The field of instructional design has gotten a lot of attention lately, particularly in the world of higher education. But even some experienced instructional designers have a hard time explaining exactly what it is they do. In this post, we’ll look at the typical kinds of projects Cengage’s Instructional Design team works on.

A day in the life of an ID

We’ve already taken a broad look at what instructional design is and how instructional designers can help your institution. But what do Cengage’s instructional designers actually do, day to day? The answer to that is almost anything.

When our ID team partners with your school, we customize the project to your specific needs and goals. We might, for example:

  • Update a single course’s materials to incorporate a textbook change
  • Design dozens of online courses across several programs from the ground up
  • Create a syllabus and basic lesson plans for an on-ground class
  • Design and produce a soup-to-nuts online course, including recorded lectures, animated lessons, online problem sets, discussion questions and essay prompts, quizzes and final exams

With every project, the process starts with a conversation. The instructional design team sits down with faculty or other representatives from your institution to talk about exactly what your institution wants to accomplish.

Typically, your school will have already chosen textbooks and other materials at this point, and one of the instructional design team’s first tasks is to make sure there aren’t any gaps between what the course materials cover and what the course learning objectives say students should know.

Designing a course

Say your school wants to create an online version of an economics class you’ve been offering on-ground for several years. Your on-ground course is successful, but you know that transitioning to online isn’t as simple as typing reading assignments and lecture notes into your learning management system. For your school, Cengage’s ID team might do a full course redesign that could include:

  • Creating a course outline that maps learning objectives, readings, assignments, and assessments by unit or week
  • Writing voiceover scripts and choosing images for online lectures
  • Developing engaging discussion questions
  • Creating problem sets, essay prompts, and other types of assignments tailored to the course learning objectives and your school’s typical student
  • Choosing quiz questions from a textbook test bank that support specific learning objectives and desired Bloom’s taxonomy levels
  • Compiling outside resources for students’ optional use
  • Creating interactive games or other multimedia learning tools to check student understanding and provide opportunities for practice

The ID team would work with a subject matter expert in this design phase, and your school’s faculty would review and give final approval to each course element. A typical full course design takes 16 to 18 weeks.

Online course production

On projects that also involve building the online course in a learning management system, Cengage’s IDs consult with specialists in educational technology to ensure that the finished product as viewed in your school’s LMS includes all of the course elements and is functional and user-friendly.

Cengage’s Instructional Design team can be an invaluable resource as your institution considers redesigning existing courses or creating new ones.

Check back for additional posts in the Instructional Design 101 series, where we’ll delve deeper into topics including the ID process, how instructional design can improve a course, and how a typical ID project unfolds.

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