Association for online course design seeks to link professionals in new field

Media Credit: Camille Ramasastry | Hatchet Photographer

Camille Funk, the director of GW's eDesign Shop, launched the Higher Education Design Association for schools to work together to improve online courses.

The director of one of GW’s online learning programs wants to coordinate with online course designers in universities across the nation.

Camille Funk, the director of GW’s eDesign Shop, launched the Higher Education eDesign Association this summer to support and enhance online course design. The association, which is the first national organization that brings together online learning designers, has since attracted 84 members from 29 universities, like Johns Hopkins and Brown universities, and leaders plan to offer a place where designers can write and publish research projects on their work on online courses.

Funk said she created the association because she wanted to connect with people who do the same work as she does. Online course design, including courses that students take for credit and ones that are offered for free worldwide, has only become popular in recent years, as colleges across the country expand their online learning options.

“Within the conferences that we’ve attended throughout the years, I’ve rarely sat by somebody who does the same thing I do at another university,” Funk said. “The one or two times I did, I grasped onto those people because of the conversations we’re having right now.”

GW offers more than 100 online certificate degree programs in several areas including nursing, business, education and public relations. The head of online learning, Paul Schiff Berman, announced last month he will leave his post to return full time to the GW Law School after spending two years guiding GW through developing new online learning programs.

Funk said she was also interested in organizing conferences for online course designers across the nation. She said she believes that online learning experts in higher education needed a community separate from experts in business and government to improve their skills.

Funk initially funded the association primarily out of her own pocket, and the organization is not associated with the University. But staffers in GW’s eDesign Shop’s and in the School of Nursing’s instructional design team have joined the group.

“We’ve got people from private universities and state-funded universities,” Funk said. “We just keep growing. It’s fun to start collaborating with these universities.”

Tom Kelly, an instructional designer at the eDesign Shop, said he does his best work when he’s inspired by another designer’s course.

“It’ll help to inform my work and my day-to-day here at the eDesign Shop,” Kelly said. “That’s how most our ideas are generated, finding a cool course online, taking a piece of it, and trying to apply it to one of our courses. That kind of sharing is better facilitated when you have a large network of people.”

Kelly said the research aspect of the association is most attractive, because sharing ideas with other designers will lead to quality products.

“We’re constantly trying new and creative approaches to making online learning more effective,” Kelly said. “And I think what really drives that is good, sound research and assessment of courses.”

Brian Starr, the association’s co-founder and director of business of operations, said publishing research and offering certification through the group are long-term projects that will take time to prepare.

“That’s much further along than what we’re thinking right now,” Starr said. “Right now that’s one of our longer term goals that we won’t be able to really develop until we have a lot of the research done.”

For now, the association is focused on giving previously unconnected instructors a chance to network with each other, Starr said.

“There are people who do instructional design within different universities, but a lot of them don’t really know each other,” Starr said. “One of the great things is that once you join HEeD, you get put in our directory, and you can see different people from different schools and what they do.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.