What can you expect from academic services when working with a course development provider?

Published by Dr. Anne-Marie Fiore on

The Academic Services team has extensive experience developing undergraduate, graduate, and professional online learning programs and courses. We value high-quality learning experiences that are distinctive, engaging, and provide the skills and knowledge that students seek and employers value. At our core, we focus on delivering effective practices, methodologies, and support that faculty need to achieve their goals. Our approach is personal, proven, and outcomes-focused—helping faculty see the possibilities and achieve them.
Our approach is detailed below and guided by the following process:

  1. Programmatic, learner-centered focus from the outset
  2. Collaborative, iterative instructional design process
  3. Full-service production capability
  4. Semester to semester course setup and version management
  5. Survey administration and consultative revision process

Program Planning

Program Planning is the first step in the program development process, and it is crucial to developing a quality academic experience. During program planning, we engage with faculty, program leadership, and the administration to establish program goals, develop strategies to accomplish those goals, and to align expectations around the teaching and learning experience. We will assign a Project Manager (PM) to partner with you to create a shared vision for the program and outline the steps necessary to bring that vision to fruition. From an institution’s standpoint, the program planning process is led by the Project Manager, who may involve critical faculty for additional input. The following are the component areas of the program planning stage:

  • College Pedagogy
  • Curriculum Mapping
  • Assessment Plan
  • Teaching Standards
  • Technology Approach
  • Course Design Convention
  • Student Feedback Strategy
  • Student Orientation Program
  • Faculty Training & Development


Course Design and Development

 Our goal is to work collaboratively with your faculty and program leadership to create engaging and effective online learning experiences. Initially, we will work with you to ensure that your College’s distinctive pedagogy is defined, and we will determine how best to translate this instructional philosophy to the online medium. We strive to incorporate unique elements of your instructional philosophy into a customized online format, whether they focus on ensuring that your students have an opportunity to be agents of change, perform action research, utilize experiential learning, or participate in a community of inquiry. Additionally, we collaborate with faculty to translate their priorities, such as stressing the interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum, focusing on reflection opportunities and outreach. This translation of what it means to learn as and be a student at the College is the starting point for our instructional design.
Consistent with our collaborative approach, Focus EduSolutions adheres to a flexible course design pedagogy of Instruct || Engage || Apply.  The pedagogical approach based in constructivism promotes a student-centric and outcomes-driven learning experience and requires an analysis of structure, content, student and faculty engagement, as well as technology. It allows faculty and our instructional designers to ensure that we’re attending to instructional presence, cognitive presence, and the significant social presence in courses.


Instructional Design Services

Focus EduSolutions award-winning instructional design team will work hand-in-hand with faculty to understand the unique student journey and create distinctive, high-quality learning solutions that reflect the unique culture of your institution. Our goal is measurable student engagement achieved through a combination of authentic project work, compelling content, peer engagement opportunities, and leadership and support from instructors. We are dedicated to the highest student satisfaction and completion rates and are prepared to empower and support faculty with achieving their vision for learning.
Designing for higher education requires an understanding of instructional strategies, techniques, and technologies. Instructional design is more critical than ever in the course development process. Our instructional designers can assist you in designing, developing, and revising engaging and interactive online, blended, or face-to-face courses.
Developing a quality course takes time. Our expertise enables us to employ a collaborative, iterative instructional design process that supports faculty as they develop courses, learning modules, and instructional materials.
Instructional designers use course design best practices such as:

  • Integrate course into a course management system.
  • Design or redesign a course in preparation for online delivery
  • Revise and redesign existing online courses
  • Consult on course design and structure
  • Incorporate research-based online instructional design best practices
  • Develop appropriate technology-based formative and summative assessments
  • Plan cooperative, collaborative assignments, and activities
  • Choose appropriate educational technologies and develop online course materials to enhance teaching and learning
  • Design an easy to navigate course
  • Test a course site for usability and functionality, including cross-browser and cross-platform testing
  • Suggestions based on current research in educational technology and online learning
  • Share specialized teaching strategies, so your online, blended or face-to-face course provides an effective teaching and learning experience
  • Support faculty during the delivery of the newly developed or redesigned course.
  • Support development of multimedia course materials (lecture capture, video conferencing)


Course Production and Implementation

We believe close collaboration between subject matter experts, faculty, and instructional designers is the key to designing effective and engaging online learning experiences. Initially, we will work with you to ensure that the College distinctive pedagogy is defined, and we will determine how best to translate this instructional philosophy to the online medium. We strive to incorporate unique elements of your instructional philosophy into a customized online format, whether they focus on ensuring that your students have an opportunity to be agents of change, perform action research, utilize experiential learning, or participate in a community of inquiry.
During the program planning, design, production, and implementation process, Focus EduSolutions team members will work closely with your faculty. Our Academic Services team is dedicated to meeting ALL partner needs on an ongoing basis. We provided end-to-end, semester to semester support for all facets of online learning.
The following is meant to highlight numerous services and support provided by our Academic Services team as part of any program planning and course development process with our partners. This chart highlights the components of our full-service production capability.

Program Planning
Plan DevelopmentComponent areas of the program planning stage:
·       Institutional Pedagogy
·       Curriculum Mapping
·       Assessment Plan
·       Teaching Standards
·       Technology Approach
·       Course Design Convention
·       Student Feedback Strategy
·       Student Orientation Program
·       Faculty Training & Development
Course Development
BaseDesign and development of a course designed to meet learning outcomes represent the program’s distinctiveness and fully engage learners. Course content is comprised of learning activities, formative and summative assessments, peer collaboration elements, and faculty presence elements.
Additional DevelopmentDynamic components including, interactives, third-party technologies. Games, VR, AR, etc.
Course Management
Semester SetupCloning and enrollment of sections, gradebook and due dates, QA check.
Courses Formatted for LMSCourse format for LMS. Includes review of system configuration, course level settings, migration configuration, mapping of content, project management. and porting of all elements to new system.
Media Development & Video Production
Media AssetsA variety of media assets are offered to meet the specific needs of each institution. Each encompasses the development of media strategy, planning, media packages, and production of course elements to include a mix of graphics, complex and/or simple interactive activities, and video.
Interactive DevelopmentCustom design and development of learning games, interactive graphics. infographics, etc..
Video ProductionVideo production as a stand-alone service to meet course needs. Includes light consultation on strategy.




Course Feedback Surveys

For years, colleges and universities have been using course evaluation surveys as a means for course improvement. At the end of each term, students are asked to complete a course evaluation questionnaire that seeks feedback on their learning experiences. While this is a reasonably straightforward process, there’s one frequent problem: the feedback received is neither informative nor helpful.
Here are the problems: many course evaluation survey questions are poorly written, the surveys themselves are poorly designed, and the distribution methods are off-putting. The result? Students fail to complete the surveys, or they do so haphazardly.
This is not to say that the course evaluation can’t be useful. With the right questions, design, and distribution, you can create course evaluation surveys that produce meaningful results—and lead to improved teaching methods and outstanding curriculum.
We advocate the evaluation of online courses on an ongoing basis and not waiting for the end of each course (when it’s too late to improve that course) to make improvements. We assert that improvement should be an ongoing process, not an event to be endured. We accomplish this by providing students surveys at strategic times during the semester, giving them the flexibility to complete the surveys on their own time. Another way to get quality feedback is to use the built-in validation tools that ensure you get accurate, complete information from every survey submitted.



Faculty Professional Development

Faculty presently play a substantial role in shared governance at the vast majority of colleges and universities that partner with Focus EduSolutions. Faculty at the College is responsible for the review, oversight, approval, and maintenance of all program curricula. In addition to the curriculum being owned and maintained by the College, Focus EduSolutions also recognizes that the College ultimately holds admissions, program instructions, and final decisions related to satisfying course components and, therefore, graduation.
We have led workshops and webinars on rubrics and assessment, managing group work online, designing and facilitating effective online discussions, managing larger online classes, and integrating emerging technologies, among others, specific to our partner needs. To support community of practice among faculty, we love to showcase existing program courses so that faculty can learn from and support one another in their effort to continually improve their courses. As programs scale, we strive to continually assess needs so that we stay a step ahead of the training and support requirements.
Example of Online Teaching Strategies Course for Faculty

Technical Support

We always want faculty and students to feel confident about online learning. Technology is an integral part of delivering this, but it is not everything. As online technology advances, the delivery of academic coursework, online student support services, and staff knowledge, must also advance for the technology to meet student needs.
We provide a team of highly skilled service professionals with a deep understanding of your institution and programs, giving them the insight to deliver guidance when and wherever your students need it most.
Every conversation with our support team is tailored to support the individual, whether that is assisting with homework, software troubleshooting, or confirming course registration.
Should your faculty experience any hardware, software, or access issues during the live course, they get immediate support via our 24×7 Technical Support Center.
If faculty or students encounter any issue with course content or need non-time-sensitive course setup support, they are encouraged to email our academic services team directly via a unique partner email group. This email account is monitored throughout business hours, and follows an Academic Support Communication Protocol, as detailed in the example below:

  • Email received at [email address TBD] Faculty or student receive an autoreply
  • Our team acknowledges issue and initial priority in reply
  • We investigate the issue
  • We resolve the issue
  • If the issue cannot be resolved quickly, we will send a status update with an estimated resolution time (or next status update), plus a workaround solution if applicable
  • We test/verify the issue has been resolved We reply to faculty or student email with resolution

Virtual Teaching Assistants

 We offer virtual teaching assistants to create rewarding experiences for students, faculty, and staff. This means responding to the demands of online study and the personalized needs of remote students, making 24×7 technical and academic assistance a crucial asset.
Our virtual teaching assistants are available in the course room, by email, or click-to-chat. Our customized management system tracks every student interaction. Using this information, we can work with you to identify any negative impact on student study experiences and implement appropriate solutions.


 Focus EduSolutions is committed to using tools that meet the WCAG 2.0 AA standards (available at https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/) for accessibility. Where third-party learning tools are integrated into a course, we review each of its own accessibility statements. Examples include web conferencing (ZOOM, AdobeConnect, Big Blue Button), video (Panopto, Kaltura, Vimeo, YouTube), VoiceThread, FlipGrid, and a host of others. Focus EduSolutions technologists and designers evaluate all third-party learning tools using a verifiable accessibility checklist based on WCAG 2.0 AA to ensure they meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards prior to implementation. As a rule of thumb, all content in our courses and the tools that we embed in courses should comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards.
We will ensure that all online courses and content meet Section 508 and other federal and state accessibility guidelines.
All courses are designed to meet accessibility expectations per your institutional policy. This includes attending to issues related to color, contrast ratios, accommodations related to timed assessments, and providing equivalents for visual and auditory content.
When content is not accessible, our content and instructional designers work with faculty and program directors to create alternative content and activities (e.g., a clickable learning activity may be replaced by static content achieving the same learning outcomes). Also, our team will address specific requests for accommodations on a case-by-case basis.
We coordinate all captioning and interactive transcripts for streaming media. Our student support team is also familiar with various assistive devices, such as screen readers, and we will work with your office of student services and disability resource center to ensure the accommodations for students are enacted.

Dr. Anne-Marie Fiore

I am a learning experience design consultant focused on developing engaging learning experiences. Although my career has always been related to education in some way, I have worked as a technology director, curriculum specialist, college professor, and now an online instructional designer.