Shifting Delivery Paradigms at a New University

Shifting Delivery Paradigms at a New University: Instituting Successful Instructional Design Processes for Online Programs
Kari Rasmussen, Coordinator, Online Learning, Grant MacEwan University
Doug Reid, Manager, IMD, Grant MacEwan University 

Guiding Philosophies in the Design of Online Courses at Grant MacEwan University:

  • Engaging learners by supporting an authentic learning environment
  • Improving critical and reflective thinking skills
  • Supporting knowledge creation
  • Focusing on the student experience
  • Quality assurance

Courses are set in time, so all students will work on the same thing at the same time. The courses have the instruction facilitation model as well – there are learning communities where the strive is to build course level communities. In addition students work entirely together in a cohort for one semester. Quite often they might go on with a similar cohort further. The institution owns the courses so that multiple instructors can teach them. The instructors that develop the courses sign a contract when they start the process of creating the course.

In online courses, environments are created the utilized the following:

  • discussions
  • reflection exercises
  • coaching
  • group work
  • peer reviews
  • constructive criticism

The overall process has six pieces. Online Course Development > Compliance > Quality Standards Review > Content Management > Maintenance > Implementation/Delivery Support

99% of the Maintenance Projects are Redevelopment Projects – the content is changing so rapidly now that courses do not need to be maintained as much as redeveloped.

The model of course design has five major steps:

  1. Project Planning (average time 2-4 weeks)
  2. Course Design (average time 2-4 weeks)
  3. Course Development (average time 12-14 weeks)
  4. Course Production (average time 3-4 weeks)
  5. Course Validation (average time 3-4 weeks)
For a three credit course, its on average a six months process to get through the entire course design process. There are milestones along the way so that the subject matter experts get paid as they go through the process. It does not work to pay faculty all at the beginning! (or all at the end!) With this process, Grant MacEwan has been able to hit every deadline from a project management standpoint.

Shifting Paradigm

As they are moving forward developing programs and looking at delivery of degrees online, they have shifted form a single course design and development to program design. It requires going out to find subject matter experts outside the institution to get a course developed.

This shift adds a need to look at the design and development of overall guidelines, process, and philosophies. The course design still fits within the larger design process, but the program design has shifted.

Professional development model – the instructors and subject matter experts that work with the team at Grant MacEwan meet weekly with instructional designers and learn a lot about their own practice, teachings, and may even make changes in their face-to-face teaching.

It is so successful that they have had to start turning people away, they have had five times more requests than the capacity of the team. Up to this year, with a staff of 11, they have been able to manage 28 3 credit courses per year.


About Meegan
Meegan has over fifteen years experience working in higher education. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from Western Michigan University and a Master of Education with an emphasis on Instructional Technology from American InterContinental University Online. She is currently the Instructional Technologist/Designer at Grand Rapids Community College where her main focus is helping faculty to develop and deliver quality online and hybrid courses.

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