How I Design: Christina Archer

Picture of Christina Archer

Christina Archer

Going into a new course development process with a new SME is like going on a blind date. You both arrive to the kickoff a little unsure of each other; wondering about each other’s working styles, experience, and expectations. I make the first meeting a little more comfortable by being openly communicative about these components.

Trust and Values

Establishing trust and value are essential to working with any SME. I like to start by getting to know them and their experience. Have they taught this course before? Have they taught in the specific modality we are designing for? What is their vision for this course?

In turn, I share my experiences with course development, educational technology, and the subject matter. This is great opportunity to establish our roles, share any departmental expectations, and review the course design and development process.


Taking on a course development can feel monumental, especially for an SME who has never developed a course for the online environment. And, as with most projects, there is never enough time to do everything we want to do.

At this stage, it is imperative that we work together to set up realistic expectations on what can and should be done in the given time allotted. Without careful planning, the tasks laid out before us can feel impossible to undertake. Doing what is realistic, while still utilizing best practices and meeting the expectations of the department, is a delicate balance. Again, reiterating roles and responsibilities during this discussion is critical to the team’s success.

The Process

The basic stages of a course design and development never change, but how we accomplish the tasks can vary greatly. I subscribe to the backward design process – designing with the end in mind. But I do think it is important to remain flexible, to keep an open-mind, and have fun. I want the process to be as painless and collaborative as possible. I want both of us to learn and grow. I want the course to be successful, and for the student to be successful.

As much as instructional design is a science, it is also an art form. The creative process can be messy, and we might need to go through a few iterations before we come up with something we like. As long as we are always in alignment with the course outcomes, I enjoy exploring alternative assessment forms and innovative teaching strategies. I try to bring evidence-based practices to our discussions as much as possible and look for answers when I do not have them.


I take a very practical approach to incorporating technology into the course. I am not here for all the bells and whistles; I am here to solve instructional problems. Sometimes integrating technology; such as a collaborative whiteboard, interactive lecture, or interactives images are necessary to meet a learning objective. If that is the case, I will work with the SME to identify the best tool that not only meets the need of the problem but is easy to use for the student and the instructor. If the tool is cumbersome to set up and use, then the tool will hinder learning and ultimately fail.

In Summary

No two people are the same, so why would we treat course development any differently? As an instructional designer, it is my duty to bring out the best in my SME, and in turn, produce the best possible course given the allotted resources available to us.

Christina Archer is an instructional designer and technologist who has worked in higher education for the last 11 years. She specializes in designing courses for online, hybrid, traditional, and modular-based learning environments. She also enjoys facilitating professional development workshops for faculty and teaching assistants.

How I Design is a series of feature articles authored by instructional designers who are active in the field. The series is intended to inspire discussion about how instructional designers work with faculty subject matter experts, administrators and other stakeholders to ensure an excellent learning experience.

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TBG Staff

The Babb Group’s team writes all about what is going on in the latest educational trends including curriculum development and instructional design for the people who are connected to the education industry to make a positive difference in their careers. Check out our blogs frequently to get updated information on the educational world.
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