Colleges continue to convert more courses to online learning. Classes could be emergency remote learning or re-evaluated curricula. With this transition, some faculty members experience hesitancy, moving classes they taught for many years to online courses. Professors guide their students to the course objectives; they do the teaching. As subject matter experts, these instructors may not understand the complete role of the instructional designer in the teaching and learning process. Instructional designers (IDs) are experts in course design and embed the best practices to produce courses effectively for online learning. IDs realize the differences between face-to-face and online learning. Yet, a disconnect continues to exist between these two groups. College leaders can employ these four points to build a stronger connection between the faculty and instructional designers.
1.) Building Trust Bonds Faculty and IDs for Instructional Design
Thus, college leaders should first build trust between faculty and instructional designers. According to the Instructional Design in Higher Education, IDs constantly confront “faculty-buy in” as their number one issue. Therefore, professors experience difficulties when incorporating new methods. They hesitate to conform to new ways of practice and techniques an instructional designer will present to update or refresh a course. Faculty may see themselves with more experience, with more degrees. Moreover, college leaders such as deans could design and set up meetings to foster stronger relationships. Focusing on the commonalities, the pedagogical experience of both groups (often varied) helps eliminate barriers. Both learning professionals want to improve student outcomes. Thus, instructional designers create networking opportunities to meet faculty “where they are.” Ongoing formal and informal meetings build collaboration and remove barriers. In the end, the faculty become the subject matter experts (SME), and the instructional designer is the learning specialist. Leaders and the college professional community promote these good habits to build this bond.
2.) Improve The Time Commitment and Resources
Beyond the trust, leaders must commit to the time and resources to build this relationship. Instructional designers see these barriers right after trust as problematic. For some institutions, the ID staff might not be extensive. Therefore, these professionals experience many requests. They lack enough time to complete them and lack staff too. Thus, these limitations will stop the relationship between IDs and faculty from maturing. Moreover, colleges and universities may not provide enough tools for IDs to complete their jobs. Thus, IDs feel limited because change never happens. Leaders review their framework to see how they can better integrate instructional designers to connect them to faculty. Leaders think about the different sources that IDs and faculty need. If not, college leaders can always seek a third-party vendor to redo or migrate courses online if they lack the time and resources. These companies have the expertise and resources to produce an online curriculum.
3.) College Leadership May Need to Rethink Their View of Instructional Designers
Moreover, some college leaders may not understand the role of instructional designers at their institutions. Their vision affects their status. Seeing designers only for migrating an old LMS to Canvas or just helping the faculty make a video work can limit their role on campus. Therefore, IDs should be fully involved in curriculum development, course design, and quality review. Most importantly, leaders should organize instructional designers under an academic area and not the technical department or the finance department. The separation creates division in which instructional designers or learning designers are viewed differently and could prevent faculty buy-in. Besides that, instructional designers lack the independence to review and make significant pedagogical decisions. Poor leadership hampers them by not including the ID in the developmental model of course development. Thus, college leaders need to eliminate these perceptions, ensuring that instructional designers are fully integrated on campus as academic professionals.
4.) Provide Extensive Training for Faculty and Instructional Designers
Therefore, leaders and their administrations must build continuous training for faculty and IDs. Some instructional designers experience faculty who implement the process to build a hybrid course without proper training. Besides that, faculty misunderstand the design process and the time to build an online class or move a face-to-face course online. A few weeks is not enough to produce an online course. They show hesitancy in revising their pedagogical standards for an online class. Thus, leaders create and provide consistent, ongoing training to build faculty awareness for instructional design. For example, at UCF, to create an online course, faculty train with instructional designers for 80 hours and learn the best practices for teaching online for 35 hours. Moreover, because instructors have other responsibilities like research, a stipend for training or a break from duties improves faculty buy-in. Technology constantly changes, so IDs need professional development. Furthermore, inclusive design is in demand along with new technologies like AR and VR. Therefore, leaders build a model of training and professional development for faculty and IDs to foster their relationships.
Summing up, the relationship between the instructional designers and the faculty presents challenges. College leadership should review their understanding and processes to ensure instructional designers collaborate with faculty. Being open-minded to the collaboration will help faculty connect to IDs. Thus, IDs see faculty buy-in, resources, and time as the top issues. Faculty rely on the instructional designers as learning professionals who can effectively build an online course or move a face-to-face course online. Informal and formal meetings help to build trust. If not, colleges can rely on a third-party vendor for producing content for their online classes.