The i4 Blog

Higher Education – Just How High Is It?

empty lecture hall with wooden chairs

Some people argue that the nature and purpose of education is to gain a broad range of knowledge. Unfortunately, higher education programs and courses are often afflicted with the myopia of knowledge, or even just brief encounters with it, above everything else. I don’t think knowledge alone represents the true heights of “higher education.”

Encouraging Non-Native English Speakers in the Classroom

Three students, one with hand raised.

International students are a vital part of the community at American universities. There are innumerable benefits to this intercultural exchange, but for students to have the best experience, instructors need to be prepared to address certain language-related challenges. 

An Instructional Design Primer

close-up image of hands holding a map

Much has been written in this forum about instructional design; however, for some followers, the primary concepts and principles of instructional design may yet be relatively new. The goal of this post is to provide a little history and a few highlights about the practice of instructional design with an emphasis on higher education.  

The Secret to Successful Projects (Hint: It’s the People)

The secret to successful projects are the people. More specifically, finding the right people. We take a dive into how to find the right people for the right projects.

Introducing the Learning Lounge Podcast

Learning Lounge Podcast logo

At Franklin University’s International Institute for Innovative Instruction, we design and develop learning experiences for students and clients all over the world.

Why is it Difficult to Measure the ROI of a Training Program?

DIY scale showing balance of investment vs. ROI, weighted in favor of ROI

Many organizations spend a lot of money to provide training programs to improve their performance in today’s competitive environment. Since investment in training programs has been increasing, upper management wants to justify the actual costs and benefits of training programs for their various stakeholders.

Why Study Human Performance Technology?

A group of people forming an upward arrow

In this blog post and accompanying video, Dr. Joel Gardner explains his perspective on why Human Performance Technology (HPT) is critical for learning professionals, including instructional designers.

Baby Steps Toward Sleep: Using Instructional Design in Everyday Life

As a mom to a little girl who will be turning one shortly, I’ve realized that I’ve quite suddenly become a teacher of basic life skills for her – how to eat, how to go to sleep, how to walk, etc. I started considering applying instructional design to my teaching strategy, especially the concept of “chunking” learning.

That’s What Friends are For

two men in professional attire sitting on a ledge

As adults, friends are just as important to our health and well-being as they were when we were children. Not only in our personal lives, but also in our work lives, friendships are vital. When we take the time to invest in people at work, we reap dividends—personally and in the quality of our work.

Training for HLC Peer Reviews

people sitting in a lecture hall

In this article, I would like to share my experiences from the HLC (Higher Learning Commission) Peer Review training that I completed in October 2017.

Helping Students Become Better Writers Inside and Outside of Tutoring Appointments

group of students studying together at a table

Writing tutors provide invaluable resources to students, but writing help can come from all levels of student support on campus, not just in tutoring appointments. 

Quantifying Creativity: A Left-Brain Approach to Learning Objectives

Lately I have been thinking more about how to present and explain, in a different way, something that is very close to my instructional designer heart—the process of writing learning objectives (a subject about which I have written a couple of times in this blog).

Teaching Abroad: Ensuring a Good Opportunity is Really GREAT!

With increased globalization, more colleges and universities are establishing faculty exchanges, study abroad programs, collaborative research efforts, and technical assistance programs with counterparts overseas.

Tips for Effective Collaboration with Subject Matter Experts

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are critical members of any course design team. The question is: how can you, as the designer, best partner with the SME to create an effective learning experience for students?

How Much Work to Assign in our Courses?

A pile of vintage clocks

No matter what type of course we are designing, we have to keep in mind how much time we are expecting learners to spend. When thinking about time expectations, there are a number of things to consider, beginning with the expectation set by those who are asking for the course or training module.

De-Stressing at Work

woman wearing headphones, looking out window

As a member of a high-performing, deadline-driven team, it is important to manage everyday workplace stress as well as develop strategies to increase concentration. There are many ways to de-stress...

Graduate Assistant Experience at the Institute - An Interview with Amie Tope

Dr. Yi Yang and Amie Tope at graduation

During this interview, Amie talks about her experience working as a graduate assistant for the International Institute for Innovative Instruction (the Institute), and offers suggestions for future graduate assistants.  

Bridging Learners and Clients: Challenges and Strategies

silhouette of people walking over a rope bridge

Integrating clients into the curriculum is promising and potentially innovative.  A client-based course emphasizes a pedagogical orientation to gain real-word experience through meeting the “expressed needs” from the outside of the classroom.

Interactive Textbooks: What the Future Holds

Many educational publishing companies are creating digital textbooks, and like their traditional print counterparts, e-texts can be expensive. The common complaint about commercial textbooks is their high cost. That’s the perception, anyway, but what’s the reality?

Do You Apply Learning Theories to Your Online Course?

White puzzle pieces create the silhouette of a man's head.

Technology is a tool for instruction. However, whether or not we use technology in instruction, sound learning theories such as constructivism and Vygotsky’s social cognition should be embedded in online learning to facilitate effective learning and teaching.

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Getting Stuff Done

Image of a roller coaster with a large hand that reads "project management" placing the last piece of track

Every day you look at that pile of work on your desk or the 500 emails that you need to respond to and you wonder how you’ll get through it. When you look at the totality of the things you need to accomplish it can sometimes feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

What International Teaching Has Taught Me About Instructional Design

Dr. Hyatt standing next to a Chinese lion sculpture in Beijing, China

Since 2010, I have visited Kosovo, Croatia, China, and the United Arab Emirates multiple times for the sole mission of teaching executive-style, graduate-level classes. These experiences have made me a better faculty member, but more importantly, they have made me a better instructional designer and leader of instructional design projects.

The Workflow of Workflow

A long-exposure shot of a road with cars traveling in both directions.

Have you ever heard the Lewis Carroll quote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”? While it is true that not all who wander are lost, you shouldn’t completely forgo solid plans. Where do you start, though? With a cheat sheet, of course!

Applying Project Management Strategies in a Large Curriculum Conversion Project in Higher Education

A word cloud in the shape of a lightbulb. The largest word is ideas, and smaller words include goal, solution, and strategy, to name a few.

Members of the i4 team share their experiences working with organizational culture, collaborating with busy faculty, and hiring part-time designers and content experts. Finally, they share their best practices for managing and leading large, multi-course instructional design projects.

Mind Maps Allow Our Students to Paint a Picture!

woman with thoughtful expression and mind map illustration above her head

In our classrooms today, one way we can visually display information and paint a picture is by using mind maps (also called concept maps).

Five Challenges for New Online Instructors

A boot camp for new online instructors focused on five challenges related to way-finding or transitioning to online teaching, building spaces for learning, preparing students for the work of online learning, managing the classroom, and assessing learner outcomes.

A boot camp for new online instructors focused on five challenges related to way-finding or transitioning to online teaching, building spaces for learning, preparing students for the work of online learning, managing the classroom, and assessing learner outcomes.

Using Focus Groups for Assessment, Evaluation, and Improvement

People viewing a wall of photographs of a diversity of people.

In higher education settings, focus groups can be used for assessing institutional level initiatives as well as course- and program-level experiences for students.

Learner Responsibility: Questions and Implications

Image of building scaffolding

When is it the student's responsibility to know where certain kinds of information is found within a course and when is it the designer's responsibility to create learning objects to convey this information?

My Reflections on the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) 2017 International Convention

A promotional poster for the AECT 2017 conference, whose theme was "Leading Learning for Change."

With close to 400 concurrent sessions, several workshops, and more than 1,000 attendees, the 2017 AECT conference was beaming and brimming with excitement and an aura of freshness as attendees imbibed from pots of research, best practices, and experiences of speakers and peers both in sessions and during breaks. Looking around, I could easily tell that the 2017 conference was a host to more than 4,000 years of combined professional experience. Just ruminate on that for a moment. Yes, you read it right: more than 4,000 years of combined professional experience. What learning problems can such a group not solve?   

O Designer, Look in the Mirror

A laptop held in front of a mirror, whose reflection shows a soup can labeled "Good Ole Designer's Boredom" on top.

We must continuously call ourselves out if we let deadlines or factors other than good instruction drive our design. If we start out by putting ourselves in the position of the learner by asking whether we would like to take the course we are creating, we will do much to improve our work.

Looking Back, Looking Forward: Instructional Design Reflections

Car mirror looking back on mountains

Franklin University graduate student Amie Tope is preparing to enter the instructional design field in early 2018. Dr. Rob Wood has been practicing instructional design since 1988 and serves as a faculty member at Franklin University. Amie and Rob recently sat down for an informal, collegial discussion to talk about their perspectives.

Clients as an Instructional Resource

man and woman in business attire meeting outside a cafe

Higher education is under pressure to change from both within and outside (Christensen & Eyring, 2011). One such pressure is from future employers. According to the survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education (Supiano, 2013), most employers significantly value students’ authentic experience over their classroom activities or grades.

Human Resource Development for Learning and Performance Improvement

Having studied Human Resource Development (HRD) in my Ph.D. program, I have received many questions from students, colleagues, and others about what HRD is. Therefore, this post briefly discusses the definition and functions of HRD as they relate to the role of an instructional design leader.

7 Skills of Knowledge Work

In the center of the image is a circle with the words "Knowledge Work" inside of it. There are 7 boxes, each with arrows pointing towards the center circle. Each box has a different label. These labels are as follows: thinking skills, communication, teamwork & leadership, lifelong learning/self-direction, technology use, ethics and professionalism, and personal management.

Because I work in the field of education, specifically instructional design, I am constantly thinking about what knowledge and skills our students need to grasp to be successful in their knowledge work. What do they really need to know?

Why Should You Use an Introductions Activity in Every Course?

five students fist-bumping at a study session, with snacks and homework on a table

Introductions and icebreakers are very popular activates but they are also dreaded by participants (and leaders). But most icebreakers require some type of physical interaction (e.g., grouping, lines, circles, physical characteristics). How do we make these activities correlate to the online classroom (or meeting)?

Everyone Needs an Editor

builder with blueprints jumping for joy in front of house

Walt Disney once said, “Everyone needs deadlines.” That statement may seem straightforward enough, but it’s important to note that the entertainment legend was referring not merely to arbitrary dates on a calendar.

How to Select an Instructional Design Master’s Program – List #1

goal chart with arrows listing degrees and corresponding career paths

Instructional design jobs are continuously becoming more in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by the year 2022, jobs in instructional design are expected to increase by 15 percent. Most of these positions either require or prefer a master’s degree.

Assessment of and for Student Learning and Success: Who Cares?!

a stack of various measuring sticks

A couple of months ago I came across a Chronicle of Higher Education article titled “Does Assessment Make Colleges Better? Who Knows?” The gist of the article is that virtually nobody, even those in higher education; truly cares about an institution’s assessment in making informed decisions about quality of institutions...

What Reflection Teaches Us

Photo of a mountains reflecting in a lake.

If we're all leaders in our own roles, what can we do to help ensure we're doing it well? One proven way is intentional reflection and listening to our inner voices.

5 Tips for Cultivating Engaged Students

greenhouse tray with seedlings

Most of our students are working adults, so I can commiserate with them on what a marathon it is to attend class after working all day! So, what can we do to keep our tired and harried students engaged?

Assessment as an Agent for Change

Scantron test with pencil

I recently attended two assessment-related conferences where I served as a panelist. In spite of the many differences, I felt that a common challenge was being addressed, either explicitly or implicitly: how to make assessment meaningful and rewarding.

A Non-Traditional Journey to Instructional Design: An Interview with Roberta Niche

A road winding through a hilly landscape.

Roberta Niche is someone who has peace with herself—living what she must be, happy all the days of her life. Her 25 years of experience in K–12 classroom teaching and staff development has led her to an instructional design faculty position with the International Institute for Innovative Instruction. In this post, we discover Roberta's non-traditional journey to becoming involved in Instructional Design.

Cognitive Load Theory: Helping Students' Learning Systems Function More Efficiently

Cognitive load is the amount of working memory being used, like the RAM in your computer, only for the human brain. When memory usage on your computer is high, the system starts to slow down; it doesn’t function as efficiently. The same thing happens with learning. When the cognitive load is high, learning is less efficient.

Life is Like a Box of...Projects

A box of chocolates

I recently found myself watching Forrest Gump on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I have seen this movie probably 10 times and I always struggle with Forrest’s famous quote “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”  I always tell Forrest to just look at the paper insert in the box that identifies what is contained in each chocolate…but he never listens.

Why Your Course Needs an Editor

manuscript with glasses and fountain pen

Instructional design is definitely an iterative process; we design courses, get feedback, make adjustments to the course, etc. But who is reviewing our courses and providing us with feedback?

Critical Reflection is More than Just Looking in a Mirror

magic mirror on orange wall

Looking in a mirror (and most of us don’t have a magic mirror!) provides us only with a surface reflection of how we look – not who we are or what we’ve learned.

Caring for Lawns and University Courses: Fixing Common Problems with Deliberate Treatments for Good Growth

two-story house with lawn

It is springtime and that means lawns are growing. What do you do to help your lawn along in the spring?

3 Key Principles for Increasing Self-Confidence & Engagement in Online Developmental Math Courses

Most students who enter colleges need basic math skills to succeed in college-level mathematics. Therefore, most colleges provide “a sequence of developmental mathematics courses that starts with basic arithmetic, then goes on to pre-algebra, elementary algebra, and finally ...

3 Top Leadership Competencies for Instructional Designers


A successful instructional designer not only needs to be excelling in design and development, but also needs to be a leader, a change agent, and a strategist. 

Begging the Question: Strategies to Increase Student Performance

albert einstein

If you’re an instructional designer or an instructor, you undoubtedly know a lot about questions. You know that simple yes-no questions are often a dead end and that open-ended questions generally make for ....

E-Textbooks: Making Course Resources More Accessible and Affordable

percent change e-books

The affordability of, and accessibility to, lower cost course resources such as textbooks and supplementary materials in higher education is a growing concern in the United States. 

Let’s Get Real about Learning

Let’s Get Real about Learning

The primary reason instructors are interested in integrating real world tasks into the classroom stems from a belief that learning that emulates real life is more likely to promote student motivation ...

How to Make Assessment Meaningful

One of the challenges with assessment is answering the “so-what” question.

Change, Ambiguity, and Uncertainty: On Becoming an Expert Instructional Designer

“If you can learn to tolerate change, ambiguity, and uncertainty, you will be successful in this field.” That was the answer my supervisor gave me when I asked him how I could be a really good inst

How to Use Media Effectively in Online Courses

In the online higher education community, course designers are constantly trying to develop courses that reach beyond the learner simply staring at a static screen.

Online Experiential Learning: Bringing the Courtroom to the Classroom

Experiential learning (EL) is the “process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Corbett, 2005, p. 479). As Kolb (1984) posited, individuals learn through experience, reflection, thought, and experimentation.

The Difference Between Instructional Design, Instructional Technology, and Instructional Science

What is the difference between instructional design, and instructional technology, and instructional science?

9 Tips for Planning to Teach Online

Whether you are teaching in the classroom or online, planning is a key component to your success. But teaching online can present some unique challenges and opportunities, and good planning is critical to a successful learning environment for your students.

Learning Styles: The Ugly Christmas Sweaters of Education

When Christmastime comes, there are often ugly Christmas sweater parties. It’s fun to see who sports the ugliest sweater and everyone has a good laugh. However, would you ...

Emotional Intelligence and Instructional Design Leadership

Emotional Intelligence and Instructional Design Leadership

Emotional Intelligence may be described as the “ability to reason about emotions” (Salovey & Mayer, 1997). Although psychologists Salovey and Mayer (1997) developed the concept ...

How to Develop Yourself as a Learning Professional

How to Develop Yourself as a Learning Professional

The world is constantly changing and, as a learning professional, your role is constantly evolving. To remain relevant and have a positive impact in your profession ...

Paradox of Social Presence in Online Learning in the Age of Social Media

How often do you think of social presence (a feeling of being there and connected with others in a computer mediated communication) when designing and/or delivering your ...

How Do Students Respond to Microlearning?

Microlearning is a way of teaching and delivering content to learners in small, very specific bursts. The learners are in control of what and when they’re learning.

Preparing future instructional design leaders through an applied doctoral program: the DPS in Instructional Design Leadership

Over the past decade, the demand for professional practitioner-oriented doctoral education has grown rapidly. Groups ranging from the Carnegie Foundation to the Higher Learning Commission say that universities ...

Curriculum Design Framework in Digital Age – Revisit the Tyler Model

Most organizations are using a learning management system. The adoption of this technology, along with nonstop technological changes and updates, has significantly altered curriculum development.

Improve Your Doctoral-Level Teaching with Post-Doctoral Seminars

The Franklin University International Institute for Innovative Instruction and the office of Teaching Effectiveness has developed a series of courses for faculty members who will ...

Five Steps to a Successful Class Start!

A good start is critical to a successful class.

Coping with the Complexity of Learning Analysis

Coping with the Complexity of Learning Analysis

Educators have a lot of data at their disposal: student grades, demographics, communications, course surveys, and learning analytics. And while all this information can seem overwhelming at times,

How to Create Awesome PowerPoint Presentations

Everyone who is asked to give a presentation must then ask themselves whether they should use a program to enhance their presentation. The presentation program that we are all probably most familiar ...

How should universities keep highly qualified staff?

Faculty development is a hot topic for most universities right now. We create training opportunities and send faculty to conferences and workshops. But what about university staff?

Let’s Look Back: Why We Failed Online Learning in the Early 2000s

Online learning is not a new concept anymore, and many organizations in the United States have increased to implement online learning over decades.  However, I recently realized that ...

How Peer Review and Peer Grading Can Inspire Knowledge Building in the Classroom

Citing von Glaserfeld (1995), Brill and Hodges (2011) suggested that peer reviews were conducive for knowledge building among learners through shared experiences. Drawing on their own practices in teaching ...

Same Rules, New Tools

Hall Leadership Lessons – March 10th, 2016 featured Dr. JoAnna Williamson, Chair of the Department of Management and Marketing and Program Chair of the Master of Science in Marketing & Communication in the Ross College of Business ...

From Knowledge Sharing to Knowledge Building

Our society is changing rapidly and innovation is becoming more recognized as a key factor for a competitive advantage. In order to prepare our students for success in innovation, it is necessary to re-examine our conventional ...

Tips for Writing Measurable Learning Outcomes

“Upon completion of this unit, the learner will appreciate the significance of…” something, something. Or, the learner will “be able to demonstrate an understanding” of something or other. I cringe inside when ...

Teaching and Learning: A Philosophy of Education

Recently I designed a course for the teaching effectiveness area of Franklin University’s International Institute for Innovative Instruction.

Use Class Activities to Create a Climate for Active Learning!

Activities can be conducted on the first day of class (or first session in an online class) that will engage students and promote active learning. The activities can be used to model the desired ...

Creative Design: Asking “What is it Like” and “Who Cares?”

How do we put creativity into academic courses without getting irrelevant or distracting? Creative design is somewhat of a holy grail in many industries, and this is certainly true in the area of teaching and learning. As designers and consumers of instruction, we seek creativity.

Modeling: Online Students Need Demonstrations, Too

From birth we look to others for our models of behavior; we seek cues from friends and family on what to do and say. Parents play a particularly significant role in the learning that happens in society because of the modeling they provide. Other significant roles with regard to learning in society are those of instructor and even instructional designer. We model and point out models for our students to emulate.

Practice: An Essential Supporting Cast Member of Outcomes-Based Instruction

In our work of creating excellent instruction, several principles come into play, those of “stars of the show” and a “supporting cast.” I am not talking about the people involved in creating the instruction, but some of the principles of instructional design. So what are our “stars” and “supporting cast?”

Evaluation: The Bright, Illuminating Principle of Teaching and Learning

Anyone in the profession of teaching and learning, including students of instructional design, know that evaluation is an integral part of what we do. They also know that despite its importance, evaluation very often gets ignored and shunned. Why?