Many higher education institutions are now facing a situation where the need to produce online courses at scale is putting pressure on conventional course design methodologies. As learning design resources are limited while the desire to have robust, high-quality courses available throughout this continued period of disruption remains, many are left wondering: should faculty be encouraged to build their own online courses?
There are some advantages to this approach. Faculty who have built courses report a greater feeling of ownership and more connection to the design process. They are also likely to experiment and innovate more with their teaching approach. But drawbacks are also likely to persist. Learning designers often bring fresh design ideas and have deeper knowledge of different technologies and design solutions, so reducing their support could have a detrimental impact on the technological or pedagogical ambitions of online programmes. One faculty member at BI Norwegian Business School recently noted: ‘It is easy to get frustrated when the navigation is complex. It is essential that any toolbox should be categorized with explanations, guidance, and tips.’
The key challenges are clear. Faculty time is precious and designing online courses requires consideration and careful planning. New technologies mean steep learning curves and it can be hard to achieve consistency across courses.
Here is some useful guidance for supporting projects where faculty are responsible for building courses independently:
1. Determine programme design boundaries in advance.
2. Provide high-impact training and support.
3. Choose technologies which are easy for faculty to author, edit, and test.
4. Maintain testing and quality assurance processes.
As with all development approaches, there are payoffs and compromises. Supporting faculty as they expand their knowledge of online learning is critical, and finding ways to channel that new knowledge back into teaching teams will help foster inclusive and collaborative working practices.