Instructional Designers Are A Faculty Member's Best Friends

Instructional Designers Are Faculty Members Best Friends
Summary: Instructional designers are experts in online learning. A good working relationship with faculty can create a satisfying course experience for both faculty and students.

5 Ways To Ensure A Good Working Relationship

Instructional designers are equipped to handle multiple educational technology challenges. Like faculty, designers have areas of expertise. Whether your institution classifies designers as staff or clinical faculty, designers can be your best teammates and biggest cheerleaders. So much learning has been conducted online since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe you have found yourself in a situation where you had to move your courses online fast. Whether you have a long-term goal of developing a course for distance education, or you were asked to make decisions in a hurry, your first turn should be to the instructional designers at your institution.

Here are 5 easy ways to approach the designer and faculty relationship:

1. Patience Is Key

Countless times, we have heard faculty tell us, "I just didn’t want to bother you." To that, I say, "please bother us!" Instructional designers are passionate about online learning and want to assist faculty in becoming proficient in the development of their course, their use of a learning management system, or the faculty members' choice in virtual course platforms. Most instructional designers are less interested in the inner workings of a computer and more interested in approaching the challenge of converting a faculty member’s content and assessments into online-friendly versions. We are full of ideas and knowledge of online learning, and the last thing most designers would do is shame a faculty member for not knowing how to accomplish a certain technical task. We derive joy from the challenge and the learning experience. We cannot learn your area of expertise in a few short weeks and we don’t expect you to learn ours in a short amount of time, either.

2. Develop A Personal Relationship Of Trust

Many instructors spend multiple semesters developing new content and assessments for their courses, or they have course materials that are tried and true. Some are hesitant to lay their wealth of knowledge and files into the lap of an instructional designer. The key to developing a good professional relationship with a designer is to trust and acknowledge the areas of expertise of the designer. You are bringing content in your area of expertise to someone whose expertise is creating an effective distance education course with your knowledge. Designers understand that we are not content area experts in your field; we trust you for that content knowledge. As designers trust instructors, instructors should trust designers as well.

3. Let Us Teach You How To Teach Your Distance Education Course

Instructional designers would not tell a faculty member that certain pieces of their course content were incorrect. However, we do spend a great deal of time considering ways to offer your course in an online environment with the students’ best interests in mind. Many designers have a hand in developing courses from scratch and are familiar with the layout and tools in your course. Spend some time with a designer so you can practice becoming familiar with navigating your online course comfortably, learn about new learning management systems or education technology tools, shortcuts, and especially how to accomplish tasks in the grade center. If you are trying out a virtual course tool, ask to meet with a designer so you can practice with technology while someone is on hand to help guide you through the next steps if you are unsure of how to teach from this platform.

4. Acknowledge That Online Learning Pedagogy Is Not The Same As Your Face-To-Face Course

Occasionally, designers will get some push-back from faculty members who are either reluctant or forced to move online. The way you deliver your course online should not merely mimic the way that you teach in a face-to-face setting. A faculty member should be willing to work through their assessments and projects with a designer and consider new ways to deliver content, connect with students, help students connect with each other, and assess student learning. Teaching online can be difficult for the "sage on the stage" faculty, who gain energy from in-person class involvement or lecturing. With the right tools, instructors can have a satisfying teaching experience in an online class.

5. Be Willing To Try Something New

One of the keys to having a fulfilling online teaching experience is to incorporate the use of new tools and ideas that can bridge the gap between instructors and students. It is important for reluctant faculty to embrace the challenge head-on with designers because coming onto the court with a positive attitude will assist in the ability to learn new skills. Every person has had a bad experience with technology. Maybe you have been at a conference where your device won’t connect to the internet, you can’t remember which button to press to share your screen, or you have accidentally muted yourself while speaking. Students have also had issues with technology. The important thing is to let the situation roll off your shoulders. Address the issue at hand without denigrating yourself or blaming technology. Just continue on with your class when you get your bearings and shrug the minor embarrassing situation off. Students will appreciate you moving forward with your course. Remember, while technology can sometimes not work or behave the way it should, we are still miles ahead from where we were when we started delivering online courses via learning management systems!