Instructional Challenges in Higher Education Online Courses Delivered through a Learning Management System by Subject Matter Experts

Instructional Challenges in Higher Education Online Courses Delivered through a Learning Management System by Subject Matter Experts

George L. Joeckel III (Utah State University, USA), Tae Jeon (Utah State University, USA) and Joel Gardner (Utah State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-672-8.ch016
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The authors are Instructional Designers developing online courses in higher education. These courses are facilitated by Subject Matter Experts and delivered through a Learning Management System. They propose that instructional alignment with pedagogic beliefs is the best instructional foundation for original course designs in this instructional context, and examine three factors unique to this context. They propose new instructional design models and a new instructional system of design to address the instructional challenges specific to their learning system context.
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Taxonomy And Terms

In order to communicate more effectively about our instructional context, we have developed the term “SME-F (Subject Matter Expert-facilitated) online courses” to refer to online courses taught by the same individual responsible for providing a course's content. We will refer to this person as the “SME/F” (Subject Matter Expert/Facilitator). We propose the following taxonomy in order to situate our terms within the larger context of online courses designed by IDs (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Taxonomy of Online Course designed by Instructional Designers


We believe that there are critical distinctions between the instructional context for the type of course we have described and the instructional context for other types of online courses. For example, in an I-F online course the Instructor is facilitating a course with content provided by a SME, and she or he may or may not be an expert in the content. Also, the Instructor is not likely to have played a significant role in the course design process, so one would not expect to find course design choices aligned with his or her pedagogical strengths.

For the purposes of this chapter we will use the term “course design” to represent the entire process of Instructional Design as represented by the phases described in the ADDIE model: analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation (see, for example, Dick & Carey, 1996). We will use the terms Learning Management System (LMS) and Course Management System (CMS) interchangeably. We will use the term “learning system context” as defined by Tessmer and Richey (1997): “those situational elements that affect both the acquisition and application of newly acquired knowledge, skills, or attitudes” (p. 87). We will use the term “pedagogical beliefs” to refer to “teacher's educational beliefs about teaching and learning” (Ertmer, 2005, p. 28).


Three Contextual Factors

We are part of a team of IDs providing ID (Instructional Design) services at a research-based university. Designing original online courses facilitated by SMEs is a major component of our responsibilities. In the course of our practice, we have identified three factors that we believe are unique to this instructional context.

Ongoing Relationship

Each ID on our team is assigned to work with specific university departments on an ongoing basis. Our IDs and SME/Fs work together throughout the entire pre- and post-semester cycle of course design. This arrangement creates an opportunity to make course design decisions driven by the pedagogical beliefs of the individual providing the course content and facilitating the delivery of the course.

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