Conference Takeaway: What is an Instructional Designer?

At the Emerging Learning Design conference I attended last week, one session on “Digital Pedagogies” that attempted to grasp what exactly defines “instructional designer” in this day and age. The room was filled with all sorts, academic/instructional technologists, faculty members, those calling themselves instructional designers, and administrators.

Through discussion, the group came up with quite a bit, and it is more varied than you might think. First and foremost, an instructional designer (ID) is a guide and facilitator/collaborator with faculty. Depending on expertise, this person could also be a course designer, project manager, coach/trainer, researcher, and all-in-all innovator. Other descriptors used included explorers, participants, creators, and community builders (ethics, netiquette). Historically, instructional designers often employed design models and theory in their projects with faculty, often developing new courses, degree programs, or redesigning existing courses. Today’s ID is often titled as an instructional technologist, as instructional designers commonly employ technology in their solutions and designs. The key to being an excellent ID is having enough information from the instructor (subject matter expert) to determine whether technology is beneficial or necessary.

The conference session focused on several case studies, including the design of a course on social entrepreneurship (basic concepts of web identity, pros/cons/best practices for social media and security, etc.) and the fascinating concept of being a templated self (forcing ourselves into online templates like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). The outcome of the case study was one of the importance of communication between instructor and ID, as the work put into the project by the ID was not what the instructor had intended.

In another case study, the interest in implementing “Domains of One’s Own” concept where all students get their own domain name and create their own web identity was the focus (Seton Hall). Our in-state colleagues at Mary Washington pioneered the idea, and it has attracted a lot of attention across the country. Getting buy-in from SGA, faculty/administration, and figuring out curriculum integration in general education was challenging. Time was the primary obstacle (students/faculty needed to learn WordPress, what domain names were and how they are managed, etc.).

One interesting conversation emerged on the topic of “digital fluency” encroaching on “information literacy” that librarians focus on. The discussion seemed to point to the increasing use of technology in librarian’s instruction and programming of information literacy, but most felt that digital fluency that is often a focus of instructional technologists does not encroach on the good work and information provided by librarians. In many cases, it seems a collaboration between librarians and IDs has proven beneficial in ensuring students and faculty develop solid foundations in both info literacy and digital fluency.

Near the end of the session, a question was posed to the group as part of a design thinking activity: should faculty reach out to an ID or should IDs reach out to faculty. While one participant indicated faculty don’t appreciate being chased down, many faculty in the audience voiced up and felt that the ID should kick off the conversation and reach out to faculty. Further, departments need to make the IDs know that they are planning to retool curriculum, or other pedagogical efforts where an ID or instructional technologist would be beneficial.

VR News and Notes

VR News and Notes

CTLT science liaison, Andrew Bell, leads the Center’s efforts in evaluating virtual and augmented reality technologies for teaching, learning and research at UR. Thanks to Andrew’s efforts, there is now a community of practice which includes interested individuals on campus eager to learn more about these emerging technologies. If you’re interested in joining the community, just e-mail Andrew. Latest VR@UR news:

  • Andrew has created an online VR@UR Newsletter that covers the developing landscape and culture surrounding VR/AR technologies. Check it monthly!
  • We have scheduled two VR Open Houses on Feb. 9th & 23rd 1-4pm. Come to our VR-HTC Vive portal in Jepson (next to the C&P lounge) to travel the world with Google Earth VR, paint a virtual masterpiece in Tilt-brush, or navigate through The Body in VR.
  • Register for a Pizza and Pedagogy that focuses on faculty/student discussion about their using VR technologies in the classroom and student research here at UR.
  • Request a demo or project using our VR technologies by sending e-mail to Andrew Bell.

VR Open House

Come join us!

The CTLT will be hosting a Virtual Reality Open House in the Jepson C&P room on February 9th and 23rd from 1-4 pm. All on campus (faculty, staff, & students!) interested in virtual or augmented reality are invited!

During this open house you’ll have the chance to interact with new VR technology that uses positional tracking (which basically means it knows where you are in space) to mimic your movements in the virtual world. Our positional tracking device is called the HTC Vive and using it really gives you a sense of how powerful VR can be.

We in the CTLT believe in exploring emerging technologies that can create new educational opportunities.  Positional tracking VR has the potential to pave many new avenues in learning and research here on campus. To help guide your journey, we’ve outlined a few different experiences to choose from.

Amulette (cinematic / storytelling)


  • Described as the first VR masterpiece, this animated tale gives you a taste of how virtual reality creates new storytelling challenges and opportunities.

Destinations (presence / social)


  • A promise of VR has always been to take you places you’ve never been. Destinations and are apps that push the envelop of imaging technology to take you to far off places and allow you to experience medieval churches or mountaintops from the comfort of Jepson Hall.
  • Destinations

Tilt Brush (Content Creation)


  • Technological advancements are so important to the educational landscape because they create new opportunities that were never before possible, opening new avenues for educations to guide their students down. Tilt Brush is an app that creates a completely new opportunity: to create in virtual space. You can create paintings, sketches, buildings, even volcanos and then walk around and interact with them.
  • Tilt Brush

Ping Pong (task simulation)


  • What’s the difference between a virtual experience and a real experience? As virtual experiences become more prevalent we must ask ourselves whats the difference between virtual and actual reality? Experience what virtual reality ping pong has to offer?
  • Paddle Up

The Lab (gaming: bow and arrow)


  • Let’s be honest, most content available on VR are games. This is probably one of the most fun. Protect your castle from stickman in this fantastic game from Valve.
  • The Lab

Engage (virtual classroom)


  • Have you ever been frustrated with the laws of nature when teaching in the classroom? Have you wanted to show a microscopic structure with your hands or demonstrate a dangerous interaction for your students? With virtual reality, there is potential to engage with your students in new ways. Just as a fair warning – this app is early in development but will give you a glimpse into the direction the field is going.

Hope to see you at the open house!

CTLT brings Audrey Watters to UR

CTLT brings Audrey Watters to UR

The CTLT was thrilled to welcome ed tech researcher/scholar/writer Audrey Watters to UR on Thursday, Feb. 2 for a day of discussion, public lecture with Q&A and reflection on topics and concerns related to data collection and education technology under a Trump administration. You can access Audrey’s lecture text on her Hack Education website.

The day started with a discussion group involving staff from UR, and we were excited to have attendees from Virginia Commonwealth University, Mary Washington University and Randolph Macon College as well. The discussion involved an exercise of identifying all the methods, tools, etc. that a university uses that collects data on students and employees. The list was quite staggering. Audrey challenged the group to ask the question “Why?” with regards to reasoning on why we collect such data, and why we keep it for so long (in some cases, indefinitely). Many left the discussion with wheels turning (a good thing)! A lunch discussion with Audrey and students followed, which engaged the questions concerning how much students actually know about what data is collected on them and what is done with it. Audrey’s lecture in the afternoon was steeped in the history of data collection, with an eery look back at IBM’s involvement with Hitler’s regime and its data collection practices. We finished the day with a faculty discussion with Audrey on similar topics and concluded the day with a nice reception.

Many thanks go to our social sciences liaison Ryan Brazell, who originally suggested Audrey’s visit to UR, and who also facilitated the day’s group discussions and lecture Q&A. Thanks also to U’s Catering and Events departments for their help in making the day a success!

MacOS Sierra and Panopto

MacOS Sierra and Panopto

If you’re attempting to use Panopto for Mac that is running MacOS Sierra 10.12 (latest operating system that UR has not cleared for use on supported computers, as of this posting) and you have “Keynote Capture” checked, recordings will not successfully upload.

Solution? iInstall the latest release of Panopto for Mac (v5.3.0), which is now available for download (Panopto should prompt you if you have an older version). For any questions about this update, contact Panopto Support online at, or via phone at 855-PANOPTO (855-726-6786)…or reach out to your CTLT liaison.