COVID-19, Online Learning and Mission-Driven Learning Designers

A recognition.

March 9, 2020

Have you checked out the open spreadsheet that Bryan Alexander and friends have created to track university transitions from residential to online classes? The list of schools rapidly spinning up online courses in response to COVID-19 is quickly growing.

Every college and university will take its own approach to leverage online classes to enable academic continuity. The types of online learning experiences that schools offer will vary by the mission and structure of the university, the population it serves, and the sorts of classes that are taught.

There will be variation in how quickly courses go online, the mix between asynchronous and synchronous learning, and the methods in which students are assessed.

What is consistent across colleges and universities in this COVID-19 online learning black swan is the mission-driven orientation and high level of skill that our ecosystem’s learning design community is bringing to this work.

Learning designers, also called instructional designers, are the educational force multipliers that are making the rapid transition to online learning possible.

Together with their educational and classroom technology colleagues, learning designers are the key campus partners to faculty in the COVID-19-necessitated transition from residential to online teaching and learning.

From what I hear from colleagues across the country, learning designers and other nonfaculty campus educators are working enormously hard (and many hours) in collaborating with faculty to get courses ready to continue with newly nonresidential students.

What is little understood out of learning design communities is the degree to which learning designers see their work as a calling. As much as traditional educators on our campuses, learning designers believe in education as an engine of opportunity.

For a learning designer, the impact that they have to create quality educational opportunities is embedded in the partnerships and relationships they build with faculty. A learning designer has a different role in producing quality educational experiences as faculty, one that focuses on collaborating with faculty to create the instructional environment in which students learn.

At no time has the value of learning designers been more apparent than during this COVID-19 outbreak.

The colleges and universities that are making rapid transitions from residential to online learning would not be able to do so without the mission-driven orientation and high skill level of campus learning designers.

Institutions that have invested in creating quality online programs, as well as those schools that have built up their learning design capacities in academic computing units or CTLS, will have an easier time responding to COVID-19 and going online.

Those schools that have outsourced core learning design capabilities to OPMs will have a harder time ensuring academic continuity in the face of COVID-19.

Our higher ed ecosystems' learning design community will never ask for recognition of their efforts. Being mission-driven, learning designers are mostly thinking of how to ensure that professors have good teaching experiences and that students can learn to their full potential.

Learning designers are not thinking, at least while they are all in the middle of getting courses online in response to COVID-19, about recognition for their contributions.

We see you, learning designers. We get how you are going every extra mile to collaborate with faculty and serve the students at your institution. We understand that the pace has been crazy this last week or so and is unlikely to relent any time soon. We are grateful for your professionalism, skills, social intelligence, expertise and commitment.

If you are a nonfaculty educator, how has your life changed as a result of COVID-19?


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