The Role of the Online Instructional Designer (ID)
The fulcrum of the Open SUNY online course design process is our use of the online instructional design partner, not as a collaborator in the design of the course, nor in a clerical or tech support capacity, but as a guide to the faculty in the online course design and faculty development process whose key role is pedagogical in nature – to ask questions and listen, and to assist and support faculty to refine and challenge their thinking, assumptions, and understanding about how to best achieve their instructional and learning goals.
The development of the Open SUNY /SUNY Learning Network (SLN) campus-based ID model grew out a combination of reasons that included being faced limited resources in 1994 (as the program began), rapidly expanding faculty development needs, and a desire to operationalize, scale, and institutionalize sustainable processes to ensure consistent quality and results in online course designs, and in effectively prepared online faculty. A comprehensive large-scale faculty development process resulted. Building a locally available campus resource facilitates campus ownership and investment in the program and makes access for faculty convenient. Campus-based IDs were historically trained by Open SUNY (formerly SLN) and were considered members of the extended instructional design team. (For additional history see https://online.suny.edu/onlineteaching/2009/11/27/sln-factulty-development-program-history/ and https://online.suny.edu/onlineteaching/2009/11/27/sln-course-design-process-history/).
The “ID” in the Open SUNY model is primarily an expert in online pedagogy, effective practices, and in online instructional design and teaching and learning. Their role is to assist online faculty to design effective and engaging online teaching learning environments, and to become effective, engaging, and efficient online instructors. They assist faculty to understand how to present content online in an engaging and accessible learner-centered manner, how to effectively facilitate online interaction and collaboration, and how to provide effective and efficient online feedback and authentic online assessments. While they are adept in the use of learning management systems and instructional technologies, in their work with online faculty they focus on research-based online effective practices, and how to best achieve the individual instructional objectives instructors have for their online courses. This involves helping faculty to reconceptualize how they will achieve their course learning objectives given the options and limitations of the online environment.
All SUNY online IDs are provided with the given an orientation to the program and trained in our technology and the Open SUNY faculty development and course design process. and have opportunities to observe courses, complete an online orientation, participate in course design reviews, review and familiarize themselves with our guidelines, tips, recommendations and our course developer handbook. They are also encouraged to take an online course, given a practice template and encouraged to develop and teach an online course. They become members of the program’s instructional design team and participate actively in bi-weekly meetings. As part of their training, new IDs carry a reduced load of faculty, partner with the lead instructional designer for support, and assume progressively responsible roles at the faculty trainings.
The relationship with faculty is a delicate and negotiated role that, in addition to technical and instructional design expertise, requires diplomacy and high-level interpersonal skills. We have learned that graduate assistants, experienced faculty, and staff may have pre-existing relationships and roles on campus that can inhibit carrying out the role of the ID successfully.
Additionally, the ID functions as a single point of contact between the instructor and the Open SUNY program. The ID team is kept up to date on the latest programmatic information, procedural changes, technology or instructional design issues, and provides a forum for designers to share information and tips, and the opportunity to brainstorm and problem-solve solutions to design and technology issues with each other. Working so closely with their faculty and having the Open SUNY Instructional Design Team to rely on, puts the IDs in an advantageous position to share information, strategies, and solutions with their cohort of assigned faculty and with each other.
The Open SUNY campus-ID model, is at its simplest a train the trainer model. IDs not only disseminate the best practices collected or researched in a coordinated and consistent manner, but also contribute themselves to the data collection, evaluation, revision, feedback, and best practices collection loop. Today Open SUNY campus-based IDs are a unique and successful community in the SUNY system, and this role is now institutionalized across SUNY. They comprise a large community of highly experienced online instructional design professionals all dedicated to the common cause of supporting online faculty from all disciplines in the development of their online courses.
The comprehensiveness of Open SUNY’s processes, resources, support, and services, facilitate the IDs in their pivotal role and allow them to do their jobs in a well-documented, organized manner. The unique role of the online ID is a distinguishing factor in the Open SUNY online faculty development and course design model, and a significant factor in the high degrees of reported satisfaction from both faculty and students.
Instructional Designer (ID) Responsibilities and Expectations
The campus IDs are considered part of the Open SUNY Online Teaching Community. Training, mentoring, and certifications are available via Open SUNY. They play an Open SUNY liaison role on their campus, and have access to targeted supports, materials, resources, events and activities. Rregular ongoing contact with Open SUNY education team staff.
The Campus-ID program and general responsibilities for all online IDs
A campus-based online ID is the primary contact between their campus and the Open SUNY Online Teaching unit. The role of the campus-based online ID is to provide pedagogical and tech support leveraging the Open SUNY Online Teaching models, approaches, process, tools as needed for the online faculty from their campus. The primary goal as a ID is to keep their assigned faculty happy and well supported – Open SUNY Online Teaching recommends that online IDs:
- Develop or adapt effective and efficient online faculty development and course design models, processes, and approaches to support the campus online learning activities.
- Ensure that assigned faculty produce well-designed complete online courses on schedule according to development cycle deadlines and standards for consistency and high quality online instructional design.
- Ensure that faculty are well-trained, well-informed, and well-prepared to teach and manage their courses in the online online LMS environment.
- Act as conduit for information between the campus/faculty and the Open SUNY to make sure that everyone is kept up to date and well informed on the many issues, activities, events, and opportunities that come up during every development and delivery cycle.
- Engage in Open SUNY Online Teaching community of practice activities and opportunities to network, learn, and share for ongoing professional development purposes.
An overview of expectations and activities for a new ID in one development cycle follows:
- New IDs are expected to participate in the Open SUNY Campus ID training program, which during the first semester includes: an initial individual or small group ID training, a one-on-one ID training, attendance of all Open SUNY workshops twice, and ongoing work with an assigned ID mentor. New IDs are assigned a ID mentor from the Open SUNY education team staff to work with throughout their first 2 full faculty development cycles – they observe and lead in the first cycle and lead and are observed in the second cycle. Travel for these events may be required.
- All IDs are expected to be responsive and keep current with all faculty and project email and activities. An ID will be available and responsive to faculty and project phone calls and email. IDs are expected to track, triage and troubleshoot tech. problems, answer questions, guide and make course design recommendations. As the first point of contact with the faculty, it is also the Campus IDs responsibility to disseminate information from the Open SUNY office to the campus and faculty and vice versa.
- IDs are expected to be present at all Open SUNY trainings at which faculty from their campus attend. IDs will assist with workshops as directed by the lead trainer in sequence with progressive responsibilities as part of their Open SUNY ID professional development activities. IDs should observe, assist, and lead one of each of the Open SUNY Faculty trainings to complete their training. In the event that no faculty will be attending a given workshop for a semester, attendance is recommended at one of each workshop, per semester, to keep current on updates and changes in procedures. This may require travel to multiple locations.
- IDs are expected to attend and prepare reports for bi-monthly ID meetings –every other Tuesday at 2pm. Participation via conference call is the usual arrangement for participation by IDs who live at a distance from Albany. The Open SUNY campus ID instructional design team is an important community for IDs. Membership and participation is required.
- Throughout the year there will be meetings and trainings that IDs will be asked to attend in person. It is understood that the Campus ID may have other obligations and responsibilities, but occasional travel may be required. Efforts will be made to plan the meetings well in advance and to make attendance convenient. The following annual events directly pertain to the role of the ID and attendance at these events is expected: the Open SUNY Summit in February (usually in Syracuse), and the Conference on Instructional Technology (CIT) in May (location rotates annually).
- A Campus ID must be available to meet with assigned faculty in person and individually to help faculty with technology and course design matters. Or, if faculty prefer they can work with them at a distance via phone and email.
- All IDs are expected to fully adhere to, and cooperate in the established Open SUNY faculty development and course design processes:
- Work with the Open SUNY education team to prepare templates for returning faculty and insure that all new courses are customized to the campus.
- Conduct an initial tech. check to verify access to Bb, course shell and access to and participation in the Online Faculty Conference (see http://wiki.sln.suny.edu/display/SLNED/Online+Faculty+Development+Process ).
- Establish a course development schedule with each assigned instructor.
- Set up appointment and conduct 2-3 hour training with each new assigned instructor to determine: course modules, learning activities, and course design and to set up the course outline in template. This training can also be done by phone if a face-to-face meeting is not possible. Must be one-on-one with faculty.
- Negotiate and stick to a development schedule. Courses must be finished, fully developed and complete one week prior to the term start date.
- Guide assigned faculty in course design and in the optimum use of the Open SUNY course templates to meet the instructional objectives specific to their course.
- Develop wrap around trainings for faculty as supplemental faculty development activities and events on campus.
- Follow up with training for any faculty that cannot attend the Open SUNY faculty development trainings.
- Conduct and produce a formal written course review of each course for each assigned instructor using the OSCQR rubric and course review checklists. Then, work with faculty to implement revisions detailed in course review. Courses must be complete: done, reviewed, and revised– one week prior to the teaching and managing your course training.
- Actively participate in all ID instructional design team activities.
- Observe, assist and lead one of each of the Open SUNY faculty workshops.
- Follow up with training for any faculty that cannot attend training.
- Provide 3-4 weeks of assistance, observation, and support as the term begins for each assigned course. Weekly written check-ins to faculty are required during this period.
- Provide periodic checks-ins and ongoing support and coordination as needed throughout the term.
- Assist in the evaluation and revision of completed course–after the term concludes.
- Develop wrap-around training presentations and materials for their local campus faculty, focusing on relevant Open SUNY materials, as appropriate.