Higher Education

Conquering the Challenges of Instructional Design in Education

Conquering the Challenges of Instructional Design in Education

With edtech’s rapid growth, it’s an exciting time to be an instructional designer. The field has transitioned to become more focused on the learning experience and student outcomes, which requires constant collaboration.

But despite the need for more collaboration, instructional designers have reported that working with faculty is their greatest challenge. So how can instructional designers and educators work together to ensure student success?

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Seeing Eye to Eye

Referring to the relationship between a professor and instructional designer, Associate Professor Natalie Milman stated, “Ideally, it’s a partnership.” 

But tensions often arise.

In fact, respondents from a survey of instructional designers listed three reasons why faculty may have a difficult time working with instructional designers:

  1. Faculty and administration lack understanding about the instructional designer’s role and possible contribution.
  2. There’s a lack of incentive for faculty to get design help, guidance, training, or support from instructional designers.
  3. Faculty are not interested in changing their style of teaching or reconsidering their pedagogy to teach successfully in an online environment.

Improving Collaboration

So how can these problems be avoided? Like any relationship, communication is key. Be sure to lay the foundation for effective communication when you meet together. It may be helpful to have a discussion about past design experiences, roles, and expectations. 

And as this is a partnership, everyone needs to do their part. That’s why we’ve taken tips from Intentional Futures and Inside Higher Ed on what individual roles can do to improve communication and collaboration:

Instructional Designers

Help faculty with their classroom tech issues to build the relationship. Send weekly email updates to keep the educator informed throughout the design process. Strive to be flexible and open. 

Institutional Leaders and Administration

Involve instructional designers early, often, and throughout your technology transition. Develop clear standards that are expressed to all participants—institutional leaders, instructional designers, faculty, and students. Encourage faculty to work with instructional designers from the get-go. You may offer payment or time-release as an incentive. 


Meet together to discuss course outcomes and identify learning objectives. Clarify roles, articulate expectations, and get to know one another. Have regular and open conversations. Collaborate over lunch or coffee to personalize the relationship. 

Technology Providers

Invest the time and resources necessary to discover tools instructional designers consider to be effective and efficient. Emphasize instructional designers as key stakeholders that will be using and teaching others how to use your products.

Better collaboration leads to better outcomes. And isn’t that what everybody wants?

Working with faculty doesn’t have to be the greatest challenge for instructional design in education. By following these methods, instructional designers and educators can work together to cultivate a riveting learning experience that truly serves their students.

For more instructional design tips, check out 5 Hot Instructional Design Tools Worth Trying