Club Admiralty

v7.2 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Multilitteratus Incognitus

Pondering what to learn next πŸ€”

ID finds a Monkey paw and a Djinn lamp, what happens next will shock you!

Maybe I shouldn't take the bait, but I guess I couldn't leave this one alone either πŸ˜‚.  I might as well have a little fun with a clickbait-style title for this post 🀣. Reading IHE and JK feels like it's bad for my mental health. Anyway, instead of rage-writing, I thought I would expand a bit on his arguments.  JK, over at IHE is opining again about things. This time it's a reaction to the CHLOE7 report (I somehow managed to miss CHLOE1 through 6, but that's OK). It's not that I disagree with JK about what he writes, but I think he is rather naΓ―ve, he doesn't dig deep enough, and he doesn't question current systems of power and authority.  This, I feel, is a cautionary tale of being careful what you wish for...

At the center of this thought exercise is a figure (10%), that's the number of online leaders that indicated that their ID capacity as of  Fall 2021 was "fully sufficient" and that given "COOs' projection of significant further growth in online enrollment, insufficient instructional design staffing may be one of online learning's most serious long-term vulnerabilities."

JK first asks whether we should "be worried about ID burnout? Instructional designers were essential university workers in keeping in enabling academic resilience during the height of the pandemic. The question is, have these colleagues ever had a chance to catch their breath?"  Well, yes, we should be worried about burnout in higher ed, but this isn't just related to IDers. This pandemic emergency affected all university staff as their day-to-day work was spun right 'ound, like a record, right 'round, 'round, 'round. Many faculty, including many non-tenure track (and our colleagues in K12 who don't have any ID support!) just needed to make it through.  I suppose schools that had 1-2 IDers on staff probably had it a little better off than places with no IDs, and programs that already had an online presence did better overall with their response to the pandemic (I forget which ERT article I read this in, but it tracks). A healthy work-life balance (pandemic aside) needs to be achieved, and that's important to address at an institutional level.   What I am worried about more than burnout is apathy (which I understand can be part of burnout as well).  During the pandemic, I saw IDers not have a seat at the table at the institutional response to COVID-related ERT. Why?  And, now that we're pretending to be back to normal, IDers are back to being treated like course mechanics. Again, why?  Faced with this, I can see IDers leaving institutions that they don't feel connected to, or lured perhaps by higher pay elsewhere (which doesn't reach the root of the problem but is a temporary pacifier).

Next up, JK comments that "one result of the growing demand for instructional designers is likely to be a re-ordering of the ID labor market. Schools will likely need to offer flexible and remote work options to get the best ID talent" and then follows up with "the challenge will be how to integrate remote IDs into campus culture. I'm sure an instructional designer could backward design an optimal remote working environment, but they are too busy working on courses and programs to do so."  Again, I think that JK misses the point (and this connects to my most recent critique of his fetishization of the campus). Universities need to learn how to operate in a telework/flex environment more broadly in order to be successful. You may entice folks to your work environment with some sort of telework arrangement, but if the rest of the system isn't setup to accommodate telework, that venture will ultimately fail. Yes, faculty may be used to teaching at a distance, and hence their ID links may not be anything new, however we are part of a system. The other parts of the system need to be working together to enable equitable and available working solutions for all employees, otherwise you are perpetuating inequities because of "market forces" that compel you to offer more flexible arrangements for the acquisition of talent. Talent at our schools goes beyond the rockstar profs and IDers.

Next, JK makes the comment that "if you want to make a larger lecture class feel like a seminar, then you should work with an instructional designer. If you are determined to shift from relying on high-stakes summative assessments to formative assessments that encourage learning, then you want to work with an instructional designer" and continues with "the internal competition for ID time will only grow more acute as we look to inject their knowledge, skills, and talents into both our online and residential offerings."  On the one hand, this goes counter to the previous argument of telework. You can't be remote and be coaching someone who is delivering lecture-hall-pedagogies. I disagree with the whole notion that it is possible to make a large lecture class (200+ students) feel like a seminar. The room architecture doesn't lend itself to seminar-style learning. The analog massification of the course doesn't lend itself to that style of learning. The student in seat/row A12 won't be able to have meaningful exchanges with the student in seat/row MN99. You simply can't ID and EdTech your way out of this.  Furthermore, internal competition for meeting with IDs is a bad thing IMO. High demand and low supply will basically turn people away and do whatever they can to get by. 

JK goes on to write a bit about the evolution of "white glove ID services will evolve to stress coaching and consulting" because "with a shortage of IDs across our institutions, it is hard to imagine that a boutique ID setup is either scalable or sustainable." Okay, I can't argue with JK there, but...I want to take a moment to shine a light on the fact that a "white glove" service is really problematic.  On the one hand, in a white glove setting, as JK writes "faculty provide the IDs materials (decks, documents, syllabi, etc.) and have lots of conversations," I highly doubt those conversations are happening. What it probably means is "here's my πŸ’©, now put it on the LMS and make it pretty for me".  There's no design there and no consultation. The material is made. What you have is a situation where a content developer is needed, not an ID.  When I started my work as an ID, we used to have graduate assistants (ID trainees) do some of these white glove tasks, which included changing due dates of exams, forum posts, and so on manually based on a syllabus provided.  While this repetitive work had some value (getting trainees acquainted with various tools they'd need), I also saw that those who received this white glove service came to expect it, rather than learning how to do things on their own. Of course, you've got the other side of the coin where there is no material to start with and the process does, in earnest, begin with ID.  However, this oftentimes leads to "master courses" where all instructors teaching that course use the same materials. Develop once, with one faculty as the product owner, and teach unlimited times.  I think admin probably likes this but doesn't this present problems on the teaching side as well?πŸ€”. Should we not acknowledge this as IDers? I do think that there is a space for white glove services: programmers and simulation specialists can be working with faculty to create some more complex stuff for class.  I don't expect faculty to develop complex sims for their courses, but they should be able to work with a team to make it happen.  More basic stuff, like uploading and arranging materials in the LMS, should be stuff that people get trained on and coached on.

Finally, JK writes that "treating instructional design professionals as valued educators will be increasingly crucial for recruitment and retention."   He continues on to say "and yet, IDs often lack their faculty colleagues' recognition, status, and visible career paths. For instructional designers, there is no opportunity for tenure, academic freedom, or to recharge with sabbaticals. Forward-thinking universities may find that they need to start offering star non-faculty educators the same recognition and incentives that have long been necessary to recruit and retain star tenure-line faculty."  Honestly, I think this is probably the biggest be careful what you wish for moment.  First of all, the vast majority of faculty in the US are not on the tenure track (75%).  Do you really want IDers to be in that situation where 25% have the "benefits" of a tenure (or some tenure-like) system while the vast majority of IDs are gig workers with little protection or job security? Furthermore, tenure is an awful system (IMO, of course) where you are basically on probation for 5-6 years (your pre-tenure appointment) until you're deemed good enough to stay.  A 5-year probation period is bonkers! Tenure seems to be one of those things that is sold as a wonderful thing, employment for life and all that jazz, but the marketers of tenure do a good job of obscuring the fact that no job is ever really safe (as is seen in a recent Chronicle article).  Do we want that for IDers?  Finally, things like sabbaticals do exist for professional staff.  In my unit for example we do have something called professional development leave which we can apply for.  It's basically a sabbatical (1 fully paid semester, or 2 partly paid semesters) to go off and do PD stuff. In my 24 years here I've only known of 1 person who's taken this, and they had a Fullbright scholarship to go explore things. I doubt that IDers would have better luck at taking sabbaticals because the organizational culture isn't set up to nourish staff development. Treating our positions like tenure-track faculty won't change any of that, and puts additional burdens on us for obtaining tenure, whereas in most jobs, if you do your job, and do it well, you get to keep your job. No five-year plans of "we'll have to wait and see".

At the end of the day, I really don't think that JK (and others) truly understand the environment they are working in. The silos that are in place help obscure the complex mechanism that is the modern university, and we need to break down those silos for everyone to better understand and appreciate what our colleagues do. We need to lift everyone up, and not hold tenure as the gold standard for employment in academia. We shouldn't be replicating systems that exploit the worker.

That's all for now πŸ˜…

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