What Instructional Designers Can Do for Your Online Courses

Diving into a learning management system (like Canvas at Colorado State University) may feel intimidating to many instructors. That’s why instructional designers are here to relieve tech anxieties and help you make the most of the many tools and features available in an online course. Instructional designers provide organized and reusable content, interactive activities, and help facilitate evaluation and assessment of course quality.

Being an instructional designer means more than making the learning management system (LMS) look nice (although that is important). We are online teaching guides, course content builders, learning experience explorers, problem solvers, and course quality evaluators. We take faculty through every step of the development process, from brainstorming to delivering a course.

What can instructors expect when working with instructional designers? Let’s walk through the process.

The Instructional Design Process
The instructional design process starts with a mapping meeting, in which teachers share their curriculum goals, teaching style, learning objectives, and assessment methods. In this meeting, an instructional designer will share ideas, best practices, and innovative ways to teach online. We also establish a development timeline, which ensures that building the course isn’t a rushed or stressful experience.

In the design phase, instructional designers use the instructor’s syllabus and schedule to build the foundation of the course. Typically, this begins with segmenting the content into digestible pieces within the LMS. Providing templates for course content and all associated assignments or activities helps both the teacher and the instructional designer quickly ascertain that the course is balanced.

The majority of the work takes place in the development phase. This is when we’re able to bring the ideas from the mapping and design phases to life. This includes everything from producing video materials to building interactive learning objects and games. We provide training and integration of various external tools and learning tool integrations that enable real-time web conferencing, collaborative document creation, and social media interactions within the course.

When all the course content is uploaded and the learning objects are created, the course moves into its testing phase. Before a course is opened to students, instructional designers test all the materials, links, assessments, and interactions on several devices. This ensures that courses are accessible to students, no matter what operating system or device they’re using to take the course. Instructors are also invited to complete a review of the course. Once all final changes are made, the course goes live.

Going live isn’t necessarily the end of the instructional design partnership. It’s always a good idea to continue assessing and evaluating the quality and success of an online course. Instructional designers maintain a relationship with faculty, collect surveys from students, and continue researching to stay informed of the best practices in online teaching and learning. This means that students and teachers always have access to modern, high-quality courses.

If you’re looking to refresh your content, “gamify” your curriculum, or learn some simple tricks to feel more comfortable teaching online, instructional designers are here to help. If you’re at Colorado State University, talk to your department head about developing a course through CSU Online.

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