New Instructional Design Association in Higher Ed: An Interview with Camille Funk

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

The newly founded Higher Education eDesign Association (HEeD) targets higher education instructional designers, multimedia teams and administrators. The group’s vision is to foster networking and collaboration, offer professional development opportunities, support research, and create publication opportunities. On April 7-8, 2016, the first annual HEeD conference will be hosted by George Washington University in Washington.

I spoke to Camille Funk, founder and president of HEeD, about the niche that the organization is trying to fill, the idea behind it and its current initiatives.

Camille Funk, founder and president of Higher Education eDesign Association (HEeD)

Camille Funk, founder and president of Higher Education eDesign Association (HEeD)

Camille, you are director of eDesign Shop at George Washington University. Please describe your current work environment as an instructional designer.

We are a newly organized course production shop. The team consists of four instructional designers, a video producer, videographer, animator, and a team of five student employees. Currently, our shop has two production cycles (six months each) and produces an average of 30 courses a year.

What was your personal journey to the instructional design profession?

I came into the field, as many do, by happenstance. I received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and master’s in International Educational Development. My intent was to pursue educational administration with a global reach. I chose to teach elementary school for a few years in preparation for an administrative role. I then took a position with Brigham Young University, Independent Study, as an administrator. In this role, I was introduced to instructional design. BYU Independent Study had a team of about ten instructional designers and a large multimedia shop to facilitate high-level course design. 

As I learned about instructional design, I discovered it coupled my love for teaching and curriculum design with an international reach. I found it was the perfect fit for my career path. I applied when a position became available in the organization. I was offered the job, and instructional design has been my passion ever since.

You are director and founder of HEeD. What led to the idea of creating a new professional organization?

The idea started when our eDesign Shop’s professional development budget was cut this fiscal year. I still wanted my staff to have an opportunity to grow professionally and, thus, needed to get creative.

Initially, the idea was to organize a conference in Washington, DC, for those in higher education instructional design and multimedia interested in networking with each other. As I started preparations, I realized there would still be a need for professional development, research and publication, and certification. These additional needs led to the idea of creating an association that could serve our niche group. Additionally, I felt an association should be independent of any single university’s responsibility, that it should be a collaborative effort of instructional design teams universally.

What are your experiences with existing organizations such as the New Media Consortium, AACE or IADIS?

I have been part of associations in the past (eLearning Guild, ASTD, USDLA, ELA) and have heard of the others you mentioned. My experience was that you join an association to attend a conference. I’m sure these associations intended for more than that for each member, but it became hard to engage when I felt the umbrella was too vast.

We (instructional design teams) are grouped together with instructional technologists or CBT developers under the vast “online learning” label. Conversations and presentations at conferences are taken in multiple directions relative to the many groups. There is a need for larger associations that bring all of us to the table, but there is also a need for niche associations to allow relative conversations to continue without deviations. Instructional design is an emerging profession and in the midst of a renaissance. There is a need to structure and develop this growing field.

Do you have specific areas of specialty that you find exciting as an instructional designer?

Yes, there are many. For example, faculty training; MOOCs and open education; adaptive learning; and even more controversial topics like lectures vs content delivery and synchronous sessions vs asynchronous material. The more I talk to other university design teams, the more topics there are to explore. That’s the benefit of connecting with each other.

Let’s talk a little bit about the ThinkTank Conference that is planned for next spring. Will this be a typical conference with peer-reviewed contributions or will it be more of a hands-on workshop?

We decided on the name ThinkTank to reflect the collaborative and interactive nature of the conference. Each day we will start with a speaker, followed by breakout sessions to discuss prevailing topics within our field. The result of these discussions will be best practices published for each topic.

Some future ideas for the HEeD community are opportunities to research and publish as well as tailored certification and badges. How do you want to approach these areas?

In the research and publication area, our approach is to develop research teams that identify areas of interest and need. From this research, we aim to publish best practices, white papers, and empirical data into a resource library for community access.

Certification is a longer-term goal. Currently, we are working on badging to pair with professional development and networking opportunities to display community involvement and achievement. In time, as with many other professional organizations, we will develop a certification program for the community to demonstrate their professional competencies. These competencies will be derived from the research on industry standards.

What benefits do members have from joining HEeD? Can you give us your sales pitch?

The Higher Education eDesign Association (HEeD) is dedicated to serving and connecting the unique group of instructional designers, multimedia developers, and administrators in higher education. Membership includes the following features:

  1. Networking: Each professional member creates a profile for our HEeD directory/map, and both professional and student members are added to HEeD social media groups (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest).
  2. Professional Development: HEeD members will be able to participate in the annual conference and access other educational opportunities, such as webinars, through the year.
  3. Research & Publication: (In Development) HEeD members will have access to the library of publications provided by our research teams.
  4. Certification: (In Development) HEeD members will be able to certify to demonstrate their professional competencies.

HEeD members, quite literally, put themselves on the map in the who’s who of higher education instructional design teams. Together, members will be the visionaries who define the profession and pave the way for the future.

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