Fostering Collaboration Between Faculty and Instructional Designers in Higher Education

Collaboration between faculty members and instructional designers is a crucial aspect of designing and delivering effective online and blended courses in higher education. Let’s explore the benefits of collaboration, discuss strategies for fostering effective partnerships, and highlight the importance of communication and shared goals in creating successful learning experiences.

Recognizing the Expertise of Instructional Designers

Instructional designers bring valuable expertise in pedagogy, instructional technology, and course design to the table. Their knowledge of best practices, learning theories, and emerging technologies can greatly enhance the quality of online and blended courses. Faculty members should recognize and appreciate the unique contributions instructional designers bring to the collaborative process.

Establishing Effective Communication Channels

Open and frequent communication is key to successful collaboration between faculty and instructional designers. Establish regular meetings, whether in person or virtual, to discuss course objectives, design considerations, and instructional strategies. Use collaborative project management tools and communication platforms to facilitate ongoing dialogue and document decisions and revisions.

Shared Goals and Vision

Faculty and instructional designers should align their goals and vision for the course. By establishing shared objectives, they can work together to create a cohesive and engaging learning experience. Discuss learning outcomes, assessment strategies, and the integration of technology to ensure that the course design reflects the desired goals and objectives.

Leveraging Expertise and Input

Faculty members possess subject matter expertise, while instructional designers bring expertise in instructional design and technology integration. Embrace the strengths of each team member and encourage collaboration to leverage their expertise effectively. Faculty members can provide content-specific insights, while instructional designers can offer guidance on effective instructional strategies and technology tools.

Iterative Design and Evaluation

Collaboration should extend beyond the initial course design phase. Engage in iterative design and evaluation processes to continuously improve the course based on student feedback, assessment data, and emerging best practices. Regularly review and revise course materials to ensure alignment with the intended learning outcomes and to incorporate innovative instructional approaches.

Fostering collaboration between faculty members and instructional designers is essential for designing and delivering effective online and blended courses in higher education. By recognizing each other’s expertise, establishing effective communication channels, aligning goals and vision, leveraging expertise and input, and engaging in iterative design and evaluation, faculty and instructional designers can create engaging and meaningful learning experiences for students. Together, they can navigate the complexities of instructional design, technology integration, and pedagogical innovation to ensure the success of online and blended learning initiatives.


Strategies for Preventing Plagiarism in Higher Education

Plagiarism, the act of using someone else’s work without proper attribution, is a serious concern in higher education. Educators play a pivotal role in equipping students with the knowledge and skills to avoid plagiarism and uphold academic integrity. Recently a few colleagues and I sat down to discuss strategies and best practices for preventing plagiarism in college and promoting a culture of originality and ethical writing.

Educate Students about Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Begin by educating students about the importance of academic integrity and the consequences of plagiarism. Clearly define what constitutes plagiarism and explain the different forms it can take, such as copying and pasting from online sources or failing to cite properly. Emphasize the value of original thought, critical thinking, and ethical writing practices.

Teach Effective Research and Citation Skills

Many instances of unintentional plagiarism stem from a lack of understanding of proper research and citation techniques. Teach students how to conduct thorough research, evaluate sources, and integrate information into their writing while giving proper credit. Provide guidance on citation styles such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, and demonstrate how to create in-text citations and reference lists.

Promote Time Management and Planning

Procrastination can lead to rushed assignments and a higher risk of unintentional plagiarism. Encourage students to manage their time effectively by breaking down assignments into manageable tasks and creating a realistic schedule. Emphasize the importance of starting early, allowing ample time for research, drafting, and revising to avoid last-minute copying or inadequate citation.

Use Plagiarism Detection Software

Plagiarism detection software can be a valuable tool for educators to identify potential instances of plagiarism. These tools compare student work against a vast database of sources and highlight any similarities found. By using such software, educators can detect both intentional and unintentional instances of plagiarism, providing an opportunity for timely intervention and education.

Promote a Supportive Writing Culture

Create a supportive writing culture where students feel comfortable seeking assistance and feedback. Offer writing workshops, peer-review sessions, or one-on-one consultations to help students develop their writing skills. Encourage open dialogue about plagiarism and academic integrity, addressing any questions or concerns students may have.

Preventing plagiarism in higher education requires a multifaceted approach that includes educating students about academic integrity, teaching effective research and citation skills, promoting time management, using plagiarism detection software, and fostering a supportive writing culture. 


Embracing Virtual Reality to Enhance Student Engagement in Higher Education

Virtual reality (VR) has emerged as a transformative technology with the potential to revolutionize higher education. By creating immersive and interactive experiences, VR can significantly enhance student engagement and learning outcomes. Let’s explore the benefits of incorporating VR in higher education and discuss practical ways to engage students using this innovative technology.

Immersive Learning Experiences: Enhancing Understanding and Retention

Traditional classroom lectures can sometimes fall short in capturing students’ attention and fostering deep understanding. VR offers a solution by immersing students in virtual environments that simulate real-world scenarios. Whether it’s exploring historical sites, conducting scientific experiments, or practicing professional skills, VR enables students to experience concepts firsthand, leading to increased engagement, improved comprehension, and long-term retention of knowledge.

Active Learning and Collaboration: Breaking Boundaries

VR technology allows students to actively participate in their learning by providing hands-on experiences and promoting collaboration. In virtual environments, students can manipulate objects, solve complex problems, and work together with peers in simulated scenarios. VR breaks the boundaries of traditional classrooms, enabling students to explore new perspectives, engage in interactive discussions, and develop critical thinking and teamwork skills.

Accessibility and Inclusivity: Overcoming Limitations

Virtual reality has the potential to address accessibility and inclusivity challenges in higher education. Students with physical disabilities or geographical constraints can now participate in immersive learning experiences that were previously inaccessible. VR also provides opportunities for students to explore diverse cultures, environments, and perspectives, fostering empathy and cultural understanding.

Career Readiness and Skill Development

Virtual reality offers a unique platform for students to develop practical skills and prepare for real-world careers. From medical simulations to architectural design and engineering prototypes, VR enables students to practice and refine their skills in a safe and controlled environment. By engaging in realistic scenarios, students can gain confidence, hone their problem-solving abilities, and bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Virtual reality has the potential to revolutionize higher education by providing immersive learning experiences, promoting active engagement and collaboration, addressing accessibility challenges, and preparing students for future careers. As educators, it is crucial to embrace this innovative technology and explore its applications to create transformative learning experiences. By integrating VR into higher education, we can enhance student engagement, foster deep learning, and empower students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in a rapidly evolving world.


Embrace AI to Design Writing Assignments

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, technology continues to reshape the way we teach and learn. One of the most exciting advancements in recent years is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into the classroom. While AI may have initially seemed like a distant concept, its potential impact on education is becoming increasingly apparent. Today, we explore how educators can embrace AI to design writing assignments that enhance student learning.

Enhancing Feedback and Assessment – One of the biggest challenges in writing assignments is providing timely and constructive feedback to students. AI-powered tools now offer sophisticated capabilities to assist educators in this process. Automated essay scoring systems, for example, can analyze and evaluate students’ writing based on predefined criteria. This allows teachers to focus on higher-level feedback and personalized guidance, fostering student growth and engagement.

Promoting Individualized Learning – Every student has unique strengths and areas for improvement. AI can help tailor writing assignments to suit individual needs and abilities. Adaptive learning platforms can analyze students’ writing patterns and suggest personalized topics or writing strategies. By using AI, educators can ensure that writing assignments address each student’s specific learning goals, maximizing their potential for success.

Unleashing Creativity and Critical Thinking – AI is not limited to grading and assessment; it can also stimulate creativity and critical thinking among students. With AI-powered tools, students can explore new writing styles, experiment with vocabulary and grammar, and receive instant feedback on their choices. These tools can even generate writing prompts based on specific themes or topics, sparking students’ imagination and encouraging them to think outside the box.

Engaging Students in Authentic Writing Experiences – Incorporating AI into writing assignments allows students to experience real-world applications of their skills. For example, language models like ChatGPT, an AI-based language model, can simulate conversation and provide a platform for students to practice persuasive writing or develop storytelling techniques. By interacting with AI, students can improve their writing skills in a dynamic and engaging manner.

Facilitating Collaboration and Peer Feedback – AI can also facilitate collaboration and peer feedback. Online platforms equipped with AI tools enable students to review and comment on each other’s work, promoting a sense of community and fostering constructive discussions. These platforms can provide suggestions for revision, highlight areas of improvement, and encourage students to refine their writing through collaborative efforts.

AI is revolutionizing the design of writing assignments in education. By embracing AI technologies, educators, administrators, and instructional designers can enhance the feedback and assessment process, promote individualized learning, stimulate creativity and critical thinking, engage students in authentic writing experiences, and facilitate collaboration. Integrating AI into writing assignments not only empowers educators with time-saving tools but also enriches students’ learning experiences, preparing them for the demands of the 21st century. As AI continues to advance, let us seize the opportunities it presents and create a future where education is powered by technology for the benefit of all learners.


Asynchronous Videos in Online Courses

In online courses, asynchronous videos have become a popular instructional tool for delivering content, fostering engagement, and enhancing the learning experience. It is essential to understand the best practices for creating effective asynchronous videos. Let’s explore the benefits of using asynchronous videos and provide key considerations and strategies to ensure their successful implementation.

Benefits of Asynchronous Videos:

Asynchronous videos offer several advantages in online courses. They provide flexibility for students to access course material at their own pace and convenience. Additionally, videos can present complex concepts in a visual and engaging format, catering to various learning styles. Furthermore, asynchronous videos create opportunities for interaction and active learning, as students can pause, rewind, and reflect on the content.

Best Practices for Creating Asynchronous Videos:

Clear and Concise Content: When creating asynchronous videos, ensure that the content is clear, concise, and well-organized. Break down complex ideas into manageable segments and use simple language to explain concepts. Structure your videos with an introduction, main points, and a conclusion. Consider using visual aids, such as slides or graphics, to enhance understanding.

Engaging Delivery: Capture students’ attention by delivering the content in an engaging manner. Use a conversational tone and vary your voice tone and pace to maintain interest. Incorporate storytelling, real-life examples, or relevant anecdotes to make the content relatable and memorable. Consider using gestures or facial expressions to add emphasis and convey enthusiasm.

Visual Elements: Utilize visual elements to enhance comprehension. Create visually appealing slides or use graphics, charts, or images to support the content. Incorporate on-screen annotations or highlighting to emphasize key points. Ensure that the visuals are clear and legible, even when viewed on smaller screens.

Quality Production: Invest in quality production to ensure a professional-looking video. Use a good microphone and ensure clear audio quality. Consider the lighting and choose a suitable background that minimizes distractions. Use video editing software to trim unnecessary segments, add captions if applicable, and enhance the overall production value.

Chunking and Interactivity: Break down the content into shorter segments to promote better engagement and retention. Aim for videos that are no longer than 10-15 minutes. After each segment, consider incorporating interactive elements, such as knowledge checks, discussion prompts, or reflection questions. This allows students to process the information and apply their learning.

Asynchronous videos play a vital role in online courses, providing flexibility, interactivity, and engagement for students. These videos have the potential to enhance the learning experience, support diverse learning styles, and promote student success in the online environment. Asynchronous videos offer a valuable medium for delivering content and fostering a dynamic and interactive learning experience in online courses.


Using a Supportive Syllabus

A well-crafted syllabus serves as a roadmap for both educators and students, outlining the expectations, goals, and structure of a course. However, a syllabus can go beyond being a mere administrative document and become a tool for fostering a supportive learning environment. Here are a few things to consider as you explore the importance of a supportive syllabus.

Clear Course Expectations: A supportive syllabus clearly communicates the expectations for the course, including attendance policies, participation requirements, and academic integrity guidelines. Use concise and accessible language to ensure students understand what is expected of them. By setting clear expectations from the start, educators empower students to take ownership of their learning and understand the boundaries of the course.

Transparent Grading Criteria: Include detailed grading criteria and rubrics in the syllabus to provide students with a clear understanding of how their work will be evaluated. Transparency in grading criteria helps students align their efforts with the desired outcomes and reduces confusion or uncertainty. When students have a clear understanding of how they will be assessed, they can focus on meeting the expectations and improving their performance.

Resource and Support Information: A supportive syllabus provides students with information about available resources and support services. Include contact details for the instructor, teaching assistants, and any additional support staff. Provide information on tutoring services, academic resources, and technology support. By directing students to the appropriate resources, educators ensure that students have the support they need to succeed academically.

Accessible Course Materials: Consider the accessibility of course materials and provide accommodations for students with disabilities. Ensure that all course materials, including readings, videos, and online content, are accessible to students with various learning needs. Provide alternative formats for students who may require them, such as transcripts for videos or accessible PDF versions of text materials. This commitment to accessibility promotes inclusivity and supports the success of all students.

Communication and Feedback Channels: Clearly outline communication channels and expectations for student-instructor and student-student interactions. Include information on how and when students can reach out to the instructor, such as office hours or email. Encourage open and respectful dialogue and set a supportive tone for discussions and collaborations. By establishing effective communication channels, educators create an environment where students feel comfortable seeking assistance and engaging in academic discourse.


More Instructional Support for Adult Learners

Adult learners bring unique characteristics and challenges to the educational setting. It is essential to provide effective instructional support that caters to the specific needs of adult learners. Here are several key strategies that can enhance the learning experience for adult learners, including live consultations, language scaffolding, modeling, gaming, and feedback.

Live Consultations: Live consultations offer valuable opportunities for adult learners to engage in one-on-one or small group discussions with instructors or subject matter experts. These consultations provide personalized support and guidance, allowing learners to ask questions, seek clarification, and delve deeper into the course material. By offering live consultations through virtual meetings or office hours, educators can address individual needs and foster a supportive learning environment.

Language Scaffolding: Adult learners may face language barriers or varying levels of proficiency in the instructional language. Language scaffolding involves providing support and structure to help learners understand and communicate effectively. This can be achieved through techniques such as simplifying complex vocabulary, using visual aids, providing examples, and offering opportunities for practice and application. Language scaffolding ensures that adult learners can comprehend and engage with the content, promoting deeper understanding and participation.

Modeling: Modeling is a powerful instructional strategy that involves demonstrating the desired skills or behaviors for adult learners. By showcasing exemplary work or providing step-by-step demonstrations, instructors help learners understand expectations and develop a clear vision of the desired outcomes. Modeling can be particularly effective for practical skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, or professional communication. By observing and analyzing models, adult learners gain valuable insights that support their own learning and skill development.

Gaming: Gamification elements can greatly enhance the learning experience for adult learners. Incorporating game-like elements, such as points, badges, leaderboards, and interactive challenges, can increase engagement, motivation, and active participation. Gaming elements provide a sense of achievement and promote a friendly sense of competition among learners. Adult learners can benefit from the immersive and interactive nature of gaming, which can enhance their retention and application of knowledge and skills.

Feedback: Providing timely and constructive feedback is crucial for adult learners’ growth and progress. Feedback should be specific, actionable, and focused on both strengths and areas for improvement. Adult learners often appreciate feedback that is meaningful, individualized, and linked to their personal or professional goals. By incorporating feedback loops and offering opportunities for self-assessment and reflection, educators can empower adult learners to take ownership of their learning journey and continuously improve their performance.


Support Learning in Online Courses with Structure (Part 2 of 2)

In the last article, we explored the significance of structure in supporting learning in online courses. Building upon that, there are five additional strategies that we, as educators, administrators, and instructional designers, can employ to create a well-structured online learning experience. By incorporating these strategies, we can enhance student engagement, foster a sense of community, and promote effective learning in the digital classroom.

Use Discussion Boards: As an instructor, I highly recommend creating a designated discussion board where students can ask questions related to the course content, assignments, or any other course-related inquiries. By encouraging students to support one another through answering questions and sharing resources, we foster a collaborative learning environment. Regularly monitoring the discussion board ensures that students receive timely responses and feel supported throughout their learning journey.

Consistent Course Announcements: To keep students informed and engaged, I utilize course announcement features to provide regular updates and reminders. Consistency is key, so I establish a schedule for sharing important information. I use announcements to clarify assignment instructions, provide additional resources, highlight upcoming events, or address common concerns. This steady stream of course announcements minimizes confusion and misunderstandings while keeping students informed and engaged.

Consistent Due Dates: As an instructor, I understand the importance of clearly communicating due dates for assignments, quizzes, and other course activities. By establishing consistent due dates, I help students plan their time effectively and stay on track. I state due dates clearly in the course syllabus, assignment descriptions, and course calendar, reinforcing them through regular reminders and announcements.

Use Rubrics: In order to promote transparency in grading, I create rubrics for assignments and share them with students in advance. Rubrics provide clear guidelines and expectations for each assignment, allowing students to align their work with the desired outcomes. By using rubrics, I provide consistent and objective feedback to students, helping them understand their strengths and areas for improvement.

Use Substantial Feedback: As an instructor, I believe that feedback is an essential component of the learning process. I strive to provide students with substantial and personalized feedback on their assignments, assessments, and discussions. By offering constructive comments that highlight their strengths and provide actionable suggestions for improvement, I demonstrate my commitment to individual student growth and enhance their learning experience.

Bonus Topic – Informal Course Surveys: To gather valuable feedback from students, I periodically conduct informal course surveys. These short surveys allow students to provide anonymous input on various aspects of the course, such as content, delivery methods, and engagement strategies. Analyzing survey results provides me with valuable insights into students’ experiences, enabling me to make informed adjustments and improvements to the course.

As an educator, administrator, or instructional designer, supporting learning in online courses requires a structured approach that fosters engagement, effective communication, and meaningful feedback. By implementing strategies such as using discussion boards, consistent course announcements, due dates, rubrics, personalized feedback, and conducting informal course surveys, we can create a well-structured online learning experience that enhances student engagement and success. Through intentional design and consistent implementation, I can empower students to thrive in the digital classroom and achieve their learning goals.


Support Learning in Online Courses with Structure (Part 1 of 2)

Online learning has become an integral part of the education landscape, offering flexibility and accessibility to students worldwide. However, the success of online courses heavily relies on the structure provided to learners. In this article, I’ll explore five key strategies to support learning in online courses through effective structuring. Educators, administrators, and instructional designers can use these strategies to create a cohesive and engaging learning experience for their students.

Consistent Course Design: Consistency is key when designing online courses. Establishing a standardized course structure helps students navigate the course materials easily and reduces confusion. Maintain a consistent layout for each module or lesson, including headings, subheadings, and formatting. Consistency also extends to the use of language, instructions, and assessment criteria. When students can anticipate and understand the structure, they can focus more on the content and learning objectives.

Intentional Orientation: Begin the course with a comprehensive orientation module or section to familiarize students with the online learning environment. This orientation should cover technical aspects, such as how to navigate the course platform, submit assignments, and participate in discussions. Additionally, provide an overview of the course structure, expectations, and resources available to students. A well-designed orientation sets the foundation for a successful learning experience by ensuring that students feel prepared and confident from the start.

Online Learning Best Practices: Online learning requires specific skills and strategies for success. Dedicate a module or lesson to share best practices with students. Teach them effective time management, organization, and study techniques tailored to the online environment. Provide guidance on active learning strategies, such as note-taking, summarizing, and self-assessment. Encourage students to create a conducive learning environment and establish a routine that supports their online learning journey.

Low-Stakes Assessments to Learn Navigation: Navigating an online course can sometimes be overwhelming for students, especially if they are new to the platform. Incorporate low-stakes assessments, such as quizzes or interactive activities, that focus on familiarizing students with the course structure and navigation. These assessments should not heavily impact grades but serve as learning opportunities. By engaging with the course elements early on, students become more comfortable and proficient in navigating the online environment.

Weekly To-Do Lists: Provide students with clear and concise weekly to-do lists that outline the tasks, readings, assignments, and deadlines for each week. Break down large assignments into manageable milestones, allowing students to track their progress and plan their time effectively. These lists create a sense of structure, provide a roadmap for learning, and help students stay organized and on track throughout the course.

In the realm of online education, creating a well-structured learning experience is paramount. By implementing consistent course design, offering intentional orientation, sharing online learning best practices, incorporating low-stakes assessments for navigation, and providing weekly to-do lists, educators, administrators, and instructional designers can effectively support learning in online courses. These strategies empower students to navigate the course with ease, stay organized, and engage meaningfully with the content. With a strong foundation of structure, online courses can become dynamic and engaging learning environments that foster student success.


Help Wanted

Once you have set aside the time and have the energy to dig in and create or improve your online course(s)…don’t do it alone. Ask for help. Take advantage of the many resources and support teams within your institution. If need be, look for help from others that may be outside of your institution. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Mentor – Look for an individual who has some experience teaching online. This doesn’t need to be a formal mentor relationship, just someone who’s been down that path already who can share some words of wisdom. Teaching online courses is a skill that is unique from teaching classes in person. Take your time and find someone who is comfortable teaching online and learn from their experience. Be selective and look for someone who is thriving and willing to share not only their successes but some of their failures.

Colleagues – Remember you’re not the only one trying to create an excellent experience for your students. Look to your colleagues who are also trying to be excellent online teachers. A great way to discover new strategies and ideas is to interact with those who are also wrestling with the same teaching issues. If you have regular meetings with your colleagues you might consider adding a brief 5 to 10 minutes Block of time to simply share a tip or strategy related to online teaching. Another strategy that many faculty find useful is the idea of a shared reading experience or a book club. Other faculty have pursued workshops, faculty showcases, and conferences to learn more about what other faculty are doing within online education. The bottom line here is to commit to learning and learning and other faculty members.

Instructional Designer – While you are the expert in your field you might consider seeking help from an instructional designer or a learning designer. Individuals that work in these roles are experts in effective online teaching and learning. This relationship could consist of a conversation over a cup of coffee, a 15-minute conversation to brainstorm new ideas or a longer meeting(s) that include a complete course design or redesign. Designers can significantly improve your experience and enjoyment with online teaching. Your students will be glad that you invested the time and energy.
Teaching online for the first time may feel overwhelming. Start with the basics and take your time. Once you have that first course completed it’s time to improve. Start with small things to improve upon… pick just one thing. When you’ve completed that first thing, simply move on to the next. Experienced online faculty will tell you that your course is never perfect.

Take your time and commit to constant revisions. Seek new and better ideas…always!