Kevin Forgard: Instructional Designer

Spring 2015 Activities

Hello folks!

It has been a productive Spring for me this year. I would like to highlight a couple of bits of my work these past months and plug the upcoming Distance Teaching and Learning Conference taking place August 11-13, 2015 in Madison Wisconsin. I will be presenting a session yet most likely on 8/12 or 8/13.

Syracuse University IDD&E guest speaking for IDE 632

Thanks to Dr. Rob Pusch for inviting me to be a guest speaker for the Instructional Design II course (IDE 632). This is the third time I have done this and each time rather informative. I find that in preparing for the session I am able to reflect on the work I have been doing over the years. It gives me a way to step and and think how I can utilize my experience to inform future colleagues. The session is run in a flipped format with a website that presents some in-depth readings and discussions and the live synchronous session to work on some activities that utilize this information. I am pretty flexible in how students approach the materials, but I try to make it as informative as I can to still engage learners who are not planning on working in higher education.

Here is the link to the session’s support website: Forgard – IDDE – 2015

LTDC Virtual Conference Presentation

On April 10, I presented at the LTDC Virtual Showcase. The entire conference was run through Blackboard Collaborate, with about 15 to 20 attendees per session. With Wisconsin being rather large, it makes sense to run a conference like this remotely. My session titled, “Defining High Quality Asynchronous Discussion Design and Facilitation Practices” focused on some discoveries I made from reviewing some of the recent literature on the topic of online discussions. I uploaded this session to my YouTube channel for those would are interested in watching.

Feel free to post a message in the blog if you have any questions.




Public Authority: The End of Public Higher Education in Wisconsin?

Some excellent insight into the current issues surrounding the future of higher education in the Wisconsin system. What makes this debate interesting from the instructional design perspective is that instructional designers may be asked to implement new efficiencies to save money or be seen as “non-essential” staff. If you work in higher education, you should be paying attention to where this leads.

See also the WISCAPE blog for further information:

Ragman's Circles

By Richard Grusin

In Scott Walker’s first budget in 2011, the one that included the notorious Act 10, which outlawed the formation of, and any substantive bargaining from, public employee unions, there was a proposal to split off UW-Madison from the UW System by making Madison a “public authority.” Back in 2011 plans for this separation of Madison from the UW System went so far that Biddy Martin, then UW-Madison Chancellor, had prepared the text for a new Chapter 37, which would apply only to UW-Madison and would govern it as a public authority that preserved all of the protections for academic freedom, faculty governance, and tenure that are written in to the Wisconsin Statutes. This 2011 proposal would have left the legal status of the rest of the System unchanged under Chapter 36, which lays out the statutory authority (and guidelines) for the University of Wisconsin System, the…

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Educause 2014 – Day One

ByuJ5ZRIYAAcSxHAfter making it to the Educause conference for the first time in my instructional design career, I have to say that I am very impressed by the presentations so far. Although most of the attendees seem to be IT professionals, but I feel that I am among kindred spirits hearing the questions and participating in the discussions surrounding higher education.

Starting the conference off (no pre-conference for me) was a keynote by the Harvard Business School scholar and author, Clay Christensen. I had read his books Disrupting Class and The Innovative University, so I was pretty familiar with his “disruptive innovation” theory. This was important because I felt that to truly understand the point of his presentation, it helped to have “done the reading before class.”

He did not say directly how higher education is changing, but alluded to it by giving examples from other industries such as auto manufacturers and personal computers. For instance, Dell, in selling itself out, had outsourced its business to Acer, who ended up being a competitor.

The question started to stew in me: what components of higher education are being outsourced? It is easy to offload some of our services, but we need to realize the difference between a partner-client and an instructional replacement. The first thing that came to mind was the use of publisher testing/instructional tools such as Pearson’s MyLabs or McGraw Hill’s Connect among others. It is easy to outsource instruction using these tools, but is this just a piece of disruptive innovation that is taking the market share? The point being, in our industry’s need to lower costs, we might be selling ourselves out, leaving nothing but a brand – like with Dell.

At lunch I had a fascinating discussion with a gentleman from Boston University, who leads an instructional design team. He shared a similar type of inquiry, framed with the notion of we need to pay attention to budgets more than ever.

Tying into the MOOC discussion group I attended in the afternoon, which might also be considered a disruptive innovation, I found how our industry is attempting to innovate something that is controlled by the faculty and designers – at least to a point. We are dependent on MOOC development tools to deliver the courses, similar to the LMS, but this is not outsourcing per-se. The development time and effort is still dependent on the institution, not a publisher. What I found interesting about this group was that some saw MOOCs as an easier way into eLearning than the LMS approach. It is because of the low stakes of MOOC. So, does this mean that the eLearning that has taken place is somehow more of an example of education outsourcing than a MOOC?

Let’s see where these ideas take me today at day 2 of Educause 2014.

Who I am and what I do?

I feel that it is important to declare a bit about myself in the hopes of perhaps setting a purpose to this blog, so the comments below may perhaps veer a bit off the path of this blog and help move the message towards the broader scope of who I am and what I do.

Initially, I began blogging as a way to market myself and enhance my instructional design career. After working (post-grad school) as an instructional designer, I am confident enough to state that having and maintaining a blog is not what keeps me marketable. Instead, its the actually work being done – not just writing about the work. After being employed for several years with plenty of prospects, it is more about making the time to write in my blog. This posting might just be an attempt at that.

Currently, I am designing and developing courses for University of Wisconsin Colleges Online. The position has its challenges, but is overall pretty rewarding. I get to work for a 100% online learning institution and use many of the tools it takes to create and delivery an online course. Many others have written about this process and I really don’t have anything to contribute that hasn’t already been said. Nevertheless, my approach involves creating courses that are interactive and engaging and training faculty on how to understand and teach online in interactive and engaging ways.

Later this month I will be attending the Educause 2014 conference, so I expect to pick up a lot of information on innovative approaches to online learning and higher education instructional design practice.

The other exciting thing happening is the Connected Courses workshop/MOOC that is starting up over at

On another note, work/life balance is very important to me. This is probably why I don’t blog as much as I would like. I feel that after about 8 hours of doing instructional design it is important to tune into something else. With that said, I’d like to list a few of the non-work-related activities I do.

  • Guitar player – for pretty much myself
  • Music lover – my current obsession is SoundCloud (
  • Biking/hiking/kayaking when I can
  • Cooking – I’m a culinary school dropout with a penchant for local and seasonal foods
  • Reading – pleasure reading is strictly science fiction and fantasy
  • And of course TV via Netflix and Hulu – I love the serialized programs being produced in the last 10 years

Want more of my stream of thought – check out my Twitter account @kforgard

Partners in Design Presentation May 2014 UW Colleges Colloquium

The “Partners in Design” presentation below, or how faculty and instructional designers interact, was presented by myself and Dubear Kroening at the UW Colleges annual colloquium.

This presentation highlights the work we have been doing on the developing of the faculty professional development course Teaching Online 101 (TOL 101) for the UW Colleges Online faculty. We are hoping to use evaluation data from this course to present at other conferences and perhaps publish something.

The longer that I do instructional design work the more I begin to think about how relationships matter the most in the field. Without high quality relationships and good rapport as professionals, the work an instructional design becomes that much harder. There is also the consideration of how faculty training is developed through such relationships. In this case, I was more of the subject matter expert and technology expert than the faculty member I have been working with. The roles are somewhat switched, but we created a pretty decent training product with TOL 101. My partner in this process, Dubear, has also contributed with his 10 plus years online teaching experience for UW Colleges.

The next steps are to start measuring the impact of the course on actual teaching and learning. We plan on interviewing participants from the first cohorts of TOL 101 6 to 12 months after the course to see how the course may have changed their approach to teaching and learning in all modalities.

The POD Conference Experience

Attendees playing human bingo

A shot from the Newcomers session. Photo by Jake Jacobson

This past week I had the pleasure of being able to attend the 38th annual POD conference ( For those who are not familiar with POD, it is a professional organization for people who work doing higher education faculty professional development. Most of the attendees are from various centers for teaching and learning, which has got to be one of the most diverse groups to work with. What I really love about this conference is that I don’t have to explain what I do as an instructional designer. Most of the folks at POD are either instructional designers or involved in overseeing the instructional design process. Many attendees have been doing this work for many years and are more than willing to share their wisdom and insight with each other. It is a very welcoming group of people.

What makes this conference unique is that most every session is interactive. There is no passive listening, which makes sense because people who do this work spend so much time encouraging faculty to create active learning environments. The majority of the sessions are “roundtables”, so its more about having a discussion with peers than listening. Some sessions present research in the field, but these sessions typically involved some interactivity centered on the topic discussed. A POD attendee should expect to talk about their work as well as actively listen to others.

POD also has a strong graduate student base, with many sessions focused on Teaching Assistant (TA) training as well as plenty of veterans who are more than happy to share their wisdom with newcomers to the field.

I was fortunate enough to be able to host a roundtable discussion with my colleague from Bristol Community College, Karl Schnapp. Our session, titled “Reflective Practice on Reflective Practice” presented a series of questions on how to engage faculty in informal focused conversations based on Schon’s model of the reflective practitioner. It was a very engaging conversation with other center directors and even a couple of graduate students.

The other session I participated in was the poster sessions. I presented on my faculty professional development course, Survey of Education Technology (SET). I was one of about 30 poster presenters, so I thought that perhaps I would be standing around for 2 hours. WAS I WRONG! I have some of the most engaging and inspiring conversations with folks to both validate and challenge some of my assumptions of the course. One person even offered me a job! Below are the slides I used to created the poster.

For those who are interested in faculty professional development, POD is THE conference to attend.

Very inspiring!

Upcoming POD Conference Presentation

Pittsburgh 1

Pittsburgh 1 (Photo credit: ctj71081)

In about a week the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network will hold its annual conference in Pittsburgh, PA. I will have the pleasure of being a presenter for two sessions.

11/7/13 – A poster presentation titled Survey of Education Technology: Faculty Professional Development Technology Integration Training which will highlight information on the professional development course I have been teaching called Survey of Education Technology (SET). A sample module is included on my blog here. Poster presentations will take place at 3:45 that afternoon.

11/7/13 – The second presentation will be a roundtable discussion I am co-hosting with my colleague, Karl Schnapp titled Reflective practice on reflective practice: Enhancing faculty professional development. Since a major training component of our professional development approach at BCC is reflective practice, it is appropriate to bring together colleagues and scholars to talk about what reflective practice means. It is not a new concept, but for us it has brought people together to create something of  a community. I am really looking forward to these discussions.

If anyone reading this is planning on going to POD, please leave a message here or follow my Twitter feed @kforgard

Pearson Social Media Conference

This past Friday (10/18/2013) I had the pleasure of attending an intimate conference sponsored by Pearson Publishing. Here is the agenda

View from the Museum of Science

View from the Museum of Science

What I really enjoy about these micro-conferences is being able to interact with thought-leaders as they describe their projects. The conference was supported by Pearson who shared results on a social media survey they conducted ( that shows how this technology has grown in recent years, particularly blogs and wikis. The survey results also reflected on some of the major concerns may education technology professionals face, namely, integrity and privacy.

The survey helped frame the conversations and questions brought up during the day’s presentations. For instance, discussions around online presence and identity kept arising. Most technology professionals already know that it is important to keep an online professional identify, but we also need to communicate this to faculty and students. It is okay to have distinct professional and personal identities.  After all, we are all humans with needs that expand well beyond a professional life. This can be a challenge for faculty who want to use a social media service such as Facebook, but do not want their students to be their “friends”. Over the years, services such Facebook and Google+ have made their tools more sophisticated to meet these needs with ability to create different circles, closed groups, and other control mechanisms. However, using these settings takes some technical agility. Its not difficult, just something that has to be played with.

To maintain privacy, many educators create a “teacher account” to use for classroom purposes and still maintain their private one. Nevertheless, all of our identities are online, and besides, is multiple online personas really practical? Teaching is a way of life and so much of what we do as educators intertwines with our personal and professional lives. Lines do need to be drawn and privacy concerns alleviated, but the first step is to experiment and see what happens.

Related to this conversation is one of the presentations that stuck me during the day. It was the panel discussion of Larry Domine, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Tony Stanislawski, Milwaukee Area Technical College, (who teach a social media course there) and Eric Winegardner, Monster. These guys are social media experts that have experimented and developed some excellent ideas on using social media tools such as Twitter and Blogs. The main take-a-way from their message had to do with the fact that if someone is working in technology (and this means education technology too) they should have some type of online social presence. It doesn’t have to be in-depth academic essays, but retweets, short blog postings, or lists of “what I’ve read” demonstrate to potential employers, as well as other colleagues a certain level, a passion and commitment to their careers and even just their life. In other words our online presence demonstrates who we are and what we contribute to the world whether its loving movies, comic books, sports, education technology, teaching, music, our family, etc.

Here is the link to their presentation notes

Thanks again to Pearson for organizing the day in such a fantastic location at the Boston Museum of Science!

Reflections on Title III

For those of you who may not be familiar with Title III, it is a Federal Department of Education grant program designed to support higher education institutions in expanding their capacity to serve underprivileged students by increasing student support services and academic services. See

As of September 30, 2013 the Title III grant I have been a part of comes to a close. Its been a heck of a ride I must say and one that taught me quite of bit about being an instructional designer involved in systemic change initiatives. It has also provided me some excellent insight into how community colleges operate.

As I started to write this blog posting I realized that there is an essay to come of this. So, I’ll outline some of what I had learned from this project:

  • Instructional design theory is very helpful for programmatic changes, but not every project requires a following a model lock-step
  • Evaluation is the key to everything you do, so track, record, measure, or just reflect on every piece of output developed that leads towards the grant’s goal
  • Developing faculty rapport is essential to a project’s success and builds capacity over time
  • Systemic change is hard work that at times shows little rewards. Don’t let a negative attitude get in the way and keep up
  • Learn to leverage resources to help meet goal from administrative support to vice-presidents
  • Be aware of the technology and train stakeholders in using the technology to serve the grant
  • Understand that the relationship between a treatment (cause) and its result (effect) is most likely wide with many confounding variables potentially getting in the way. Its not research, its evaluation that demonstrates success or need for further change.
  • Be frustrated, but don’t give up hope!

The good news about all the work and struggle is that through it all, the grant made an impact. It was a daunting task that is still met with some resistance, but with the end data showing positive change, its nice to see how the 100’s of things I had done over the past couple of years have resulted in something positive.

Thanks to the Title III Team at Bristol Community College!

I promise to write something more detailed soon.

Instructional Design at a Community College

Recently, I came across a job posting for an instructional designer at a community college. What struck me about the position posting was the fact that they required applicants to submit a statement on the personal philosophy on the role of community colleges. Since I work in a community college I thought that it would be a good exercise to try it out. Read on…

A panoramic view of the center of BCC campus.Philosophy of the Role of Community College

As an instructional designer working in a community college, I am sometimes asked by colleagues what the difference is between community college and 4+ year institutions. Is community college just a stopping off point for students looking to lower the cost of their education? Or, is community college a career training school that provides certificates and education credentials that lead to entry into a professional or semi-professional career? With either case, the underlying theme between these perspectives is that community college is about diversity, therefore, my underlying philosophy regarding the roll of community college is centered on how to navigate among this diversity – in education philosophy, the student body, academic disciplines, and faculty. In its operations, a community college needs to be both an academic institution with an eye towards the academy, and a training center, focused on developing students for particular workforce needs. However, there is a tension between these philosophies and a need to bridge them that makes working in a community college quite stimulating. In this statement essay, I will provide examples from each of these perspectives and demonstrate how the two are bridged through instructional design practice.

The community college’s role as a scholarly institution has tremendous implications on the students, instructors, the institution, and the community. Consider the graduation ceremony at Bristol Community College (BCC) in southern Massachusetts. This ceremony, akin to many other higher education institutions, is immersed in the rich academic tradition and symbols many people associate with education, such as the cap-and-gown, publicly declaring the graduates, recognizing the most successful students, and the speeches on a future of lifelong learning. The fact that BCC maintains this practice demonstrates to all those involved in the student development process that there is something important being done in the name of higher education learning. The practice of the public graduation ceremony at a community college demonstrates that education and learning at such an institution is not just a cheap alternative, or stopping off point (although many students use community college for these things), but is a set of practices steeped in the tradition of scholarly pursuit. What leads up to this final ceremony is oftentimes years of hard work and dedication. Many community college instructors are keenly aware of how their work shapes and guides students through this process as scholars-in-training and do their jobs quite well when designing and teaching traditional courses such as English Composition, History, Literature, and Communications. For instance, when working with faculty on understanding and applying an abstract concept, such as “critical thinking” via the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) LEAP Value Rubrics, most understand the term in the abstract and also debate how critical thinking may vary across the disciplines. The fact that they can have this discussion is what makes community colleges scholarly institutions, practicing debate, research, and assessment which characterize most any community college’s mission. Even as community colleges begin to implement academic alternatives to a college course, such as competency-based learning and credit for prior learning experience, the scholarly perspective is guiding this process, generating new notions of what a community college educated person would look like. That is, students may bring a variety of learning experiences with them, but through academic discourse, evaluation, and critical analysis, a sense of rigor is applied to practice in turn helping students achieve their education goals and participate in the rite-of-passage graduation ceremony.

Community colleges also provides training and entry into professional and semi-professional careers through specific course sequences and learning paths. In contrast to training students on scholarly practices through general education programs, these institutions are also creating individuals to enter into a particular career field, which is also an important function of community colleges. The pressure to not just quickly graduate students, but to get those students jobs is more prevalent now than ever, particularly since the Obama administration has opened a debate on the high cost of education and its need to demonstrate a return on investment. Students who enter into a career track program simply see the outcome of such programs as entry into a career, financial stability, and perhaps a job more than the scholarly cap-and-gown. Faculty who teach in these career preparation programs such as culinary arts, criminal justice, nursing, dental hygiene, fire science, and green technology know perfectly well the kinds of skills students need to prepare for particular positions and intensely focus learning specifically on masterly of the technical skills needed to perform certain jobs. Oftentimes, outside agencies accredit these programs based on very specific criteria, so program control is external. A broad-based academic skill such as “critical thinking” is more implied in such curriculum simply because career programs have to meet these specific requirements. It is not as if a career program is not academic, but that it fulfills a different niche than the traditional general studies program.

Although these two philosophies seem different, a community college is still one institution. Students enter with particular needs, backgrounds, challenges, and skills that are not so easily segregated. Many enter into developmental level courses despite whatever career or education intension they may have. Still others are there because they are testing out a variety of life and career paths. Many community college students are adult learners, have dependents, are currently working, and seeking opportunity through investment in a low-cost education. Moreover, faculty at community colleges are disproportionally part-time adjuncts who, like their students, are challenged by balancing between work, family, and rest. Most importantly, however, is the fact that funding for community colleges is more dependent on how scholarship partners with career development and is the main budgetary funding source with expectations of student success. At BCC and other colleges in the state of Massachusetts, funding is tied into the scholarly work of outcomes assessment as well as the workforce development. This external push challenges community colleges, particularly when the goal of student success is increased graduation and successfully entering into a job. As an instructional designer at a community college, this is where I fully understand and subscribe to the mantra often spoke throughout the college – “scholarship in action”. This understanding for me has translated into helping define the mission of faculty support at a community college, by advocating for a staffing at our center for teaching and learning that are experts in higher education pedagogies (active learning, adult learning principles, and higher education best practices), technology integration that pairs with such pedagogies (e-learning, blended learning, flipped classroom design), and cross-disciplinary professional development (reflective practice groups, pedagogy discussion groups, and education technology training). Implementation should be on systemic integration of these skills that focuses professional development on faculty improvement as well as administrative skills building. This is essential as community colleges begin utilizing analytics ensure student success through early-warning systems and digitized degree plans.

No two community colleges are alike. However, I believe (echoing many of my community college colleagues) that the work we do is centered on academic theoretical foundations, which are ultimately bestowed onto our students and discussed among each other in our practice. At the same time, we need to prepare students for the workforce as efficient as we possibly can. For some students, this is a clear path, for others it is still a work in progress. Nevertheless, community colleges should be designed to be flexible enough to provide change when needed through instructional support and open for debate to ensure that a sense of academic rigor remains intact. This means more systemic instructional support through cross-disciplinary activities that bridge the career-track studies with the general education skills as well as helping developmental learners reach their goals to achieve what may seem at times a hard-to-reach dream. When sharing my thoughts and passions of working in a community college to colleagues, I communicate that with such diversity in education philosophies and students, there is an experience unlike one would have in a 4-year college or university. It is simply about being a part of the local community.

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