What Do Instructional Designers Actually Do?

What Do Instructional Designers Actually Do?

By Jeff Schwartz and Vince Tango, Instructional Designers

When we tell people that we are Instructional Designers, they usually smile and say, “Great…what is that?”

It’s not a very transparent title, we admit. A teacher teaches. An engineer engineers. An Instructional Designer…designs instruction? 

Well, sort of. Instructional Designers do design instruction with an emphasis on aligning learning goals with meaningful content and assessment. Yet course design in itself encompasses a multitude of practices, including but not limited to, brainstorming assignments and classroom activities, using technology like Zoom and Kaltura, organizing content in Canvas, creating community in online/hybrid/hyflex classrooms, and implementing Inclusive Teaching practices and Universal Design principles. Tasks that are relevant beyond what we might think of as the “design phase” of a course. In the words of our colleague Christine Hood, Instructional Designers (or IDs) wear a lot of hats.  

One of an ID’s primary responsibilities is collaborating with faculty to design new courses and refine existing ones. In other words, we can assist faculty at any point in the course design process, from planning a newly approved course to pivoting mid-quarter to reconceptualizing a current course. 

We are here to collaborate with faculty on the creation and evaluation of effective instructional approaches and meaningful learning experiences.  We regularly consult with instructors about new (and existing) instructional technologies, pedagogical strategies, and evaluating courses for optimal learning.

We’ve noticed that faculty can seem a little hesitant at first about working with instructional designers. Whether the question is big or small, we would love to help. Think of us as course- design coaches and tech-savvy cheerleaders who are enthusiastically available to support instructors to feel inspired about their teaching.

Keep in mind we do not advise faculty what to teach. Rather, our role is to share best practice with design strategies and learning technologies that enhance learning. We work with faculty on how to design a course, not what to teach. And just because it’s happening in Canvas—design doesn’t end at the start of the quarter. You can benefit from collaborating with us ALL quarter long!

We can help now and any time during the quarter with topics such as:

  • Grading – Whether it is SpeedGrader, Respondus Lockdown Browser and everything in between, using both Qualitative or Quantitative grading strategies.
  • Zoom – including break out groups and activities
  • Kaltura- closed captioning, storing content in Media Files, best practices
  • Canvas- utilizing groups, home page changes, announcements
  • Strategies for hyflex (teaching in-person and on zoom at the same time)
  • Creating interactive asynchronous content

We are also available to discuss topics such as: 

  • Preparation and logistics of course design and development
  • Developing learning outcomes
  • Designing course syllabi
  • Designing courses in (or enhanced with) Canvas
  • Incorporating technologies that support instruction
  • Articulating what we expect from students
  • Deterring plagiarism and cheating
  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
  • Course mapping and alignment
  • Best practices to enhance learning experiences
  • Canvas, Zoom, Kaltura

Schedule one-on-one time with us in a variety of ways:

Perhaps the best way to learn more about Instructional Design and the ways IDs can help is to meet our team.