The Balancing Act: Interpersonal Aspects of Instructional Designers as Change Agents in Higher Education

The Balancing Act: Interpersonal Aspects of Instructional Designers as Change Agents in Higher Education

Justin A. Sentz
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0054-5.ch004
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Upon hearing a multitude of complaints from faculty members about the required training module prior to teaching online courses at Great Plains University for the first time, the instructional designers at GPU's North Central Campus decided to work with a faculty fellow to create a local version of the training. Before discussing specific modifications to the training module, the group delved into the interpersonal aspects of the relationship between instructional designers and faculty members in higher education. They suspected that these relationship dynamics had something to do with the shortcomings of the existing training module, and they wanted to ensure that they addressed them in the new version of the training. The result was a set of recommendations sent to the Provost at NCC that aligned the modifications to the training intervention to the performance problems in the institution, while simultaneously accounting for the interpersonal aspects identified in their discussions.
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Setting The Stage

The interactions between instructional designers and subject matter experts, such as faculty members within the context of higher education, and the perceptions of these working relationships have been noted in the literature as important to the development of the field. As instructional design centers were initially created at colleges and universities, Reiser (1978) proposed an approach to increase interactions between instructional designers and faculty members throughout the process of planning and implementing instructional materials. More recently, Campbell, Schwier, and Kenny (2009) argued that instructional designers can and should use their interactions with faculty to serve as change agents within higher education. Given the dynamics of working with highly credentialed individuals and rapid changes in technology, the nature of interactions with faculty members and the corresponding value of the instructional design function within higher education is more significant now than ever before.

Reiser (2001) explains that institutions of higher education began establishing instructional design centers in the early 1970s to assist faculty members with improving their instruction through the use of media. However, declining budgets and a perceived lack of impact on instruction during the 1980s caused many institutions to question the importance of the instructional design function. The increasing demand for distance education delivered via the Internet in the 1990s caused a renewed interest in instructional designers within higher education to create high-quality courses and programs, but the maturity of online instruction over the past ten years has reopened the discussion regarding the role of instructional designers working with faculty members at these institutions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Expertise: A set of knowledge and skills in a specific field of study that sets recognized experts apart from novices in the field. Expertise can be developed through a combination of both educational preparation and practical experience in the field of study.

Quality Matters: A non-profit organization that provides its members with research, resources, and a professional community for the expressed purpose of promoting quality assurance in online learning within K-12, higher education, continuing and professional education, and various other settings.

Faculty Member: An individual who works within a university academic department and teaches courses to undergraduate and/or graduate students in a specific discipline, while simultaneously conducting research within that subject area. The large majority of these individuals have a terminal (doctoral) degree in their discipline.

Online Pedagogy: A set of prescribed methods, strategies, and practices for teaching academic subjects in an online (or blended) environment, where students are in a physical location separate from the faculty member and/or other students. While some of the methods and strategies may overlap with those used in a face-to-face environment, online pedagogy recognizes the unique opportunities and limitations of the online environment.

Rapport: A professional relationship in which individuals or groups of individuals communicate effectively and are concerned with understanding each other’s motivations and feelings.

Relationship Imbalance: A professional situation in which two parties are in a position of inequality regarding control or power within the relationship, usually as a result of structural or organizational realities that dictate certain organizational protocols.

Instructional Designer: An individual who works within a particular practice setting (higher education in this case) and is involved in the design, development, and/or delivery of instruction in support of courses taught by faculty members. Instructional designers have a wide range of backgrounds, but many of them have a master’s degree in an area related to education.

Professional Duty: A sense of adhering to a shared set of standards within a particular profession in order to ensure the competent practice of the duties required by the profession.

Change Agent: An individual who advocates for and brings about change within an organization for the expressed purpose of performance improvement. A change agent can bring about change as a result of leadership power in the organization, or as a result of grassroots effort within a particular area of the organization.

Collegiality: A spirit of cooperation and professional friendship between individuals who work together toward shared goals within an organization, even in instances (in this case) where all individuals may not be responsible for the same aspects of those shared goals.

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