The Evolving Landscape of Instructional Design in Higher Education

The Evolving Landscape of Instructional Design in Higher Education

Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4975-8.ch001
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This chapter introduces the readers to the current practice of instructional design in higher education and describes the need for optimizing instructional design methods and practice to increase its nimbleness and adaptive capacity. It also aims to challenge the readers to imagine how instructional design methods in higher education could serve as a catalyst for solving adaptive and complex systemic challenges. The authors argue that instructional design is no longer a process that should be relegated to online course design but is, in fact, a process that can bring about organizational change.
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During the first decade of the 21st century, post-secondary education enrollment in the United States (undergraduate and graduate) grew by approximately 37 percent, reaching a total of 21 million in (McFarland et al., 2018). However, between 2010 and 2016 the total student enrollment reached only 19.9 million, and projected growth in enrollment, between 2016 and 2027, is expected to be .6 million students (McFarland et al., 2018).

By 2016 student enrollment in at least one distance education course reached more than 6.3 million with approximately three million of students enrolled exclusively in distance education (Seaman, Allen, &, Seaman, 2018). For this chapter, we adopted the definition of distance education provided by the U.S. Department of Education:

Distance education uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the student and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously. (McFarland et al., 2018, p. 171)

The hiring of instructional designers in higher education is linked to the expansion of online distance education; just in the United States alone, there are over 13,000 instructional designers who work in colleges and universities (Intentional Futures, 2016). The work of the instructional designers in higher education tends to be based on social and cognitive skills developed through their experience as designers instead of on formal instructional design theories and models (Dicks & Ives, 2008; Kenny, Zhang, Schwier, & Campbell, 2005). Establishing collaboration by building relationships seems to be a key factor in being successful as an instructional designer in higher education (Dicks & Ives, 2008). However, instructional designers tell us in recent studies (Intentional Futures, 2016; Arnold, Edwards, Magruder, & Moore, 2018) that this can be a challenge. In addition, the instructional design role within higher education is changing. Even though the focus of instructional designers has been on online distance education, instructional designers are now being incorporated into curriculum reforms, academic program development, and other institutional efforts that require a broader set of perspectives and skills.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Distance Education: Distance education offers students the opportunity to have access to formal education at a distance (away from the campus/instructor location). Interaction with the instructor and peers relies on digital technologies.

Digital Learning: Digital learning involves information communication technologies to support the learner interaction with digital materials designed to help learners reach specific learning outcomes.

Adaptive Capacity: Adaptive capacity is the ability to adjust to external factors from one’s environment.

Adaptive Challenge: Adaptive challenges refer to those problems that do not have a technical solution. These challenges tend to have multiple solutions stemming from varied perspectives and contexts.

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