education design edvisor Instructional Designer pedagogy thesis

Thoughts on: Practicing what they preach: A case study exploring the experiences of Instructional Designers as educators of an online teaching certificate program (Uibelhoer, 2020)(Thesis)

lightbulb in thought bubble

Of all the theses that I’ve read recently, this one has been the most valuable – for several reasons. Chiefly, it fills a gap in several areas of the literature around edvisors relating to edvisor perceptions of how they are supported by their institutions (and the support they need), the impact of having faculty/college based and centrally based edvisor units, faculty autonomy/academic freedom, the pedagogical and design frameworks used by edvisors and the ways that organisational structures and reporting lines impact edvisor effectiveness.

Which is a lot.

I’ve had two opposing reactions to this – panic about how I will now find something new to say and appreciation that when I put my ideas out there, I can at least say “well Uibelhoer thinks so too”. (Honestly I’m not that worried and it has been fantastic to see how universal some of the challenges and possible solutions are)

A few other things that I’ve liked – just the clean readability of the thing. Uibelhoer doesn’t tie himself up in linguistic knots trying to sound clever, he simply tells the story in engaging, clear and direct language that moves the ideas forward and progressively builds a compelling case for them.

Personally there were a number of helpful new ideas and theories that I will be able to draw on and use to expand my thinking. I haven’t really given much consideration to faculty autonomy/academic freedom, there’s some nice stuff on collaboration and Collaboration Theory, and there’s also some valuable ideas on the impact of organisational structures, which draws on a thesis from Drysdale (2018) that I also have sitting in my to-read pile.

One other thing that I do need to flag is that there is a stellar overview in the lit review of the various pedagogical approaches in the last century and how they are applied in instructional design. From Behaviorism to Connectivism and beyond, this is something that I will highly recommend to anyone looking for a crash course in educational theory and its practical application.

There are a handful of areas where we have different perspectives – most significantly would be that where I see three distinct (though overlapping) edvisor type roles, the approach in the U.S. seems to be more of instructional designers as kind of a one stop shop for everything these people conventionally do. He does touch on specialisations though and the whole thing has got me wondering whether it is madness trying to foster understanding of 3 separate roles when we have problems doing it with just one.

I’ve glossed over the body of this thesis, which is a case study of development and delivery of pedagogical PD to academics in an institution. As a topic, I suspect this is stronger than my own because it starts from something that seems fairly straightforward but allows for wide exploration of many factors that shape this work and the people that do it. I’ve had an internal resistance to case studies for some reason (which I’ve been rethinking in recent months), possibly because it feels too small for the ideas that I’m trying to bring together. More thinking to do on this I’d say.

One final thought – I do think it would be great to have a global network of the edvisors (and academics) doing research on edvisors. This partially feels like one of those procrastinatory rabbit-hole ideas that I have in place of doing actual work but it’s at the very least something for the backburner.

Uibelhoer, D. (2020). Practicing What They Preach: A Case Study Exploring the Experiences of Instructional Designers as Educators of an Online Teaching Certificate Program [Ph.D., Seton Hall University].