During the Summer of 2015, I started working as an assistant instructional designer at Steinhardt Technology Services. STS  was holding a Course Innovation Grant program this summer, aiming to provide faculty members the opportunity to reflect on his/her own teaching methods, and to help them figure out ways to enhance their teaching experience by incorporating digital tools, such as a course site designed by instructional project team, as well as incorporating feedback provided from peers and project teams.

It was definitely a very useful experience for my personal professional development. I took part in the project development process: seeing how an instructional design project starts and develops; facing the challenges with faculty members and the design team; and cooperating with professionals from different fields to identify problems and integrate resources to help identify goals.  

As an instructional design team, our goal was to support faculty members by providing important information in order to reconstruct their course design, applying appropriate technologies and making these courses more interactive as well as more motivational.Throughout the 8 weeks of one-on-one meetings with each faculty member and lots of back-and- forth emails and video conference communications, we determined  various pedagogical strategies to support faculty members to solve problems.

There were 12 faculty members selected to participate in the Course Innovation Grant program, which began with a kick-off workshop. As instructional designers, we played the role of a “coach” who listened to their needs, analyzed their goals, and thus helped to redesign courses to become more motivating and effective. By facilitating the one-on-one meeting every week and encouraging faculty members to share experiences via forums, our team got to know more about the objectives and teaching preferences of each faculty member. We then started working cooperatively on each course design project.  

One of my weekly duties was to facilitate one-on-one meetings with 3 faculty members throughout the  week. During the internship, I not only got the chance to take a closer look at how real instructional projects work, but also gained various communication skills by working with professionals from different domains, such as American Sign Language, Behavioral Statistics, or Music Trends and Analysis. In addition, the challenges I faced gave me an idea about my thesis project; therefore, my thesis project has stemmed from my summer experience at Steinhardt Technology Services.

In addition, the Course Innovation Grant program also aimed to support course development by providing technical training sessions which would help them incorporate various technologies that would  enrich their courses and  engage students more deeply in the learning experience. We realized that it is essential for faulty member to learn how to find information or assistance easily, in order to feel more comfortable at trying new things. It occurred to me while collecting various information from web pages, articles, and instructional videos I became aware that teaching might be so difficult because it is not  always easy for people to abandon their old habits and adopt new ones.

Last but not least, I would say the Course Innovation Grant was meaningful not only for faculty members but also for novice instructional designers like me. I hope this process could inspire more diverse thoughts and encourage (prospective) cohorts of Edtech professionals to integrate various teaching components to make learning more interesting.

By Hsiao-an Wu