Multi-modal Learning Offerings and Expectations (Issue 33)

"Variety" reflected by many different paintbrushes

Author: Charlotte Jones-Roberts, University of Central Florida

Editor: Dr. Denise Lowe, University of Central Florida


As an online faculty member in higher education, I find myself grappling with the multitude of course modalities available, from fully online to blended to hyflex. Each modality seems to come with its own set of challenges and advantages. How can I navigate these different modalities effectively to ensure the best learning experience for my students while also managing my workload as an instructor? Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.


Mixed-up Modalities

Dear Mixed-up,

Navigating the ever-changing world of online learning can feel like trying to find your way through a maze, especially with the plethora of course options available. But fear not! You’re not alone in this journey.

Thanks to the unexpected shift brought on by COVID-19, online learning has become more prevalent than ever before. This has opened up a world of possibilities, but it’s also introduced its fair share of challenges. One thing that’s become clear is the need for flexibility to meet the diverse needs of today’s students – and there are many modalities to choose from.

Students prefer a mix of learning experiences for availability, convenience, and content suitability.

According to a 2023 report by Garrett et. al., face-to-face enrollment for traditional undergraduates is either stagnant or declining, with 57% of chief online officers (COOs) reporting stagnation and 24% reporting declines. In contrast, online and hybrid program enrollments are on the rise, with 36% and 20% of COOs reporting growth, respectively. To meet the growing demand for online and hybrid programs, institutions are swiftly realigning their strategic priorities, with approximately 50% of COOs confirming support for greater emphasis on online and multi-modal learning, though resource constraints remain a challenge, and 36% are currently reconsidering their strategic priorities (Garrett et. al., 2023).

Institutions are now offering a smorgasbord of options, ranging from fully online courses to traditional face-to-face instruction, and everything in between. Students increasingly prefer a mix of classroom, online, and hybrid learning experiences due to factors like availability, convenience, and suitability for the content (Garrett et. al., 2023). 

This trend results in most students, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, encountering various delivery modes throughout their academic journey, including the innovative Hyflex model championed by Beatty (2019). This approach gives students the freedom to choose whether they want to attend class in person or participate remotely, giving them the flexibility they crave in their busy lives. The beauty of the Hyflex model lies in its ability to seamlessly blend the best of both worlds. By incorporating a mix of synchronous and asynchronous elements, instructors can create a dynamic learning environment that caters to the needs of all students, no matter where they are.

For instance, in a hyflex biology course, students could choose to participate in lab experiments physically on campus or virtually via live-streamed sessions. Assignments, discussions, and assessments would be accessible and identical for both in-person and remote learners, ensuring equitable participation and learning outcomes. It’s all about giving you options and making sure everyone’s on the same page, whether you’re in the classroom or chilling at home in your PJs.

The key is keeping clear expectations and communication with students. This includes which modality has been selected, what that modality means at your institution, expectations for participation, and guidelines for accessing course materials in both face-to-face and online environments to ensure that students understand what is required of them regardless of the mode of instruction they choose.

So as you embark on this adventure, remember to keep an open mind and embrace the opportunities that come your way. With a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of flexibility, you’ll be sure to create engaging and inclusive learning experiences for your students.

Happy navigating!



Beatty, B. J. (2019). Hybrid-Flexible Course Design (1st ed.). EdTech Books.

Garrett, R., Simunich, B., Legon, R., & Fredericksen, E. E. (2023). CHLOE 8: Student Demand Moves Higher Ed Toward a Multi-Modal Future, The Changing Landscape of Online Education. Quality Matters and Encoura Eduventures Research, 15. Retrieved from:

The “Great Unveiling”: A Peek Behind the Curtain of Ask ADDIE (Issue 26)

Author(s): Dr. Denise Lowe, Dr. Shelly Wyatt, & Dr. Kelvin Thompson

Editor: Dr. Denise Lowe

Like many online content developers, the editors and contributing authors of TOPkit Digest have remained behind the curtain, their names and credentials hidden from sight. Recognizing the benefits of transparency regarding individual Digest contributors, the editors of the Digest have decided to add the names and credentials of individual authors to their developed content. Likewise, the names of contributors to the Ask ADDIE column will also now appear on each entry, thus giving credit where credit is due rather than maintaining the anonymity of “ADDIE.”

Inspired by popular advice columns of the past (Ask Abby and Ann Landers) and present (Ask Amy and Miss Manners), Ask ADDIE emerged from the desire to provide a space where instructional designers and online faculty developers could share challenges and difficulties in an anonymous format where an experienced instructional designer would provide guidance and helpful resources. Similar to these pop culture advice columnists, “ADDIE’s” identity was purposely obscured behind a silhouetted persona allowing readers to form their own mental picture and facilitating a sharing of authoring duties behind the scenes. In practice, the authors of the Ask ADDIE column have been derived primarily from the intellectual resources of the University of Central Florida (UCF), while the questions have come from instructional designers, administrators, and faculty from various institutions, both in and out of the state of Florida.

While all of the columns written for Ask ADDIE are worthwhile reading since they address real challenges provided by our readers, some of them have been particularly timely and delivered in concert with issues higher education has faced over the years.

Ask ADDIE provides a space for faculty developers to share challenges in an anonymous format.

Take, for example, the most recent issue published, Essential Work or Essential Workers: Who Can Tell? (Issue 25), that effectively dealt with the “regular and substantive interaction” requirement by the Department of Education (DOE) for online courses. Updated definitions for these requirements caused quite a stir among faculty and instructional designers who now needed to return to the integration of this interaction within basic course design. This article, written by Dr. Florence Williams, an instructional designer at UCF, provided detailed definitions and course design ideas using active learning viewpoints and learning management system (LMS) capabilities in a collective approach.

Or, what about Hyflex, Blendflex, Asynchronous, Synchronous: Decoding Modalities (Issue 22), which attempted to make sense of all the new online approaches “forced” upon us by the Covid-19 pandemic? In the confusion over modalities, Dr. Amanda Major helped us to understand each modality, its benefits and uses, and how the “one size fits all” approach was no longer relevant to online learning. Like Dr. Williams, Dr. Major also works as an instructional designer at UCF.

In Foundations to Skyscrapers: Stages of Quality Design (Issue 17), Dr. Denise Lowe provided a graphical approach to the ADDIE model of course design (analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation) in renewed attempts to bring quality to the forefront of the design process. By breaking down the design model, readers were able to visualize the types of design tasks associated with each design level. This response was also helpful in program reviews to prepare faculty for online teaching. Dr. Lowe is a Senior Instructional Designer at UCF, and the graphic was designed by Mireya Ramirez from the Graphics team of the Center for Distributed Learning (CDL) at UCF.

Looking back at the very beginnings of Ask ADDIE, I Heard it Through the Grapevine…They’re Forgetting! (Issue 1), Dr. Kelvin Thompson, CDL Executive Director, delved into the always relevant topic of providing faculty development programs and tools that are actually useful for faculty to remember the concepts of online course design and teaching. The tips provided helped to break down the highly conceptualized design concepts that are used infrequently in a way that maintained collegial respect and support between the faculty member and the instructional designer.

Ongoing articles such as these provide relevant information, tips, and suggestions for all of us working in course design or online teaching. The benefits of such collective learning cannot be overstated since many of us deal with similar challenges within our own institutions. There is much wisdom among us – we all improve when it is shared!

Lessons learned from the early days of Ask ADDIE include the importance of faculty engagement in the development and delivery of online courses, including intentional course design, customization, and instructor presence. The human element retains its primacy at the center of robust, engaging online course design and delivery in the context of adaptive courseware, real-time student performance data, and the role of “efficiencies” (scale, return on investment, replication). The hurricane-force winds of change created by COVID-19 have created new challenges that are represented by the latter Ask ADDIE entries, including new course modalities and questions regarding what is really essential for successful online course design and delivery.

Going forward, questions may include implications of using Zoom for online faculty development and how instructional designers and faculty developers can create productive relationships with teaching faculty from a distance. Despite the current challenges and opportunities that have emerged because of COVID-19, the timeless nature of instructional designers and faculty development remains unchanged: Instructional tools and practices are driven by the needs and goals of learners. 

What other ideas do you have that could improve the Ask ADDIE approach to inviting questions or article ideas? Please share your thoughts with our TOPkit community on LinkedIn!

Ask ADDIE Editors:

Dr. Denise Lowe, Senior Instructional Designer, Division of Digital Learning, UCF, July 2018 – current

Dr. Shelly Wyatt, Associate Instructional Designer, Division of Digital Learning, UCF, July 2017 – June 2018

Dr. Kelvin Thompson, Executive Director, Center for Distributed Learning, Division of Digital Learning, UCF, January – June 2017

Ask ADDIE Authors:

Williams, F. (2022, February). Ask ADDIE: Essential Work or Essential Workers: Who Can Tell? (Issue 25). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Stahl, N. (2021, November). Ask ADDIE: What’s the Objective Here? (Issue 24). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Nettles, B. (2021, July). Ask ADDIE: Getting started with digital badges (Issue 23). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Major, A. (2021, May). Ask ADDIE: Hyflex, Blendflex, Asynchronous, Synchronous: Decoding Modalities (Issue 22). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Sumner, J. (2020, November). Ask ADDIE: Getting Engaged: Marrying Together Faculty and Online Student Engagement (Issue 21). Retrieved from TOPkit website: engaged-marrying-together-faculty-and-online-student-success-issue-21 

Major, A. (2020, August). Ask ADDIE: Full Throttled Out: Running on Fumes for Fall Faculty Developments Efforts (Issue 20). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Jowallah, R. (2020, May). Ask ADDIE: The road to instructional designer credibility (Issue 19). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Miller, R., Bauer, S., & Trail Constant, T. (2020, January). Ask ADDIE: Mergers & Acquisitions: Models of Curriculum Design Review (Issue 18). Retrieved from TOPkit website:…-review-issue-18/

Lowe, D. (2019, October). Ask ADDIE: Foundations to skyscrapers: Stages of quality design (Issue 17). Retrieved from TOPkit website: 

Lowe, D. (2019, July). Ask ADDIE: Not a Magician Spock, Just an Old Country Instructional Designer (Issue 16). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Tinsley-Kim, K. & Wyatt, S. (2019, May). Ask ADDIE: Becoming a more proactive faculty whisperer (Issue 15). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Roberts-Jones, C. (2019, January). Ask ADDIE: Happily ever after: Positive working relationships between instructional designers and faculty (Issue 14). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Major, A. & Bauer, S. (2018, November). Ask ADDIE: Same music, different rhythm: Missing the beat in project management (Issue 13). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Ngampornchai, A., & Wyatt, S. (2018, June). Ask ADDIE: More than meets the eye: Helping faculty   understand the ID role (Issue 12). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Tinsley-Kim, K., & Wyatt, S. (2018, May). Ask ADDIE: Running on empty: Injecting instructional power into narrated PowerPoints(Issue 11). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Wyatt, S. (2018, March). Ask ADDIE: Don’t wait to go deeper: Cultivating higher thinking in beginning classes(Issue 10). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Wyatt, S. (2018, February). Ask ADDIE: Right foot, right steps: Collaborating on a “new” new faculty orientation(Issue 9). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Wyatt, S. (2018, January). Ask ADDIE: Mining for gold in your own backyard: Faculty sharing and working across departments(Issue 8).Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Wyatt, S. (2017, September). Ask ADDIE: Looking to “up” my ADA game (Issue 7). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Wyatt, S. (2017, July). Ask ADDIE: Revving up online courses without getting off track (Issue 6). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Thompson, K. (2017, June). Ask ADDIE: Second-hand courses but not second-rate instructors (Issue 5). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Thompson, K. (2017, May). Ask ADDIE: The “quickest route” is always (Issue 4). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Thompson, K. (2017, April). Ask ADDIE: Experience (with great engagement) really can be the best teacher (Issue 3). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Thompson, K. (2017, March). Ask ADDIE: You’ll get the keys when you pass your driver’s test! (Issue 2). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Thompson, K. (2017, January). Ask ADDIE: I heard it through the grapevine…they’re forgetting! (Issue 1). Retrieved from TOPkit website:

Hyflex, Blendflex, Asynchronous, Synchronous: Decoding Modalities (Issue 22)

Author(s): Dr. Amanda Major

Editor: Dr. Denise Lowe

Dear ADDIE, 

The shift to remote teaching during the ongoing pandemic has prompted faculty to deliver creative online experiences for their students, combining different modes of delivery and using new technology tools. My university needs a way of categorizing these different mode options so that faculty will know the parameters of how to deliver their courses, students can make informed course enrollment decisions, and internal staff can have a common language to support faculty and students’ efforts for success. Could you use your decoder expertise and help us decipher between the different modalities? 


Caesar Cipher 

Dear Caesar Cipher, 

I can understand your confusion. Students need to understand the course modalities for which they are registering so they may plan their semester schedules or determine if the mode meets their learning preferences or specific life circumstances. Faculty need to know the parameters of each modality so they may deliver the course in a method consistent with students’ expectations. Internal higher education staff, who may support teaching or learning activities, need to have a common language so they can make recommendations consistent with the course modality, technology tools, and instructional techniques that best complement learning experiences.  

When many campuses switched to remote learning over late Spring 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many faculty members unfamiliar with the Learning Management System (LMS) utilized video conferencing sessions or video streaming to deliver their lectures. They learned as quickly as possible how to store their instructional content and create assessments on their institution’s LMS. Some faculty couldn’t help but offer the bare necessities for course delivery, and others found creative ways to deliver their courses, i.e., repurposing a clear shower door as a lightboard during video sessions and creating lab kits customized to the course to send to their students. These examples went above and beyond most faculty members’ efforts, as many faculty spent enormous amounts of mental and physical energy during that unprecedented time managing their own lives, like determining how to school and care for their children while they had to work from home. 

"A choose-your-own adventure faculty development program will serve innovative modality-attribute combinations."

As higher education institutions re-opened, administrators introduced HyFlex and BlendFlex modalities as a method for following CDC recommended guidelines and to accommodate stakeholders (parents, students, faculty, local businesses, and others) who have strong needs and preferences for remote or in-person course delivery. In its pure form, HyFlex is conceptualized as a student-directed method because students choose which option suits them best, online or face-to-face instruction. It’s designed to serve on-ground and online students with limited resources, especially relevant for emergency situations, via multi-modal delivery (Beatty, 2019). Essentially a HyFlex approach to learning, BlendFlex affords students the option to seamlessly move between experiences of face-to-face and online synchronous or asynchronous instruction to complete required elements of a course (as described by Carol Lee in Liebermann, 2018). Both modalities imply that there is both an online and face-to-face version of the course designed, developed, and delivered. Empathy is due to faculty, as well as those who guide and support them (project managers, faculty development coordinators and facilitators, instructional technologists, multi-media specialists, and instructional designers), as they attempt to live up to Hyflex and Blendflex ideal standards while also managing extenuating life circumstances during their institution’s campus re-openings.  

For these reasons, describing the different modalities in terms of whether instruction has certain space or time requirements, as well as the degree of flexibility between space or time, makes the most sense. The following chart may clarify modality differences, which was inspired from instructional designer dialogue at the University of Central Florida but does not reflect any official definitions from the University. 

 Required Elements for Students 
Modality Physical classroom Live, Synchronous Sessions Online, Asynchronous Instruction  Video, Asynchronous Instruction 
Blended, Mostly Online  Up to 20% Possibly* More than 50% Possibly* 
Blended, Face-to-Face More than 20% Possibly* Up to 50% Possibly* 
Web-based No Optional Only^ Yes Possibly* 
Face-to-face  More than 50%  Possibly*  Optional Only ^  Optional Only ^  
Video Possibly* Yes- Possibly* Yes- 
HyFlex  Possibly*  Possibly* Possibly* Possibly* 
Extended  Reality Possibly* Possibly* Possibly* Possibly* 
“Possibly” denotes that those components may be required if the synchronous or physical classroom components are scheduled in advance.

^ ”Optional only” denotes that the element can be designed/delivered by faculty but must be offered to students as an optional activity, not as a requirement.

-“Video” denotes that completion of synchronous or asynchronous learning activities are required by viewing recorded video. The required amount of each type of learning activity (synchronous or asynchronous) must be communicated to students prior to enrollment so they may schedule their time appropriately.

A quick description of required elements is warranted. The physical classroom requirement means that students and faculty must attend in-person at a physical space on campus. That may include individuals using robotic proxies; live, synchronous streaming; or video recordings for accessibility reasons or excused absences. Often, synchronous sessions substitute for already scheduled face-to-face modes in which a student is required to be physically present. Live, synchronous sessions require students and faculty to be online at the same time but not in the same location, occurring during a video conferencing session, collaborative environment, or video streaming (if not recorded for later viewing definitive of asynchronous video instruction). Asynchronous instruction does not require faculty nor students to be in the same location, at the same time. Typically, online asynchronous instruction is delivered over a platform, such as an LMS, communication platform, or website.   

The modality is defined by time and space requirements, i.e., when students must be present and where students must be located to receive instruction. The reason for defining course modes is so students and faculty know where to be and when. For this reason, some would argue that Video and Extended Reality (e.g., as the use of augmented reality like Pokemon Go, mixed reality like via Holo Lens, and extended reality that provides simulated experiences) are attributes of instruction that could occur in any modality, when students are face-to-face, or asynchronously or synchronously interacting.  

Attributes offer a common language as well as a set of best practices for faculty and professionals supporting or guiding their efforts to source materials and adapt instruction. Attributes may occur in instances or permeate an entire course. Designers are intimately familiar with these attributes: mastery, experiential, service, gamified, technology enhanced, personalized adaptive, immersive, project based, case based, active, appreciative, inclusive, internationalized, team based, and so on. 

The faculty development implications of having a variety of modalities, as well as attributes, provide a smorgasbord of options from which faculty may pick and choose— a decision made best in congruence with their instructional preferences, their students’ preferences, and their program’s niche. For instance, a group of language arts faculty members are designing a series of courses on an adaptive platform so students may enjoy a personalized learning experience that outshines popular language learning apps. These faculty members need to know the basics of instructional design, teaching online courses, and basics of mastery learning. They, however, need more in-depth procedural knowledge about the adaptive platform and associated teaching methods, inclusive teaching and responsive systems design. As another example, for faculty planning to teach online using the institution’s LMS, all they need to know are the essentials of the platform as well as best practices for designing/teaching online. For the outcome of faculty learning nuanced skills to deliver innovative courses, a one-size-fits-all approach to faculty development is no longer relevant. Creating a faculty development ecosystem that supports a program-approved, choose-your-own-adventure credentialing system will serve an array of innovative modality-attribute combinations.  

Ultimately definitions for instructional modalities, and support provided for each, must align with the designated accrediting bodies as well as the institutions’ vision, mission, infrastructure, and resources. For other ideas of how instructional modalities may be defined, take a look at Azus Pacific University’s Instructional Modalities, and the University of Central Florida’s Course Modalities and Attributes. For pros and cons of synchronous, asynchronous, and combination courses, see Kansas State University’s Keep Teaching Online Modalities. If you’re re-designing your faculty development ecosystem to enable course innovations across modalities and attributes, you may glean some ideas from TOPkit’s Examples of Faculty Development Pathways

What other modalities or attributes have you applied or are exploring at your higher education institution? Please share your thoughts with our TOPkit community on LinkedIn!


Beatty, B. J. (2019). Hybrid-Flexible Course Design (1st ed.).  Ed Tech Books. 

Lieberman, M. (January, 2018). Introducing a New(-ish) Learning Mode: Blendflex/Hyflex. Inside Higher Ed:  

Full Throttled Out: Running on Fumes for Fall Faculty Development Efforts (Issue 20)

Car doing drifting, and doing a burnout.

Author(s): Dr. Amanda Major

Editor: Dr. Denise Lowe


Ever since the Spring, my colleagues and I have shifted gears to help faculty teach in a virtual or online format while working from home! The global pandemic has popularized virtual/online teaching, consequently, increasing demands for our virtual/online course design, development, and facilitation know-how. We continue to selflessly give knowing that our help facilitates students learning and faculty teaching at a distance to remain free from COVID-19 exposure.

We do, however, realize that there is an extent to our race to nowhere fast. My colleagues and I are suffering from Zoom fatigue, mixed up sleep patterns, and concerns for balancing rapid course development with course quality. On top of work stressors, our family members are either needing extra care, working from home, or completing school from home. They depend on us to meet their needs. We are in full throttle, running on fumes, with no expectation of hitting the brakes any time soon.

Now, as Fall begins, we are running out of energy. Please help us curtail burnout!


Running on Fumes

Dear Running on Fumes,

You are experiencing stress and anxiety in uncertain times. You are on the verge of burnout if not already experiencing it. 

What is burnout and its symptoms? According to the Mayo Clinic (2020), job burnout is marked by physical or emotional exhaustion with a reduced sense of accomplishment and personal identity. Symptoms could include any combination of these work related reactions: cynicism, trouble getting started, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, reduced satisfaction with achievements, feeling disillusioned, or impatience with colleagues, staff, faculty, or students. You may also experience a change in sleeping habits or unexplained physical symptoms. Some may use substances to feel better. 

Whether or not you and your faculty development colleagues are experiencing burnout, you likely have experienced a range of emotions as you addressed faculty development needs during this pandemic. During the onset of the pandemic, many higher education institutions closed campuses and faculty mass transformed their courses into a virtual format. Though those in your profession had the requisite knowledge for the transition, it was a transition nonetheless and likely extra work, especially navigating the changes the pandemic brought to your lifestyles.

Taking care of your body, mental well-being, and spirit or connection to the universe if essential to feel better and optimally perform.

The type of work accomplished by consultants, technical problem solvers, coordinators, and facilitators of faculty development combined with the increased demands has real effects. Those who prepare faculty to teach virtual, online, or hybrid courses engage in emotional labor, regulating their emotions in order to take care of the faculty with whom they are helping, similar to that of healthcare professionals caring for patients.

The task demand for those in our profession during these times required fast-tracking faculty development and speeding up course production while ensuring quality courses. Though, few additional resources were likely allocated towards those efforts, thereby workloads likely increased. You may have been counting on summer for some rest, but work demands were such that you could not use that time to rejuvenate. Nights of late work or anxiety due to the stressors of the transformation may have taken a toll on your circadian rhythms, now your sleep patterns are off. No wonder you are exhausted!

Burnout is a real phenomena in this line of work, because we tend to be passionate about what we do until we do so much that we aren’t sure that we are making a real contribution. Continuing to work while feeling depleted may put your job performance and health at risk.

I, myself, have grappled with managing stressors related to burnout throughout my career in digital learning. I have found that engaging in self-care practices empowered me to sustain my professionalism throughout the years.

Taking care of yourself during these times is paramount. Taking care of your body, mental well-being, and spirit or connection to the universe is essential to not just feeling better but also to optimally performing to help others. According to Huijser, Sim, and Felton (2020), this is a call to action.

I offer this list of tips to prevent burnout.

  • Harness the power of social connection. Surround yourself with nurturing people.  Debrief with a trusted friend. Seek solace from supportive, hard-working colleagues. Stay connected to supervisors who have trust in you. 
  • Work for a progressive unit. If you have a choice, choose to work for an institution that is forward-thinking, has clear strategic goals and priorities, and offers resources to support these.
  • Create autonomy over your activities and schedule. This may mean taking breaks and being okay with work products that are good enough rather than pursuing a nebulous state of perfection. Definitely let go of non-essential tasks. Make some room for engaging activities that are intrinsically motivating for you or professional development opportunities related to your career growth.
  • Enjoy and find satisfaction in your work. Know that you provide a valuable skill set. Make your work your own and enjoy collaborating with supportive colleagues when possible.
  • Take care of your physical self. Exercise, eat right, sleep well, and listen to your body. When it is time to stop and get up from your computer, do so. 
  • Practice self-care. This may mean taking a day off work, conducting daily reflections, connecting with nature, engaging in spiritual practices or meditation, or practicing gratitude. 
  • Seek professional help. Look into your Employee Assistance Program or health insurance plan for a counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist that meets your needs.

 In the words of Parker Palmer (2000), 

Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.

We owe self care to ourselves, to others, as well as to our profession. 

Though demands of events triggered by the pandemic have placed extraordinary demands on professionals in our field, we are finding ways to take care of ourselves. Many more strategies for self-care and preventing burnout likely exist that particularly address the unique situations of those who prepare faculty to teach online during these unprecedented times.

What strategies have you found effective for taking care of your body, mental well-being, and spirit or connection to the universe? Please share your thoughts with our TOPkit community on LinkedIn!


Palmer, P. J. (2000). Let your life speak: Listening for the voice of vocation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

The Road to Instructional Designer Credibility (Issue 19)

Credibility road sign

Author(s): Dr. Rohan Jowallah

Editor: Dr. Denise Lowe


I am new to the instructional design profession. I got this job–which I love–because I taught online, used flipped classroom strategies, and redesigned my course several times—not because I have any training or education in this field. I also did not have the support I needed with my first supervisor (who has since left). I’m looking to re-image myself because my faculty see me and automatically think “Oh you just want me to teach online!” OR “You demanded I take a survey. Who are you to tell ME what to do?”

What do you suggest? I really want to help my faculty move toward the 21st Century in higher education.


Reformation in Progress

Dear Reformation,

Thanks for your question! First of all, I hope you are keeping yourself safe. Even in the best of times, the scenario you present is challenging – yet quite commonly encountered. During the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 situation, it can be even more difficult to engage faculty in quality online instruction. If ever there was a time to consider yourself as a central figure in your institution, it is now. Instructional designers have been called upon to assist and play a vital role in supporting faculty in teaching remotely. There are a few strategies that can be used to navigate various organizational cultures.

More than ever, instructional designers are central figures for institutional teaching and learning goals.

#1 Ensure that you locate a faculty member who is an advocate for online teaching and learning. Once you do so, make every effort to build a healthy relationship. This will create a way for you to provide needed instructional guidance. Once you find this online champion, you will have access to others who may be interested. Remember, any cultural shift will take time.

#2 I would also recommend that you use the online Faculty Development Decision Guide (FDDG) to assess your organizational needs. Doing so will also provide you with a pathway for developing initiatives for supporting faculty.

#3 Since you have also taught online and have developed various courses, it will be necessary to model/show faculty members the endless possibilities of online teaching and learning. The most significant way to show your skills will be to demonstrate them in practice.

#4 Finally, I would also recommend that you start a series of communication with your faculty members. Your conversation could focus on current practices and research in online teaching and learning, tools, and technologies used in online learning and teaching, and your research. Importantly, I recommend that you consider hosting some informal sessions. These sessions could take the form of one-to-one meetings or group meetings. Your ultimate aim is to build rapport with faculty. Doing so will require time, understanding, support, engagement, and effective communication.

I’m sure there are many more tips that others in the community have found useful. What strategies do you use for effectively engaging faculty in the online course design process – especially during such challenging times as we are currently facing? Please share your thoughts with our TOPkit community on LinkedIn!

Mergers & Acquisitions: Models of Curriculum Design Review (Issue 18)

Author(s): Sue Bauer, Trudian Trail-Constant

Editor: Dr. Denise Lowe


I’m an Instructional Designer at a R1 university where our teaching and learning center has recently merged with our Academic Technologies team. As part of this process, I’ve been asked to lead a curriculum review of all the workshops, institutes, and training we offer to our teaching community (this includes faculty, graduate students and post-docs). This is a large task that involves reflecting on what competencies we want them to have, and where there is  overlap or gaps in our offerings. One of the attributes we want to assess is modality and where it might make sense to increase our offerings either fully online or blended. My questions are:

  • What suggestions or recommendations do you have for designing online faculty development courses? Are there specific examples where a self-paced, fully online facilitated or blended might be the best choice?
  • What approaches have others taken to broadly reviewing all their offerings and going through the process of curriculum mapping?


Lost in Translation

Dear Lost in Translation,

Merging your teaching and learning center with your academic technologies team sounds like an exciting but daunting process. I hope the consolidation of the teams improves the progress toward your common goals as the teams learn to communicate in each other’s design language. As you mentioned, this is a critical time to review your faculty development offerings to ensure your curriculum design develops the intended learning outcomes free of gaps and superfluous overlaps, and aligns across all offerings.

As you review the gaps in your curriculum and select the modalities in which to design and deliver new offerings, consider utilizing a faculty development framework. A recent TOPkit Digest described three top faculty development models for planning new or revamping faculty development programs.

Curriculum design review assesses learning outcomes, closes gaps, and aligns training with other programs.

Whichever framework you use to redesign your faculty development program, consider incorporating these three components in your project to strengthen your effectiveness:

  • Survey your stakeholders as early in the redesign process as possible, including your unit personnel, institutional faculty, and even stakeholders external to your institution. This survey will help garner valuable feedback and preferences regarding faculty development in general, your past offerings specifically, and future faculty development offerings. The results of your survey can inform your decisions about modalities, pacing, gaps, etc.
  • Continually align the learning objectives, content, activities, and assessments throughout your redesign. This can help you close gaps and reduce needless overlaps in your offerings and outcomes.
  • Include a timeline in your project planning. This is important for keeping everyone involved in sync and to ensure the redesign actually gets completed. The timeline should include:
    • Tasks to be completed
    • The expected duration of each task
    • The date on which each task needs to be complete
    • Dependencies between tasks

Another resource you may find useful is the Faculty Development Decision Guide (FDDG), an interactive tool designed to allow institutions to evaluate their online faculty development needs, create a plan of action for their own online faculty development program, and have access to resources that will support faculty development. This tool is based on the Quality Transformation Model for Faculty Development (QTMFD).

Whatever the outcome, I hope your unit will share lessons learned and recommendations when your process is complete and your newly formed unit is in operation and progressing toward its objectives.

I’m sure there are many more tips that others in the community have found useful. What strategies do you use for effectively engaging faculty in the online course design process? Please share your thoughts with our TOPkit community on LinkedIn!