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E-Learning and Instructional Support.

Kresge Library, Room 430
100 Library Drive
Rochester , MI 48309-4479
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Office and Virtual Help: (248) 805-1625

Final thoughts from Jess Tess-Navarro

Tue Feb 22, 2022 at 08:06 PM

I started in the position of Instructional Designer (ID) in the e-LIS office one week and two days before the initial campus shutdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic in March of 2020.

Luckily, I was no stranger to the university given I had completed my BA at OU in 2012 and had also spent two years working as a Special Lecturer in the Writing and Rhetoric Department in recent years. In the 15 months leading up to my new position with e-LIS, I had launched my career as an ID working on an IT Training Team at UWM in Pontiac just six miles southwest of OU’s campus. During that time, I had primarily designed “instructor-led training” or ILT, which is the corporate learning and development equivalent of face-to-face teaching in higher ed.

While I had started to lead my team in the transition over to more self-paced and web-based training, a fact that helped me stand out from other candidates for the e-LIS position, like many OU faculty I was entering the COVID-19 pandemic with far more experience creating learning solutions for an in-person environment than online. 

In many ways, I think this helped at the start. As I sat down in my home office (a.k.a the dining room table) and jumped into Google Meet appointments with faculty, I could readily empathize with their struggle to figure out how they were going to take their curriculum with students in the physical classroom and translate that to our new, remote situation.

Although I wasn’t a stranger to Moodle, for the first few months I was learning the ins and outs of the Moodle system alongside faculty, sharing insights often within days or hours of gleaning them myself. Spring turned to summer and then fall. Our “remote teaching” situation became an “online teaching” situation, pivoted back to in-person and then pivoted back to online a number of times.

Throughout my time in this role, nothing has been more rewarding and motivating than meeting with faculty one-on-one to make their lives a little easier during a time when little has felt easy for most of us. Whether it was setting up a Moodle gradebook, brainstorming how to engage students over Zoom, or helping faculty create their first interactive H5P learning modules, the thanks and appreciation I received from faculty in these sessions buoyed me through the ups and downs of this pandemic.

Of course I’m biased, but I think any faculty member would benefit from having an ID available to review their course for quality standards in the online setting and even assist in the design and development of their course content.

I know some faculty are wary of this idea, either because they fear it means losing their intellectual property (completely untrue) or they think an ID will have little to add pedagogically. I would challenge these faculty to hear testimonials from their colleagues who have prior experience working with IDs. They would learn how this kind of partnership can save them valuable time and energy, as well as allow them to refocus on why they got into their chosen profession: the opportunity to connect with students and teach their beloved subject matter.

While there are those faculty who enjoy becoming knowledgeable in andragogy and learning technology, not everyone will, whereas this is the realm of expertise for an ID in higher education, regardless of discipline.

Although I’m leaving the e-LIS Instructional Design Team at this point in the journey, I hope to hear in the near future that OU faculty are further embracing the prowess of IDs to the benefit of themselves and their students.   

Starting this March, I’ll be returning to the role of an ID in a corporate setting once more, this time in a fully remote position for a company called Dematic with employees in many countries across the world. It’s the first time I’ll work with a team and report to a supervisor I’ve never met in-person. Like many other knowledge workers in the US, I’ll be entering new heights in the domain of remote work and despite some trepidation it feels like the right move for my family at this time. 

I could write a completely separate post in the form of a love letter to the e-LIS crew. There’s no other department at OU I have enjoyed working with more and it’s an office filled with funny, intelligent, supportive, and caring people I’m going to miss dearly in my day-to-day life. I have already been bugging them to invite me to crash e-LIS lunches and events, given I live ten minutes from campus and I imagine I’ll still need to get out of the house once in a while.

If there are any other parting words I can leave them with, they would be to never stop their highly-knowledge but fearlessly improv way of doing things. In a world that feels increasingly unpredictable, it's exactly what the campus and the community need right now.