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.

-RG

Improve Communication With Colleagues

Effective communication is a cornerstone of any successful workplace, and this holds true for educators. Collaborating with colleagues not only fosters a positive and supportive work environment but also enhances professional growth and improves outcomes for students. In this article, we will explore the importance of communication with colleagues and provide strategies for fostering effective collaboration.

Foster Open and Transparent Communication – Establish an environment where open and transparent communication is encouraged. Foster a culture of trust and respect, where colleagues feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and feedback. Actively listen to your colleagues’ perspectives and provide constructive input. Open communication ensures that information flows freely and enables effective problem-solving and decision-making.

Utilize Multiple Communication Channels – Different situations call for different communication channels. While face-to-face interactions are valuable, embrace various communication tools to accommodate different preferences and facilitate collaboration. Utilize email, instant messaging platforms, video conferencing, and shared project management tools to maintain constant communication and ensure everyone stays informed and connected.

Schedule Regular Check-Ins – Establish regular check-in meetings or informal catch-ups with your colleagues. These sessions provide an opportunity to discuss ongoing projects, share updates, and address any challenges or concerns. Regular check-ins enhance collaboration, foster a sense of accountability, and allow for timely feedback and support.

Collaborate on Projects and Initiatives – Engage in collaborative projects and initiatives with your colleagues. Seek opportunities to work together on curriculum development, instructional design, or administrative tasks. Collaborative efforts leverage collective expertise and diverse perspectives, resulting in innovative solutions and improved outcomes. Embrace teamwork and capitalize on each other’s strengths.

Provide Constructive Feedback – Effective communication includes providing constructive feedback to help colleagues grow professionally. When offering feedback, be specific, objective, and supportive. Focus on actionable suggestions and highlight strengths alongside areas for improvement. Constructive feedback fosters a culture of continuous improvement and creates an environment where everyone feels supported in their professional development.

Effective communication enables the sharing of ideas, supports problem-solving, and facilitates the growth of individuals and the organization as a whole. Embrace the power of communication to strengthen relationships, build a positive work culture, and collectively strive for excellence in education.

-RG

Take Time to Recharge and Refresh

As educators we dedicate ourselves to providing quality education and supporting the growth of our students. However, it is crucial to remember that taking care of our own well-being is equally important. The holiday break that typically falls in the middle of December offers a valuable opportunity for educators to recharge and refresh. Let’s explore the significance of self-care during the holiday break and provide some best practices to make the most of this well-deserved time off.

Disconnect and Unplug: Use the holiday break as an opportunity to disconnect from work-related responsibilities. Turn off notifications, set boundaries, and resist the urge to check emails or complete tasks. Give yourself permission to fully disconnect and unplug, allowing yourself to rest and recharge. Embrace activities that bring you joy and fulfillment outside of your professional life.

Engage in Self-Care Activities: Prioritize self-care activities that promote relaxation, rejuvenation, and overall well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy and help you unwind. Whether it’s reading a book, taking long walks, practicing meditation, or indulging in hobbies, make time for activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul. Prioritizing self-care allows you to return to your role as an educator feeling refreshed and energized.

Reflect and Set Intentions: Use this time to reflect on your accomplishments, challenges, and growth as an educator. Celebrate your successes and identify areas for personal and professional development. Set intentions for the upcoming year, outlining your goals and aspirations. Reflecting on your journey and setting intentions can provide a sense of clarity and purpose, guiding your actions in the future.

Connect with Loved Ones: The holiday break is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with your loved ones and strengthen personal relationships. Spend quality time with family and friends, engage in meaningful conversations, and create lasting memories. Nurturing these relationships provides emotional support and reinforces a sense of belonging and happiness.

Explore New Interests: Step outside your comfort zone and explore new interests or hobbies. Use the break to engage in activities you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t had the time for. This exploration not only enriches your personal life but can also inspire creativity and fresh perspectives in your professional endeavors.

The holiday break in December is a precious time for educators to prioritize self-care, recharge, and refresh. By disconnecting and unplugging, engaging in self-care activities, reflecting on personal and professional growth, connecting with loved ones, and exploring new interests, educators can return to their roles with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Remember that taking care of yourself is not a luxury; it is essential for your overall well-being and the well-being of your students. Embrace the holiday break as an opportunity to invest in your own happiness and recharge, ensuring you can continue to make a positive impact in the lives of those you educate.

-RG

Top 5 List: Teaching – Fall In Love Again

Top 5 List

Teaching is a dynamic profession that requires constant dedication and passion. However, even the most passionate educators may find themselves in need of a spark to reignite their love for teaching. In this article, you’ll learn of the top five strategies for educators, administrators, and instructional designers to rediscover their enthusiasm for teaching. By incorporating these strategies, educators can create a vibrant and engaging learning environment that fosters growth and inspires both themselves and their students.

Why Teach? – Reconnect with the underlying reasons that drew you to the teaching profession in the first place. Reflect on the impact you can make on students’ lives and the joy of witnessing their growth and success. Reaffirming your purpose as an educator can reignite your passion and enthusiasm, reminding you of the profound impact you can have on shaping the future.

Start Learning Again – Never stop being a learner yourself. Engage in continuous professional development by exploring new teaching methodologies, attending conferences, or enrolling in online courses. Embrace the opportunity to expand your knowledge and skills, allowing fresh ideas and perspectives to invigorate your teaching practices. By becoming a lifelong learner, you model the importance of learning to your students.

Connect With Students – Forge meaningful connections with your students by getting to know them on a personal level. Take an interest in their aspirations, challenges, and interests. Create opportunities for open dialogue and encourage students to share their thoughts and ideas. Building authentic relationships with students not only enhances the classroom experience but also fosters a sense of belonging and mutual respect.

Take a Break – Teaching can be demanding, and burnout is a real concern. Remember to prioritize self-care and take regular breaks to recharge. Whether it’s engaging in a hobby, spending time with loved ones, or simply enjoying moments of solitude, finding a balance between work and personal life is crucial. Taking care of your well-being ensures you have the energy and enthusiasm to give your best to your students.

Collaboration – Collaborate with fellow educators to share ideas, resources, and best practices. Engage in professional learning communities, both in person and online, to exchange insights and seek support from like-minded individuals. Collaborative efforts can inspire fresh perspectives, generate innovative ideas, and provide a sense of camaraderie. Together, educators can create a positive and uplifting teaching environment.

Bonus Topic: Keep the Classroom Alive – Throughout the semester, try new strategies to keep the classroom experience dynamic and engaging. Incorporate innovative teaching methods, introduce interactive technologies, or experiment with project-based learning. Embrace change and adapt to the evolving needs of your students. By keeping the classroom alive with new and exciting approaches, you create an environment that encourages curiosity, exploration, and active learning.

Rediscovering your love for teaching is an ongoing process that requires intentional effort and a commitment to growth. By remembering why you teach, embracing learning, connecting with students, prioritizing self-care, and fostering collaboration, you can reignite your passion for teaching. Additionally, by incorporating new strategies throughout the semester, you can keep the classroom environment vibrant and engaging.

-RG

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.

-RG

Top 5 List – Ways To Be A Better Leader

Top 5 List

Much has been written about the different ways to lead a business or lead a team. Unfortunately some leaders underestimate the importance of leadership skills. Some leaders just don’t think it’s important or they value marketing, finance, sales, technical or other skills more highly. And other leaders simply don’t grasp what it takes to lead others in their own business or as part of a larger team – unable to judge how much others look up to them for leadership.

It’s rare to find a leader who truly cares about the people who work for them and knows how to grow a successful team or business. While at the same time building a loyal, productive, happy and empowered team. Here’s a short list of 5 things (plus a few things) that experts in the leadership development field have shared that will help leaders become better at growing their teams or their business.

Clear expectations – Everybody needs clear direction from the leader about where the business is going. Too many leaders believe that such things are self-evident. Expectations need to be articulated early and often.

Be consistent – Great leaders provide consistent messages. These leaders also make reasoned decisions without appearing to be arbitrary. This doesn’t mean they don’t change their mind. When they do change their mind they clearly communicate the reasons for the change going forward.

Relentless communication – Great leaders stay in constant contact with the people they lead. They don’t just check in from time-to-time via email or wait for others to come to them. They provide information, ask questions, and seek opinions. This does not require endless meetings, but it does require a measure of skill to make communications clear.

Seek input – Some leaders think that they have all of the answers themselves. Even if that’s true, the great leaders will still seek input from others. Successful leaders are decisive – they don’t put things off or offer half-decisions that leave people wondering what they’re supposed to do.

Avoid overload – Many teams and businesses may find themselves in the fast-paced environment with high intensity similar to that of a startup that feels like a 24/7 job. An environment with a significant number of emails and urgent projects debated all hours of the night and on the weekends, can overload a team quickly. Sometimes that goes with the territory. The great leaders are the ones who are sensitive to it and find ways to relieve some pressure by keeping meetings to a minimum and making them highly efficient.

BONUS: Culture – Great leaders recognize that most people want a work environment that’s about much more than simply earning a paycheck or collecting a bonus. Great leaders surround themselves with people who have mutual respect for each other and care about one another on a personal level. These great leaders recognize people as individuals not just as workers or staff members.

BONUS: Show gratitude – Great leaders live by the practice of “praising publicly and criticizing privately”. It’s amazing how gratitude and public praise can lift others and spur them to do more or to take on more. People simply want to be appreciated. Leaders who show appreciation by offering praise or gratitude will in return foster a team of individuals who are loyal and willing to go the extra mile to help the group be successful.

BONUS: Help others be successful – this is one of the fundamentals of great leadership. It’s one thing to praise people and quite another to constantly be on alert about what guidance and resources they need to be successful. It starts with leaders caring about others’ success as much – if not more – than they care about their own.

-RG

Top 5 List – Bad Leadership Skills

Top 5 List

Recently a small group of colleagues and I met for a regular informal meeting about the world of work and what that looks like now. The discussion quickly turned to an article a couple of us had seen online…the topic was leadership. In this case, bad leadership. We all agreed that leadership is simply defined as developing the members of your team to their fullest potential (or something very close to this). The author presented 5 of the most common bad leadership behaviors they had witnessed. In summary, those 5 are:

Lacking integrity – Employees will know when questionable decisions are made for financial gain or for the personal benefit of leadership. If the employees know,  then the respect has already been lost. Leaders should lead their teams by example and always show integrity in the decision-making process. 

Failure to provide ongoing feedback – The typical annual performance review and its process often doesn’t result in positive feedback. Typically in this process, managers will bank a year’s worth of views and perspectives until review time dumping them all at once on the employee. This experience often leaves the employees feeling dazed and confused overwhelmed and even irritated.

Not recognizing good work – Gallup has surveyed millions of employees from around the world. The results of the surveys show that people who receive regular recognition for doing good work increase their productivity, increase their engagement, and are more likely to be retained as an employee. 

Being disrespectful – Last year (2020), Resumelab conducted a poll on what it means to be considered a bad leader. This poll found that 72% of those surveyed were treated in a rude or disrespectful manner by their supervisor. Another 70% were criticized in front of their peers and 83% of them felt bad about it.

Failure to communicate – Communication issues are common. There can be too much communication, too little communication, or wrong messages being conveyed. Whatever form poor communication arrives in it can affect employee morale, disengage employees, and even create problems with customers. Communication should be crystal clear in every form.

-RG

Let’s Talk

Remember that part of the Holidays is about being present in the moment with those closest to you. You may break bread to connect with these people in your life. The food is there to signify the importance of the event and also to make it easier to focus on the conversation. And to be present in the moment may require a conversation starter.

Get to know each other better, ask the question(s) you always wanted to ask.

Here are some sample questions to use with working adults:

  • What are you most excited about right now? Why?
  • What have you learned from this experience?
  • What is not perfect yet?
  • What are you willing to do to make it the way you want it?
  • What are you willing to NOT do to make it the way you want it?
  • How can you enjoy the process?
  • What is the most innovative thing you’ve done recently?
  • Focus on the conversation. Get to really know what is going on with this person.

Here are some sample questions to use when speaking with children:

  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • What’s your favorite class or subject at school? Why?
  • What’s your least favorite or toughest subject at school? Why?
  • What was the biggest challenge for you right now?
  • What made you smile or feel happy today?
  • What made you frown or feel sad today?
  • What is your favorite thing to do with the family?

You can also ask children: “Would you rather” questions, such as “If you could choose a superpower, would you rather choose flying or invisibility? Why?”

Here are some sample questions to use when speaking with elders:

  • What do you remember about your parents and grandparents?
  • What do you want family and friends to remember about you?
  • What life advice would you pass on to your family and friends?
  • What was your favorite thing about school when you were young?
  • What were your friends like when you grew up?
  • What was your first job?
  • What was your favorite job?
  • Who were your heroes and role models when you were young?

There are many more questions than this that you can ask. 

Remember to look into the eyes of the person you are speaking with and have fun with the questions.

-RG

Top 5 List: Be A Better Co-worker

Top 5 List

As hybrid working, co-working, and open work environments become more popular people will be more likely to spend a significant part of their day working next to someone else. And there’s a greater chance that’ll be working next to someone they don’t know. In an effort to help maintain a comfortable and stress-free work environment we owe it to each other to be respectful, kind, and courteous. Here are a few tips for being a better co-worker.

Meetings – if there’s a need for a meeting okay then use a meeting room. To have a trusted colleague come over for a quick exchange is one thing and acceptable by most professionals. However having a small group meeting at your desk can be disruptive to everyone else in the workspace.

Eating – avoid turning your desk into a dinner table, there is no need to eat your desk. A cup of coffee and a small cookie or even a cup of fruit is fine. If you absolutely have to eat at your desk try to bring foods that don’t have strong smells.

Dress – showing too much skin can be offensive and can have a negative impact on the way that people perceive. You don’t always have to dress in professional business attire, just make sure that you’re not dressed for a day at the beach. A hoodie and sweatpants may not be the best option either.

Phone – be aware of others around you when speaking on the phone. Loud talkers may inadvertently share private or confidential information that others may not be interested in hearing. Be especially cautious of using a hands-free speaker. Trust that no one wants to hear your personal conversations. Consider stepping away from your workspace and the folks that you share the work environment with, if need be.Grooming – there should be absolutely no personal grooming at your desk. Some of the most offensive things that bother people the most include nail grooming, teeth flossing, and applying deodorant. Basically if you do it in the bathroom at home then you should NOT do it in the office.

-RG

Embrace Diversity In The Work Environment

There is no single (or preferred) strategy to help embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the work environment. It’s important that all members of the organization recognize that continuous forward motion is the only way to achieve success. Here are a few strategies to get started:

Start the conversation – this starts with the leadership team. Open the door, set the tone, and send a very clear message that DEI is something that will be discussed openly and acted upon.

Increase transparency and accountability – organizations that do not operate with a high level of transparency and understanding of what is being done to increase DEI, will not feel that enough is being done to make a sustained improvement.

Inclusive leadership skills must be developed – simply being aware of unconscious bias or having a basic business sense for DEI is not enough. Awareness is important, however, it doesn’t automatically mean that action will be taken. Leadership needs to learn the tools, understand the frameworks, and utilize the skills to help close the gap between theory and practice.

Take notice of diversity during conversations and decisions – leadership must create the conditions in which diverse viewpoints will be represented, they must be purposeful in seeking out people with opposing viewpoints, they must delegate equitably, and then proactively identify opportunities for all to maximize professional development.

Pay attention – the growing challenges of DEI efforts have been highlighted due to hybrid and virtual working conditions. Some groups have reported that the virtual working environments come as a relief where being at home has provided a safer place to conduct work during the pandemic. It is clear that flexible work arrangements bring huge benefits, it also creates a risk for widening the diversity gaps and possibly creating new ones. Leadership (and all other members of the organization) need to pay attention to how all people are being treated. Leaders should be intentional in the way they engage and acknowledge each person and their value to the organization.

Act as an ally – acting as an ally for someone is similar to being a catalyst for change. To embrace diversity in the workplace is to advocate on behalf of others and contribute to creating fair working conditions for everyone. Additionally acting as an ally becomes even more critical when supporting historically those groups that have been excluded and may face unique challenges.

Commit to change – to look inward is a very critical piece to enhancing a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Each member of the organization should consider their own leadership strengths and opportunities as they relate to these best behaviors and best practices.
Building a platform – it takes every member of an organization to take action to embrace diversity. It requires the work of the individual, the team, and the entire organization. This work is difficult, so all of those involved should be considerate of others by maintaining their coworker’s sense of self-esteem and demonstrating empathy. Empathy is key. Leadership should continue to spread the message that there is always work being done in this area as well as modeling the behaviors they want to see in their teams and develop a loop for feedback.

-RG