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Supporting Substantive Online Learning

As an online professor, you are part of a steadily growing phenomenon in academia. More and more students are looking for quality education with the convenience of remote accessibility. Just two years ago, at the start of fall 2016 semester, there were over 6.3 million students taking at least one online class (Seaman, Allen & Seaman, 2018). That figure is representative of more than 30 percent of all higher education enrollments in the United States. Similar growth rates have been experienced at Sam Houston State University as more and more students seek enrollment in one of the many award-winning degree plans delivered online.

SHSUOnlineBlackboardFacultyTraining-(128-of-54)This growth is matched by the rising demand for faculty support, particularly in the form of instructional design, course building, and faculty development. In recent years, instructional designers (IDs) tasked with working in consultation with faculty, have emerged as “pivotal players” in the academic space (Beirne & Romanoski, 2018). At Sam Houston State University, at least one ID is appointed to every College. IDs have historically assisted in the creation and design of online courses, as well as in the delivery of one-on-one faculty development and direct faculty support.

“The push for instructional designers reflects a number of broad trends,” including:

  • The growing pressure on colleges to improve teaching and substantiate learning;
  • The maturation of online courses; and
  • The increasingly sophisticated technology available to reach and engage students and analyze their behavior"

(Berrett, 2016, para. 4).

Colleges and universities are actively recruiting instructional designers to support online teaching efforts. It is estimated that over 13,000 instructional designers occupied full-time roles in higher education institutions across the United States as of 2016 (Intentional Futures, 2016). At SHSU, we are fortunate to have a team of instructional designers dedicated to support faculty teaching online.

learning-generic1As the new academic year launches, keep in mind that you are not alone when it comes to online teaching. SHSU Online supports you, not only by providing a dedicated designer to consult with during course development and delivery, but also through a number of additional services, including video and multimedia creation, faculty development and certifications, and a support desk that is exclusively dedicated to faculty and students in SHSU online and blended courses.

Thomas Sosebee, an assistant director for course development, states, “The faculty and ID relationship is similar to the relationship that forms between personal trainers and their clients. The ID is there to show the Professor what is possible, not what is comfortable. The ID is there to show the professor how to use the available technology to the best of their ability. The ID is there to help the faculty analyze what they have accomplished and how they can build upon the foundations they have already established.”

Who are the IDs at SHSU? Have you worked with them recently? We’ve gathered a short list of facts we thought you’d enjoy.

SHSUOnlineBlackboardFacultyTraining-(136-of-54)SHSU ID Fun Facts

We surveyed SHSU IDs in early August 2018, and here’s where they rank when it comes to education, research, and teaching:

  • 63 percent of IDs at SHSU have taught, or are actively teaching (they are educators at heart!)
  • 50 percent of them hold a master’s degree in education or related field
  • 38 percent are within a year of completing a doctoral degree
  • 100 percent are currently involved in academic research for publication
  • 90 percent have presented at a conference within the past two years
  • 100 percent have at least five years of experience as academic practitioners

When surveyed, SHSU IDs cited the following as the most rewarding part of their work:

  • “Being able to help someone teach the way they really want to online and showing them tools to make management of the course easier”
  • “Working with faculty and having them be excited about teaching online”
  • “Helping the professors accomplish whatever goal they set”
  • “I'm so excited when they (professors) get to use a new tool or idea that works for them/class & they can't wait to share it with me”
  • “Making a real difference in students' educational experience”
  • “Student success (learning accomplished)”


Beirne, E., & Romanoski, M. (2018). Instructional Design in Higher Education: Defining an Evolving Field. Online Learning Consortium, Retrieved from

Berrett, Dan. (2016, February 29). Instructional Design: Demand growth for a new breed of academic. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Intentional Futures (2016, April). Instructional design in higher education: A report on the role, workflow, and experience of instructional designers. Intentional Futures. Retrieved from

Seaman, J., Allen, I., & Seaman, J. (2018). Grade increase: Tracking distance education in the United States. Retrieved from Online Learning Consortium website: