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What is an Instructional Designer?

“Instruction designers, then, understand digital space. They understand learning. They understand teaching. And they understand technology.” —Sean Michael Morris

In this article Instructional Designers are Teachers, the author provides a detailed explanation and exploration of the true work and mission of the Instructional Designer. His focus is on the digital space, while we would apply his descriptions more broadly to any classroom or learning space. But the original thoughts, expanded below, are from the author Sean Michael Morris.

  • The goal of the instructional designer is to facilitate creation of meaningful learning experiences.
  • It’s their job… 
    • ..to assist with the framing of an instructor’s ideas for their class into the shape of the delivery platform, physical or digital.
    • ..to watch out for the student, to create opportunities and motivation for students to engage in the community of the classroom.
  • They must have a natural sense for how a student will feel about the presentation of course materials, particularly in the digital space.

Instructional designers play a critical role in “making learning meaningful, not just instructional.”

What to expect from the design process

The mission of Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI) Instructional Design is to support faculty in the development of user-friendly learning environments that:

  • Promote student learning through application of evidenced-based learning theory
  • Support faculty and student efficiencies
  • Respect diverse cultures, talents, and ways of learning
  • Foster belonging and connection in a variety of contexts
    • Technological
    • Pedagogical
    • Architectural
    • Interpersonal
  • Ensure compliance with all legal requirements, including ADA and copyright as relates to delivery of educational materials

To this end, Instructional Designers support faculty in the development of courses and activities that:

  • Acknowledge prior learning and experience and address misconceptions
  • Situate learning in real-world authentic contexts and/or engage students in solving real-world authentic problems
  • Incorporate active learning strategies, including creation of multi-media objects and development of media rich course spaces that engage student learners
  • Apply cognitive load theory to facilitate optimal learning potential
  • Clearly articulate to students:
    • Central concepts for course & processes/skills to go with the concepts
    • Learning Objectives
    • High Expectations and learner feedback
    • Alignment between course goals, objectives, activities, and assessments
  • Foster the learning process through:
    • Demonstration of new knowledge to learners
    • Application of new knowledge by learners
    • Integration of knowledge into the learner’s world
    • Facilitation of the metacognitive processes
  • Implement appropriate assessments, measuring performance and ensuring academic integrity
  • Utilize academic technology tools to foster achievement of learning goals and faculty efficiency