Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

EXPERT INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER VOICES: Leadership Competencies Critical to Global Practice and Quality Online Learning Designs

Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

EXPERT INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER VOICES: Leadership Competencies Critical to Global Practice and Quality Online Learning Designs

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The current economic challenge for students seeking to compete on a global scale with an advanced education has contributed to a continual rise in online enrollments (Allen & Seaman, 2010; Stem, 2009). However, Allen and Seaman (2012) reported that a persistent state of less than excellent online courses threatens to undermine the value of the educational opportunities afforded by the Internet. In spite of ongoing advances in instructional technologies, web-based higher academic pedagogies continued to demonstrate a lack of quality well into the new millennium (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2009). The Means et al. (2009) study reported a perception of lower academic standards, a perception that was underscored with reports of an ongoing distrust in online courses by a majority of U.S. educators (Allen & Seaman, 2012). From an international perspective, Daniel (2007) referred to online pedagogies in India as "mostly rubbish" (Affordability section, para. 15), while Uysal and Kuzu (2009) reported a problem in Turkey of there being no online standards in existence. With due recognition of those making significant progress in improving the quality of online courses, there remains a question of whether enough is being done to meet growing learner demands.

Given the perceptions of lower quality pedagogies, the practice of designing products for online learning has been called into question in terms of the competencies and leadership of instructional designers needed to improve the situation (Beaudoin, 2007; Kowch, 2009; Naidu, 2007; Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2004; Sims & Koszalka, 2008). This notion aligns with the business and trade industries where improvement of products has been inextricably linked to leadership. For example, after an earlier departure, Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and led an industry in reenvisioning ways of communicating information (Isaacson, 2011). Who can deny that his leadership resulted in exemplary products? From these observations, it was proposed that instructional design (ID) may likewise improve the quality of its products with applied leadership skills and attributes. To explore the assumption, a study was undertaken that would look for a potential connection between the quality of ID products and an instructional designer's leadership competencies as perceived by those in practice.

Often meaningful perceptions and insight will come through discourse, therefore, this was the method selected for exploring the issue of leadership's impact on quality. The indepth interviews conducted with an international panel of expert practitioners resulted in themes that conveyed perceptions of practice from lived experiences. In the form of expressions from the participants, the findings extended the standards usually understood for ID and listed by groups such as the Association of Educational Communications and Technology, the International Board of Standards for Performance, Training, and Instruction, and others (Association of Educational Communications and Technology, 2012; International Board of Standards for Performance, Training, and Instruction, 2000; Larson & Lockee, 2009). Specifically, the participants identified competencies for designing online pedagogies with the added dimension of applied personal leadership characteristics deemed critical to high quality designs-competencies, attributes, and duties. In addition, specific instructional strategy components known to predict engagement (National Survey of Student Engagement, 2008) and learner satisfaction (Sims & Stork, 2007) framed a model for leading the online design process forward- strategy, vision, personality (interpersonal skills), productivity, emotional/psychological strength, values, and duties (mentoring). As a result of these findings, the goal of the study was satisfied: to determine that leadership from instructional designers has the potential for significant impact on the quality of online higher educational products. …

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