Welcome to the Team

Welcome to the team.

Before we can get to work on GLD, it is important for you to understand our culture.  Everything we do is rooted in a single, foundational belief:  We work for the students.

It can be hard to figure out who the real boss is in any organization.  The larger the institution, the more diffuse power becomes.  But in higher education, there should never be a question who we all work for.  Without students we have no purpose, no focus, no job.

Realizing that you work for the students changes how you think.  It’s easy in instructional design to get the mistaken idea we work for professors, departments, or deans.  And let’s face it, if you are at a QM school, it probably feels like you work for a rubric, not even a human being.

But you do work for people, and likely lots of them.  That makes our job both more difficult and much, much more clear.

When I sit across from a professor who wants to get a course online, one of the first things I ask is what level of interaction the professor is willing to have with the students.  Of course I know from research that more interaction is good, less is bad.  But I also know from experience that it is difficult or impossible to force professors to interact more than they want to. Once they “close the classroom door” to begin class, it’s their class, and there is not much I can do to touch it.

That’s the case in any institution that values academic freedom as highly as my school does.  A professor’s class is that professor’s class.  No matter what the research, QM, or I say.

Given that, it’s prudent to ask the question straight up: How much interaction do you want to have with your students? You can serve your students best if you are armed with accurate and honest information.  Ignoring the professors’ agency in their own behavior leads to class designs that can easily get out of step with the professors’ expectations. That is the worst outcome for the students.

All kinds of design decisions flow from the understanding that a professor wants a low amount of interaction.  For example designers can:

  • Enable an email tool that allows students to send a regular email to the professor directly from class. Professors do not have to go to the course shell to get and respond to questions.
  • Set up forwarding in an “Ask the Professor” discussion board.  Again, the professor can deal directly with questions from their email.
  • Encourage objective quizzing with automatic scoring.
  • Encourage/set up rubrics for ease of grading with subjective assignments.
  • Encourage short video or audio lectures with the professor’s own voice to supplement the feeling of social presence in the space.

These design decisions all support the student experience and help to off-set a professor’s desire  to be hands-off in their classroom.  They make the professor’s life easier, but that is not the driving idea behind the recommendations.  Instead, each of these decisions is student-centered, and uses the LMS and the design to compensate for a low-touch professor in a way that supports  the student experience.

Because it’s all about the students.  That’s who we work for.

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