A group of highly experienced eLearning professionals in CEHD, The Digital Education and Innovation (DEI) team provides instructors with guidance, support, and expertise in innovative teaching and learning strategies. We checked in with Director Amanda Rondeau to learn more about the DEI team, how COVID-19 continues to require flexibility with course delivery methods, and how they’re helping instructors prepare for Fall 2020.
First off, what exactly is an instructional designer?
Instructional designers work with instructors to design effective learning experiences for students – experiences that guide their learning, motivate them, and generally help them meet learning goals. Instructional designers’ deep background in learning theory, paired with extensive knowledge of technology, makes them a valuable partner to instructors who want to improve their students’ learning.
How does the Digital Education and Innovation team at CEHD work with faculty and instructors?
We are really lucky to have such talented, committed instructors in CEHD. Usually, there is something about their course they are looking to change – they may want to move to a hybrid model, teach in an active learning classroom, change how they assess student learning, or add activities to give students flexibility in how they learn. We also help instructors develop fully online courses, and sometimes work with teams of instructors as they modify program curriculum. Our work is driven by instructors’ goals for their students’ learning.
How is the CEHD DEI team preparing for Fall 2020?
In a world changed by COVID-19, the only thing we can do with certainty is plan to be flexible. We have been supporting instructors as they plan for the flexibility needed for Fall 2020 since mid-April. For some, that means creating online courses, for others that means planning to teach on campus while also preparing for scenarios where some students might need to be remote. We use a number of approaches to help instructors. We provide live help and support sessions for CEHD instructors every week, on a range of topics including online group work, accessibility, and designing activities. We have Canvas sites set up for instructors in each department where we share resources, share ideas, and engage in discussions with members of our team and their colleagues. And we also meet with instructors individually on their specific instructional concerns.
How has the role of an instructional designer shifted during the COVID-19 lockdown? Do fully online courses need a different approach?
The COVID-19 closures didn’t change the role of instructional designers, but because of the speed at which we moved to remote instruction, they might not have been able to dive as deep with instructors. We usually prefer six months to work with an instructor to develop their online course, and no one had that kind of time with the COVID closures. That said, our college has been committed to the benefits technology can provide in teaching and learning for years, and many instructors were already familiar with the most common technology tools, like Canvas, Zoom, and Google Suite.
Designing a fully online course does require a different approach. In a classroom, students can ask clarifying questions in the moment; a look of confusion can alert the instructor that more explanation on key points is needed. In a fully online course, everything is mediated by technology, so how you use that technology becomes really important. This is where instructional designers’ experience and knowledge are so useful; they can help instructors implement instructional strategies that use technology to effectively engage students.
What are the concerns your team is hearing most, whether from students or faculty?
Overall, moving to remote instruction this past spring went really well. I know people worked so hard, and it was stressful – I don’t want to imply it was easy. But there were fewer issues than I feared. And we all learned a lot. As we look to the fall semester, like everyone, students and instructors are worried about the path the virus will take. It is not something that is easy to predict.