By JORDAN NUNER
Out of all the employees at Amarillo College, instructional designers are some of the most important. They “help faculty to design courses or redesign as they need to and they take classes geared toward lots of different things,” Kristin Barker, an instructional designer and technologist, said.
Barker said, without help from AC’s instructional designers, professors would have a harder time creating courses that the students can follow, especially with advancing technology and the changing user interface. “We also work a lot with course design, especially while we’re switching over to Blackboard Ultra,” Michaela Dodson, an instructional designer and faculty development coordinator, said. “We’re helping instructors get their courses designed correctly so that it transfers over and we make sure that the courses are good and solid.”
Another goal is to help faculty members learn to use new technology and teaching techniques, according to Dr. Lori Petty, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. As technology grows, the school adapts so that the students, who have higher exposure to technology, can follow along. “We can help them with their professional learning by bringing them up to date with research-based and evidence-based technology or professional learning,” Petty said.
Instructional designers work alongside instructors to create a better experience for students “by bringing both of us together, we can hopefully create a better experience for the students,” Petty said. “We have faculty that will come up here and say, ‘You know what, I’m struggling with this assignment or test or this area of my class, can you help me?’ and we brainstorm on ways to fix it.”
Dodson pointed out that this wouldn’t work if instructors weren’t serious about their jobs. They have to ask for help and work together with the designers to create the best experience. “A well-designed curriculum leads to good student engagement and learning in the classroom,” Dodson said.
The instructional designers also pull data such as age range and other demographics to better understand the needs of the students, “By understanding who the typical students are in our classrooms, we can then hopefully mold our instruction to meet the needs of that student,” Barker said.
The designers also help design workshops and classes for instructors to take. “We design curriculum or workshops for instructors to help them with their professional learning,” Dodson said.
“We’re lifelong learners; we’re not content experts by any means, but we are really good at pulling resources so we help with that,” Barker said. “We are here to assist and help through the process of creating.”