In my last post, I discussed my work with Dr. Daniel Herman from Political Science to get his course officially recognized by Quality Matters. My post was even linked on the Quality Matters Facebook page! Even if you are not interested in getting your course officially certified by Quality Matters, though, there are still three important lessons for all faculty members to take away from the experience.
1. Courses are a constant work in progress.
In Dan’s case, it took two years of tweaking to get his course to Quality Matters standards, so courses may not be perfect the first time around! That said, we recommend starting to design new courses at least one semester before launch in order to start off with the best quality possible. Many faculty underestimate the time required to draft course proposals, gather materials, record lectures, and layout the course site within the learning management system. Remember that instructional designers can help, whether you are designing the course for the first time or looking to enhance an existing course.
2. You do not need to be super tech savvy to teach an online or blended course!
I trained Dan on all the tools he needed to know within the learning management system. Instructional designers can train you on technologies you may need or want to learn more about. But why wait? If you plan to convert your current face-to-face course into a blended or fully online course in the future, consider preparing for that transition now by incorporating tools such as VoiceThread or Kaltura into your existing course. This allows you to experiment with the tools and get feedback from students, which can inform your future course design — for instance, you might replace traditional discussion forums with VoiceThread discussions if students seem more engaged with them.
3. Instructional designers provide so much more than just technical support.
Although faculty look to instructional designers primarily for support with technology, they can also help with pedagogical issues such as restructuring learning activities, scaffolding your assignments, and constructing measurable, student-friendly objectives. Dan found that “working with an instructional designer forces the instructor to focus on clearly stating the learning objectives and outcomes, which tends to get overlooked by professors who assume that students implicitly understand the learning objectives.” Creating clear, measurable learning objectives also focuses your efforts when gathering course materials or creating assignments because you have a better understanding of the goals of each module and how they relate to the goals of the overall course.
Instructional designers can help you at any stage of the course design process, whether you are creating a new course from scratch or enhancing an existing course. Given enough time, they can help you craft objective and assignments that reflect your goals for your students, train you on relevant instructional technologies, and support you after the course launches to make continual improvement.
To speak with an instructional designer, schedule a 1-on-1 appointment for course design or educational technology, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have online or in-person workshops available.
Ismael "Izzy" Lara is a Senior Instructional Designer at Rutgers University. He has a Master's degree in Computer Science (currently working towards his Doctorate in Education), is an adjunct instructor teaching online and face-to-face programming courses, and has obtained the Master Reviewer Certification from Quality Matters. In his spare time, he enjoys playing video games.