“Every time you take a course into the online environment, you have to change your pedagogy to a certain extent.”
Suzan Brinker spoke with Mike Lampe, EdD, about his journey into higher ed, his strategic priorities as a Senior Instructional Designer at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and his vision for the future of online learning.
Suzan: How did you get into higher education and why did you choose to focus on instructional design?
Mike: When I graduated from St. Norbert College in 2010, our Dean of Students at the time steered me towards Student Affairs. I went to Marquette University for my Master’s thinking that’s what I was going to focus on. But then I got hired at the University of South Carolina and they needed a cross-college advisor, so I did that. In that role, I helped transfer students figure out what courses they needed to take. From there, I worked with someone at USC as part of a grant project which focused on increasing retention by implementing active learning pedagogy, and that started my journey in instructional design.
Suzan: How did you make your way from there to Colorado?
Mike: My fiance is from Colorado, so we decided to go back here. I started at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy as a result of that, which has been my first gig in medical education. And there is a huge focus here on continuing ed and distance ed.
Suzan: What matters most to you as an instructional designer?
Mike: There is a big difference between a student getting every answer right on a quiz and a student actually being able to apply the concepts in real life. It’s not enough to just put your curriculum on Canvas or another LMS. Every time you take a course in the online environment, you have to change your pedagogy to a certain extent.
Suzan: What have been some of the most effective ways you’ve seen a program engage students in online courses?
Mike: First of all, students need to understand where they are and what it means to belong to that campus community. So as a marketer, you want to make sure your instructional design team is branding the heck out of your learning management system. You also want to make sure you offer a student orientation that can be accessed from anywhere at any time. Many institutions still invest a lot of money into in-person orientations which are not accessible to online students. An orientation should provide students with a sense of belonging and also highlight all the resources students have at their disposal to succeed.
Suzan: In a higher ed world with often little differentiation between institutions and programs, how can instructional design help create unique value propositions? How can higher ed marketers create compelling messaging around instructional design?
Mike: We’ve confined learning to the four walls of a classroom or whatever is in the LMS. Online learning should be rooted in a constructivist framework, which views learning as a social construct. What does experiential learning online mean? And how can we be community-focused in addition to career-focused? Programs that root their instructional design in the value of community will create better learning, retention, and student success.
Suzan: What is your vision for the future of higher education?
Mike: I’d like to see more institutions and programs try out personalized or adaptive learning. A lot of places are hesitant because the technology is so new. But in the end, if a student answers 100% of an initial assessment correctly, should we be making them take all of the courses that everyone else is taking? Or should we help them with more personalized content?
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