May 12, 2022

Combining Instructional Designers and Instructional Developers

In some schools, instructional developers and instructional designers are part of a single campus center for teaching and learning. At other institutions, these learning professionals are housed in separate organizations, with IDs in academic IT units and EDs in CTLs.

Across the U.S. post-secondary ecosystem, there is an active conversation about the wisdom of integrating these learning professionals into one organization.

In this article, I provide arguments—both for and against—placing EDs and IDs under one on-campus learning organization.

Arguments for ED/ID integration

  • The distinctions in the work that instructional developers and instructional designers do on campus have largely eroded. Both learning professionals collaborate directly with faculty on course redesign, run workshops and faculty development programs, and both read the same learning science research. The integration of these two groups of learning professionals within a single campus organization only matches and reflects the evolution of the professions.
  • On many campuses, instructional developers have always worked closely with professors who teach face-to-face classes. In contrast, the growth of instructional designers has been driven primarily by the development of new online programs. Integrating EDs and IDs into one group can help ensure that the skills developed through the creation and execution of online courses translate into face-to-face teaching. At the same time, faculty teaching online would benefit from the resources and expertise of on-campus instructional developers.
  • With the growth of flipped, blended, and low-residency courses and programs, the traditional dividing line between “face-to-face” and “online” courses is rapidly disappearing. Today, almost every educational program incorporates technology in one way or another, and every course taught can benefit from a design focused on learning science and the fundamentals of instructional design. Given the evolution of teaching and learning in higher education, it makes sense to create integrated learning organizations on campuses that allow faculty to leverage the expertise of instructional developers and instructional designers.
  • Integrating instructional design professionals and instructional developers into a single campus organization is a faculty-friendly decision because it provides a one-stop shop for faculty to visit. In cases where learning capabilities are spread across separate campus organizations, professors may not know where they should go for help with their teaching, or where departments or schools should look to each other. associate.
  • Integrated campus learning organizations can operate more efficiently than separate units because management and support overhead can be streamlined. Rather than needing separate structures for reporting and administrative support, integrated units can invest scarce campus dollars in learning professionals and programs to support teaching and learning.

Arguments Against ED/ID Integration

  • While there is undoubtedly an increasing overlap between the work of instructional developers and instructional designers, it is essential to remember that these are separate and distinct disciplines. Instructional developers are part of a cohesive community of practice, as demonstrated by the POD Network’s conferences and professional resources. Similarly, instructional designers are embedded in their own communities of practice and professional associations, such as OLC, ELI, and WCET. Instructional developers and instructional designers have divergent educational and career paths, and the skills and abilities of EDs and IDs should not be seen as substitutable or fungible.
  • The hands-on, day-to-day, and hands-on work that instructional developers and instructional designers do differs significantly. In many schools, the instructional design team is the service unit that must respond to immediate and urgent requests from teachers. IDs work closely with professors on the use of a suite of learning technologies, from LMS to classroom response systems (clickers) to lecture capture platforms. As instructional designers strive to achieve the goal of building long-term relationships with instructors while empowering teachers with self-service skills on the technologies they use to teach, it is also true that much of the work is always responsive and just-in-time. In contrast, instructional developers tend to prioritize deeply planned workshops and the facilitation of faculty learning communities.
  • Because instructional design teams are integrated with campus information technology units, IDs enjoy the advantage of working closely with the two colleagues in the campus IT unit. As much of the work of instructional designers runs through digital platforms, there are substantial benefits to having strong ties to the IT group. Digital teaching and learning platforms must be integrated with campus systems (authentication, SIS, etc.). Campus IT units are also often the best placed to pilot new technologies. A campus reorganization that combines the ID and ED groups will almost always involve instructional designers leaving the IT unit, as instructional developers are unlikely to join IT.
  • In theory, joining learning professionals on campus in an integrated learning organization sounds like a great idea. In practice, the experience of schools that have attempted this type of reorganization has been complicated. Instructional developers and instructional designers come from different traditions, have different backgrounds, and have different professional communities. Although there is an overlap in the goals and values ​​of these two professions, they are not identical. Merged groups are likely to suffer from a period of organizational imbalance and cultural discomfort. In an environment of growing needs and scarcer resources, the benefits of reorganization are unlikely to be worth the costs.

What do you think? Have you experienced integrating ED and ID teams into a single unit? How was it? Are you considering merging the ID and ED groups on your campus? What are your reasons for doing so?