Wednesday, March 25, 2015

5 Models of Course Development Responsibility in Higher Education

As more and more online courses are developed and taught, instructional design in higher education is becoming more prevalent. However, the way that instructional design is implemented is done very differently depending on the university. Specifically, there are several different ways that university leadership assigns responsibility and control in the design function, and I describe what I see as the 5 most common. But which of these can provide the greatest level of quality so that students can indeed achieve success? I describe my thoughts below.
  1. Faculty Only - In the faculty only approach, faculty members do all of the course design and development work. Under this approach, they may have some level of technology support but make all design decisions based on their own experiences and expertise. 
  2. Faculty Responsible with Optional Design Support - In this approach, faculty members still have primary responsibility but may have instructional designer(s) available to support the faculty member in his or her work. In this case, the support of the instructional designer is not required.
  3. Faculty Responsible with Required Design Support - In this approach, the faculty member still has primary responsibility for the course but are required to work with an instructional designer. In this case, the instructional designer may assist in organizing and building the course and typically has a set of standards to ensure course quality.
  4. Designer Responsible with Active Faculty Participation- In this approach, the instructional designer bears the responsibility for course design and development and relies on a faculty member for support and content expertise. 
  5. Third Party Responsible with Faculty Support - In this approach, a third party developer takes full responsibility for the work that is done and may work with a faculty member to gather content. This third party might be a separate university or a for-profit entity. I have heard and observed some pretty poor results when using the for-profit groups, though there are likely some that do good work and yield great success.
Which is Best?
So, which approach will produce courses of the highest quality possible? In my opinion, it must be an approach that requires the active participation of both faculty and instructional designers. I have worked with faculty under approach number 3 and 4, and I have found them to both be effective. My belief, though, is that number 4, Designer Responsible with Active Faculty Participation, is most likely to produce the highest quality course. My friend and colleague Lewis Chongwony wrote a great blog post about how design faculty at the International Institute for Innovative Instruction use this approach in greater detail.

The fundamental issue here is course quality. Does the course help students learn? Does the course employ research-based practices? Is it founded on validated principles of instruction? Does it target the needs of the learners and present knowledge in efficient, effective, engaging ways? As higher education continues to evolve, and these questions become more and relevant, the effective implementation of instructional design will become more crucial to student and institutional success.
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