Shimna Shakeeb, 2022 January

Topic 1: Effective Communication for Instructional Design (ID)

Case Scenario: Aminath is an instructional designer (ID) from the Learning Development Centre, meeting with a faculty member, Hussain, who is new to blended/online teaching. Aminath receives a Subject syllabus that has been taught in the face-to-mode. On analysis, she observes the following about the subject; (1) three are no learning outcomes specified in the subject outline (2) each week is a bulleted list of lecture topics and (3) there is a single final exam as assessment with no details. How should Aminath begin to structure the conversations with Ibrahim regarding instructional design?

Why communication is important for Instructional Design (ID) projects?

For those who work as instructional designers (IDs), Aminath’s scenario may be very familiar. Communication between IDs and faculty often starts with a knowledge gap about the current status and the expectations each hold for the final product. Successful completion of course/subject design for blended/ online learning primarily depends on how successful the communication process is and how easily these knowledge gaps are filled by the ID and SME collaboration. The Instructional Design (ID) process is a complex process which requires continuous collaboration between IDs and subject matter experts (SMEs) from the faculty (Intentional Futures, 2016) in each phase of the ID project. Hence, it is not surprising that communication skill is considered as a key competency of an ID. Several studies based on instructional design professional identified strong written and verbal communication skills as highly rated skills observed in experienced IDs (Kang & Ritzhaupt, 2015; Ritzhaupt et al., 2018; Surrency et. al, 2019).

The ID process applied in many universities to design courses/subjects for blended/online learning demands a highly structured and an intensive communication process during each phase of the ADDIE model which is a model commonly used to manage the ID process. Researchers report interpersonal communication skills such as building trust and rapport, active listening, asking effective questions, open-mindedness, and developing a common vocabulary as essential skills for nurturing successful constructive working relationships between fcaulty and IDs (Chen & Carliner, 2020; Richardson et al., 2019). In fact, interpersonal and communication skills like listening, understanding, and providing clear feedback are sighted by experienced IDs as the most frequently applied skills for productive collaborations (Ferguson, 2018).

Challenges and barriers to effective communication

lack of faculty buy-in, working with subject matter experts, and faculty awareness or misconceptions of an IDs role (Intentional Futures, 2016; Richardson et al., 2019) are the three common challenges faced by IDs during the ID process. Unfortunately, many ID projects get stalled in higher education environments where it is difficult to establish effective communication. In addition to the aforementioned challenges, once the work begins, many experienced IDs may also encounter faculty resistance, nonparticipation or a lack of follow-up, or general difficulty embracing technology (Belt & Lowenthal, 2020). In most cases, faculty may avoid meetings and calls with the ID causing delay in meeting the deadlines. This may be because some SMEs feel overwhelmed and are pressed for time with an already existing ‘busy’ workload. A supportive environment can help to overcome the communication barriers and minimise the effects these challenging factors have on moving the design process forward.

Even in the most challenging environments, it is important for the IDs to recognize that they will often meet with resistance or apprehension from novice faculty members who are learning new technologies or adapting new ways of teaching. The ID’s role here is critical in assessing where help is needed, being gently persistent, communicating regularly, and chunking tasks, so that faculty experience small success in designing the subject/course for the new learning environment. Small successes will help the development process move forward.

Given below is a communication matrix which can be used to effectively structure the communication process.

Table 1: Communication Matrix Resources for Course Design, by Instructional Design Phase for blended Learning

PurposeBuild rapport, assess faculty member’s prior knowledge and experience levelClarify role of the ID and faculty member; negotiate deadlines and deliverablesManage development progress, monitor milestones attainment or address challengesPre-launch to review, acclimate faculty member to course tools, and test functionalityCollect feedback on course design and performance.
ApproachInitial meeting between ID and facultyRegular meetings with the faculty memberRegular meetings with the faculty member; Follow up with non-responsive facultyRegular meetings with the faculty memberDebriefing meeting; Planning meeting for revisions or enhancements.
FrequencyFour to six months prior to course startRegular intervals, driven by course implementationRegular intervals, driven by course implementationWeekly or bi-weekly check-insMid-point and end of course
PromptsThank you for meeting with me today. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss transitioning your course online. First, I would like to learn more about you and your course. How long have you been teaching this course? Have you taught online before or been a student in an online course? Do you have experience working with an instructional designer? Do you have any concerns putting this course online?As we begin our work on this project, we will spend time outlining the course’s goals, objectives, assessments, and activities. Now that I understand your availability (comfort, ideas) with creating an online course, I suggest we meet biweekly for an hour, until the month before course launch. Will this frequency work for you? We will develop a project plan of expected milestones, so that we can be sure to hit our start date target.Your module objectives are aligned to what you assess in the course. For module 5, though, I don’t see assessments. How can I help with this module? What assessments are you planning? Do you want to reschedule our next meeting so you have time to work on those? If you are hitting some roadblocks maybe we can brainstorm some ideas?Do you have any changes you would like me to make? How comfortable are you with the functions of the learning management system/tools? What areas of the course would you like me to review with you or change?While we made notes about issues during the course and some edits that needed to be made, now that the course has completed, what aspects of the course went well? What did not go well and needs to be improved? Have you reviewed your course evaluations? When would you like to get together to plan any revisions or changes to the course while it is still fresh?
OutcomeProject commitment between ID and Faculty memberProject development planning and milestones establishedCompletion of module specific material. Address roadblocksCourse testing and final changesEnhanced course design or content changes for reoffering of course.


Belt, E., & Lowenthal, P. (2020). Developing faculty to teach with technology: Themes from the literature. TechTrends, 64(2), 248-259.

Cestone, C., Belt, E., & Kulo, V. (2021). Communicating Instructional Design with Faculty. A Practitioner’s Guide to Instructional Design in Higher Education.

Chen, Y., & Carliner, S. (2020). A special SME: An integrative literature review of the relationship between instructional designers and faculty in the design of online courses for higher education. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 33(4), 471-495.

Ferguson, M. S. (2018). Examining effective collaboration in instructional design (Publication No. 595) [OTS Master’s Level Projects & Papers, Old Dominion University]. ODU Digital Commons.

Intentional Futures. (2016). Instructional design in higher education: A report on the role, workflow, and experience of instructional designers. c988c254567f91f3ab0d2c.pdf

Kang, Y., & Ritzhaupt, A. D. (2015). A job announcement analysis of educational technology professional positions: Knowledge, skills, and abilities. Journal of Educational Technology Systems43(3), 231-256.

Richardson, J. C., Ashby, I., Alshammari, A. N., Cheng, Z., Johnson, B. S., Krause, T. S., Lee, D., Randolph, A. E., & Wang, H. (2019). Faculty and instructional designers on building successful collaborative relationships. Educational Technology Research and Development, 67(4), 855-880.

Ritzhaupt, A. D., & Kumar, S. (2015). Knowledge and skills needed by instructional designers in higher education. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 28(3), 51-69.

Surrency, M., Churchill, C., Sanchez, M. & Scott, J. (2019). Content analysis of higher education instructional design job postings: Required and preferred qualifications. In S. Carliner (Ed.), Proceedings of E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education (pp. 1060-1074). New Orleans, Louisiana, United States: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved from