and Learning Technology (IDLT) master’s degree program. Prior to her current position, she served as the Associate Vice President (AVP) of Learning with the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), working closely with staff and global partners to advance professional learning opportunities, continuous improvement efforts, and research in support of quality digital, blended, and online learning. Before joining OLC, she was the Director of Learning Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where she led online and blended faculty development efforts, technology training for the digital learning ecosystem, and emerging technology exploration and evaluation, collaborating across the institution to support student learning and success. With a depth of experience leading global, national, and campus initiatives that support continuous improvement of digital, blended, and online learning, Dr. Weber has presented widely at conferences in the field, as well as published various blogs, reports, playbooks, and articles sharing her work. Dr. Weber holds a B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Ph.D. in Urban Education specializing in Social Foundations of Education with an emphasis on designing engaging digital learning environments. Her research interests focus on the impact of technology on the learning environment and research-driven practices for effective digital, blended, and online learning, support, and leadership.

Extended Abstract

In 2018 the OLC Research Center for Digital Learning and Leadership released a paper entitled Instructional Design in Higher Education: Defining an Evolving Field. In this piece authors, Beirne and Romanoski, discuss the growing demand for instructional designers due to the growth of digital learning, as well as who instructional designers are (i.e., many have master’s degrees, teaching experience, and technology experience), what instructional design roles look like (i.e., while ambiguous they tend to focus on learner success at the core and have an expanding role in research activities), and crucial effective practices instructional designers apply in their work (i.e., collaboration with subject matter experts). 

We know from our experiences that the world has changed from 2018.  While some updated research and literature exists, which will be shared in the session, much work still needs to be done exploring the evolving role of instructional design and learning technology professionals across sectors. By extending this work we can understand what is expected of us in our roles and ensure we are building professional development agendas that support our evolutions as professionals in the field aligned with workplace and learner needs. This work begins by engaging with one another in sharing, reflection, and discussion! 

During this session, participants will: 

  • Engage with current literature on the evolving role of instructional design and learning technology professionals across sectors

  • Share additional literature they have been reading to understand changes in the field 

  • Reflect and discuss what their role and the field was like when they started and how it has changed and/or stayed the same, as well as important trends, practices. and technologies that have emerged  

Attendees will leave the session with new, co-constructed knowledge around:

  • The evolution of instructional design and learning technology roles across education sectors; and

  • Emerging trends, practices, and technologies to build future professional learning experiences around.