Instructional Design Specialist
8 years at Carolina
What does a typical day look like in your job?
I’m an instructional consultant at the Center for Faculty Excellence, which is a University service unit that helps support faculty, instructors and the campus community in teaching, learning, leadership development and research development. I am part of the teaching and learning team, which is a subgroup that works closely with the folks who are doing leadership research.
I focus mostly on issues of course design, which refers to the learning objectives that people have for their courses and trying to express them clearly in a way that is helpful for them as a planning tool. This can look like helping instructors decide upon particular kinds of assignments and expectations that they might structure around those learning objectives. For example, some instructors have found that in the process of course design, they are able to eliminate things that students might see as busywork and are able to be more intentional about the kinds of activities and experiences that they are creating for students.
A lot of the “invisible work” that happens is going in to revise materials that live online or giving feedback on drafts of documents that have been circulated by colleagues in other units across campus. There is also a lot of planning and developing materials for workshops, especially at the beginning of the semester. One thing that is characteristic of the center’s work in this area is always tapping into what an individual instructor perceives as their strengths, the things they are most proud of and their ambitions or goals. This way, the course ends up feeling more like an authentic representation of who that individual is as a teacher and the unique things that they are bringing to this particular experience with their students.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of this job and working at Carolina have been the opportunities to work across job classification in a lot of respects. Having relationships that span faculty and staff in the service of work that we’re doing for students is a really rewarding aspect of my job.
How do you maintain a sense of community with your colleagues?
We’ve been working from home, so we’ve used Microsoft Teams and Zoom a lot. We’ve also been able to work with folks from other units via Teams, which has allowed our conversations to be more enriching. I think that has been one really interesting and nice benefit of facing such a collective crisis together. We’ve been able to form connections or enrich connections that have always been there.
How have you been staying healthy during this time?
The biggest shift has been developing new routines to maintain both physical and mental health. I think those of us who are working fully remotely are definitely missing the incidental sort of physical activity and moving around campus, which has had to be replaced with intentionally getting up to go spend some time outside in the sunshine. From a mental health perspective, I’ve also had to develop some new routines to process feelings and cultivate some new strategies for interacting with the world. I’ve had to learn how to be able to acknowledge whatever I’m feeling and continue to do work in a compassionate and empathetic way, while also recognizing how hard this is and how different it is from what work was like in the “before times.”
How are you continuing to uphold Carolina’s mission in your work?
In thinking more broadly of the public nature of this institution, we have tried to have an open and inclusive audience for the kinds of resources we offer. My team has focused a lot on building community and career development within the strategic pillars of Carolina Next. We’ve been really leaning into that and trying to create spaces where people have an opportunity to interact with colleagues that they may not have otherwise reached out to. We’re able to invite our campus community in and develop resources to share with not only campus, but with the public. For example, one of the most impactful programs I’ve been connected to is our Course Design Institute, which started in 2017. This program emerged from an area of unmet need for faculty when developing their courses, which I think is the reason it has been so sustainable. It allows faculty to get to know one another while also cultivating their courses.
Additionally, much of the one-on-one work done at the Center is held in confidence. Creating a space that is nonjudgmental allows us all to let down some of the guards we might have up when we are interacting with other colleagues. We’re trying to help folks develop themselves in ways that are meaningful to them or that are most salient to them in a career development kind of way, in addition to teaching and learning. It creates a space for people to really explore what it means to be a faculty member, particularly one here at Carolina.