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Faculty Problems, Designer Solutions

How does an instructional designer solve a problem like Professor Tech Skeptic? Why doesn’t he set up his LMS? How can we convince him to blend his lecture course? What times would be convenient for a Quality Matters consult with him?

Rather than solve the problem like Professor Skeptic, instructional designers need to solve the problems of Professor Skeptic. What follows are four problems that may keep faculty from scheduling that consult with you, as well as solutions you can offer them right away!

Problem #1: Prof. Skeptic is a Department Chair. In this era of budget cuts and faculty furloughs, the main objective of any chair is the survival of his/her department. Campus-wide or “good-for-you” goals, like modernizing course delivery, imply a distraction from or, worse, an added expense on stressed bottom-lines.

Solution: Rather than approach the chair as a curricular expert, offer your services as a financial advisor. The cost efficiency of blended and/or online courses (more sections, more students, fewer instructors) may appeal to an otherwise reticent chair.

Problem #2: Prof. Skeptic is a tenured faculty member. Faculty operate as autonomous partners in a loosely-organized firm. Any external initiative, therefore, requires the goodwill of a number of individuals with different interests.

Solution: Tailor your pitch to individual faculty based on the courses s/he teaches. Talk about slide platforms for a professor teaching a large lecture; discussion forums for those in smaller classes; or external links, like libraries and content repositories, for others leading specialized seminars.

Problem #3: Prof. Skeptic is junior faculty. Higher-ed institutions prioritize research over teaching, especially as regards new hires, tenure and raises.  As a result, faculty may view time spent working with educational technology as detrimental to his/her career.

Solution: Demonstrate how educational technology can support academic research, whether by saving time in teaching tasks (assignments, grading, etc.) or integrating the faculty member’s interests in his/her current courses (i.e., guest lectures via videoconference).

Problem #4: Prof. Skeptic is an adjunct. The department members whose job description is focused on course delivery are the “teaching professors,” a.k.a. adjuncts. As adjuncts, however, they rarely serve on in leadership roles or on department committees where curricular decisions are made.

Solution: Many adjuncts teach multiple classes at more than one institution; they may coordinate multi-section courses; or they may supervise graduate-student teachers. Easing the administrative workload of teaching is very appealing to adjuncts.

Instructional designers are problem-solvers by nature. By offering higher-ed instructors solutions to their particular problems, we’ll be able to build more productive relationships across campus.

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