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chef with Nutella sitting on his workstation

Credit: Huy Phan from Pexels is licensed under CC0

It’s not just about the Nutella: Building a partnership between learning designer and instructor

September 27th, 2016

One of my favorite parts of being a learning designer is working with instructors. It’s not only a chance to create a new course with ideas, but it’s an opportunity for a new work partnership. The idea-sharing, the collaborative work, and even the thrill of reaching a goal too close to a deadline are enriching.

Here are a few tips I’ve gathered over the years on building partnerships among designers and instructors:

  • At the beginning of the working relationship, hold a kickoff meeting to get to know each other. Discuss goals. Talk about communication preferences. Define expectations. This sets the stage for working together as a team.
  • Define roles. Decide how involved each will be in the technology aspects of development.
  • Find the tool that works best for your collaboration. Is it Google Docs? Slack? Trello? Another tool? Keep each other accountable for your checklists as you progress.
  • Decide how often you will check in with each other. Keep in good communication by asking how things are going, following up on tasks, asking how “XYZ suggestion” worked for a particular situation, sending short articles or ideas that you’ve found that relate to the course or to course design.
  • Designers - teach instructors to fish. Realize that there are different kinds of fishing - some enjoy deep sea fishing, whereas others like to stay closer to the shore. Instructors - be clear in letting your designer know what it is you need when it comes to learning the technologies and processes.
  • Be flexible-ish. Build some space (but not too much) for fluidity in your timelines, knowing that research, work, and personal lives come up during the development process. On the flip side, it’s important for instructors to realize that the designer shouldn’t be expected to work burning the midnight oil when repeated deadlines are missed. (This goes back to expectation management.)
  • There should be mutual respect between the instructor and the designer. The course belongs to the instructor. Feedback for the course is based on expertise and experience. Working as a team, appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses.
  • When all else fails, I’ve been told that occasional gifts of Nutella or cookies can sweeten the working partnership.