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The Importance of Instructional Design in Higher Education

When wanting to know the importance of Instructional Design, the first step is to define this ever-evolving realm of learning processes. Instructional Design is defined as the systematic development of instructional specifications using learning and instructional theory to ensure the quality of instruction. Now knowing the definition of Instructional Design, how does this apply to higher education? 

Instructional Designers, for most campuses, are responsible for managing projects, professional development/training opportunities for faculty and staff, designing/reviewing of courses, as well as providing technical support. With the role of an instructional designer being so broad, it becomes clear how important it is to have instructional designers on the college campus, especially during moments of pandemic.

The professionals who support the effective design, development and delivery of courses have been largely absent from public discussions about the emergency shift to remote teaching on university campuses. Yet, their expertise has been key to allowing these institutions to continue serving students.

When it comes to building a learning experience, instructional designers are typically involved in conducting a needs assessment, establishing learning objectives, identifying relevant content, determining and implementing the learning management system, designing instructional materials, coordinating with the technical team, training faculty and developing learning-evaluation tools. During the initial weeks and months of the pandemic, they developed the foundation to assist faculty towards reworking face-to-face courses, introduce new assessment methods and guide faculty, particularly those who were new to online teaching.


Instructional designers collaborate with faculty to develop strategies that will improve learning pedagogy for both the online and face-to-face classrooms. To faculty looking for alternative methods for course engagement, instructional designers will assist in developing a plan that will not only increase students’ engagement with the course content, but instructional designers will also collaborate with faculty to highlight their strengths in their current approach. This is key towards the instructional designer and faculty relationship. 

Course Design

If faculty are wanting to improve their course design, instructional designers can assist with producing/adjusting the integrated series of teaching-learning experiences that will lead students to the specified learning objectives. This is helpful with course retention and course performance. Research shows that the better the course design, the better the assessment results for students. This is because students are able to easily identify course expectations, learning objectives and outcomes needed to be successful in the course of their selection. 

Help with instructional technology

Of course, with new technology always on the horizon, instructional designers are able to recommend, train and provide support to faculty who have chosen to implement technological tools into their classrooms. Instructional Designers have been able to assist faculty using technology to address means of alternative assessment, course engagement, course delivery and design, course review, and course organization. 

Dependent upon what faculty are needing, instructional designers will provide a consultation that will outline the entire development process that will lead to the expected outcome. Along with providing such a blueprint, the instructional designer will evaluate the effectiveness of the plan throughout the process until completion. This ensures that faculty receive the solution they need for their classroom needs.

In summation, instructional design is key to ensuring that students are receiving the best learning experience possible, and this milestone is reached when collegiate institutes have embraced this collaborative effort shared between faculty and instructional designers/technologists.

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