The difference between ethical leaders that cast light and unethical leaders that cast shadows when faced with the same ethical challenges is based in how they handle the challenges of leadership. I have worked with both types of leaders and know their characteristics well.
Ethical leaders have a strong sense of right and wrong and have standards that guide their decisions. They make informed decisions and have a moral compass. Ethical leaders foster trust and are focused on the greater good of the community.
Unethical leaders have an inflated sense of self and are extremely insecure. They like to think they are the smartest person in the room. They are focused on their own agenda, not the greater good of the community. They abuse power, hoard privileges, and tend not to trust their followers. They fail to take responsibility for their actions, and their bad deeds go unpunished due to their power and influence.
I try to cast more light than shadows through leading by example and emphasizing the greater good of the community in my actions. I empower my team to do their jobs and encourage them to get out of their comfort zone. If they make a mistake, I meet with them and we discuss how we could do things differently in the future. This is how they learn and develop their skills.
I try to be as consistent as possible with each of my direct reports, knowing that there may be extenuating circumstances that need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. For example, our receptionist is a single mother with a child that has an ongoing medical condition. She cannot control when her child is sick and needs a doctor’s care. There have been occasions when she needs to take her child to a specialist and has run out of sick leave. Instead of docking her pay, I let her make up the extra time. This has taken a great burden off her shoulders and as a result she has become one of the hardest workers on our team. I have done the same when other employees have a similar situation caring for a family member or have special circumstances. My team knows that they can come to me and I will work with them on finding a solution that is consistent with what I have done for others. This instills a high level of trust and loyalty between us.
As Johnson (2018) states, there are leaders who have a battleground mentality of win at all costs. I worked in a private secondary school as an assistant athletic director in charge of administration. This included ensuring student athletes were academically eligible to participate in athletics by tracking their grades on a weekly basis. The Virginia High School League has strict requirements of a “D” average to be eligible. Because the school was known for strong academics, we required a “C” average for eligibility and each student athlete signed a form stating they understood the rules of eligibility at the beginning of each athletic season. The boys’ basketball team was in the state playoffs and one of the best athletes on the team was ineligible due to his weekly grade report. When I informed the athletic director and coach of the student’s ineligibility, they asked me to go back to the history teacher and request a grade change. I did not feel comfortable doing this and refused because it would violate the honor code that the students, faculty and staff signed at the beginning of each academic year. The next day I was told by the coach that the student had received a grade change after he spoke with the history teacher at the request of the athletic director. I requested a meeting with the headmaster to discuss the situation. During the course of that meeting, the history teacher was asked to join the conversation. She confirmed that the coach had asked her to change the grade and that she felt pressured to do so since this was the first time the team had made it to the state tournament. This is a good example of the coach trying to use moral justification for his unethical behavior. The headmaster overrode the grade change, suspended the coach for one game and a letter of reprimand was put in the athletic director’s personnel file. Ultimately, they both did not receive a contract for the next school year. This was a very difficult situation to be in, but I knew I made the right decision. It was not fair to the student athletes that maintained their eligibility. An interesting side note is the student athlete in question knew he was ineligible and took full responsibility and told his teammates he was the one that let them down. I like to think he followed my good example.
The call for diversity and accessibility in instructional design has to start at the top of any university. The administration needs to mandate the integration of diversity and accessibility into every course. This integration may take more effort for some faculty, and they need to understand why it is essential. They also need to know what resources are available to them to do so. This integration should be done at the beginning of the course design, not as a response to an individual.
Each learner has a unique set of circumstances that can affect how they learn. Reiser and Dempsey give some great examples of adaptations and design suggestions, breaking them down into four categories: visual, auditory, mobility, and cognitive involvement. Providing closed-captioning or transcripts of videos is required, and universities should have policies to provide these services. This includes live-streamed events on Facebook and Zoom. Many software or platforms have closed captioning built into their design. If they don’t, universities will need to hire an outside company to provide this accommodation.
Multiculturalism is another component that needs to be integrated into any instructional design model in higher education. Faculty can bring their cultural bias into their instruction without even realizing it. Personal bias can be addressed by having faculty look at their own culture and its impact on their teaching. Learning activities should be inclusive of all students. Faculty should look at their language, social norms, and how they can be culturally responsive and adaptive to their students’ challenges. Faculty should also consider the type of delivery they use in their instruction to make sure there is no cultural bias. This can be challenging when the diversity in a class is limited. These students may be hesitant to join in class discussions or to speak freely. Our university requires all faculty and staff to participate in yearly diversity training to ensure instruction and student interactions are inclusive and without bias.
The Multimodal Diversity Model includes three major components:
1.Multiple means of representation – The “what” of learning that incorporates cognitive diversity.
2.Multiple means of expression or performance – The “how” of learning that incorporates physical diversity.
3.Multiple means of engagement – The “why” of learning that incorporates cultural diversity.
These principles need to be part of the everyday teaching in any university and embedded in the course design. Unfortunately, not all universities can do this due to budget, staffing, and resources. My university has an Office of Disability Support Services (ODSS) that recognizes disability in the context of diversity. They work collaboratively with students, faculty, and staff to foster a climate of universal academic excellence. Students apply for DSS accommodations each semester. ODSS notifies faculty of any students requiring these accommodations before the course begins. These accommodations can include interpreting and captioning services, alternative text requests, note-taking requests, and final exam proctoring. The accommodations are not addressed holistically by the university but on a case-by-case basis. DSS offers training on cultural diversity, but the training does not include how to optimize class instruction. The various multicultural student organizations across campus have asked for more diversity and cultural training for students, faculty, and staff. Unfortunately, with the severe budget cuts that are happening due to the pandemic, this will not be a priority. My school is dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, so we offer training for our faculty and staff through a grant we received to do so. We are committed to making every student feels they are an integral part of our school community. I am hopeful that when the other university units see what we are doing, they will pressure the administration to make this training available across campus.
The easy access to technology has completed redefined the classification and expression of knowledge in higher education. The Internet is a source of free-flowing information that anyone can access and was considered revolutionary for education when it was introduced. This information is constantly updated, unlike printed materials that become obsolete almost from the moment they print. Information can be classified as goods that are public, private, or club. These classifications have become more nuanced over time. However, commercial concerns are created when information from the Internet is used in the classroom. Copyright laws can prohibit sharing of educational materials. This is in opposition to the belief that education is sharing. It’s the willingness to share knowledge and expertise, skills and passion, with one another. Instructors and students need to be aware of these issues when incorporating information gleaned from the Internet into a project.
Images can also be restricted by copyright. Getty Images consistently monitors the use of their pictures and assesses fines on people who have used their images without consent. I had a student in one of my online courses use a Getty image in a presentation that she posted on YouTube. Two years later, this student received a letter from Getty stating she had used this image without permission and published it in the public domain. They levied a hefty fee for the use of the picture.
Some initiatives address these copyright issues. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that licenses and uses an open copyright license, making it easier for instructors to access openly licensed material. Many instructors are starting to use open sources instead of textbooks, making it easier and more affordable for students to access the course content. Adopting these open educational resources allows instructors and students access to various resources while following the copyright laws.
Reiser, R.A. & Dempsey, J.V. (2018). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology
(4th ed.). Pearson
Technology and Online Learning
Online learning or e-learning has become as accepted and almost as commonplace as classroom learning in higher education. It includes all learning that involves technology. It doesn't matter if it's asynchronous or synchronous. The growth in online learning is because technology is more powerful, easy to use, and increasingly available to the world. Everyone has access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Almost all education transitioned to virtual learning during the pandemic, and that is proof that online learning is a credible model of instruction. I think e-learning will continue to grow exponentially after the pandemic and include more hybrid learning and courses offered entirely online.
As instructors, we cannot just focus on access to technology as a reason for online learning to exist. As we know, learning something for the sake of knowing it is not enough. We need to make sure learning outcomes are achieved, course design is creative and engaging, and that there are support systems for both students and instructors for any learning, online or face-to-face, to be successful. We also need to ensure that the learning objectives, learning activities, and assessments are aligned and interdependent. This type of course design can be time-consuming, but it is worth the extra effort. For example, the assessments should reflect the desired learning outcomes. If the desired learning objective is higher-order learning, the assessment should not be a multiple-choice test. The assessment should allow students to use their higher-level thinking and apply the knowledge they learned to an activity. I teach my students the required components of a comprehensive communications plan. The students apply what they learned to create their own communications plan for their clients. The plan is the assessment used for the course. It would not be beneficial just to have them reiterate what each component should contain.
Online learning also offers students opportunities for informal or incidental learning outcomes. The internet allows students to expand their knowledge unintentionally. Sometimes unexpected learning can be the spark that sustains students' attention and interest in the learning activity.
Online learning is changing how instructors use taxonomies to design their courses. Instructors creating online materials often don't have practical instructional design training, so using traditional taxonomies of instructional design won't work. A better strategy is to use a more integrated framework that looks at learning outcomes that rely on experience and real-world knowledge and have an iterative process to refine the learning experiences. The elemental learning and Situated Authentic Problem Solving(SAPS) approaches are good examples of this. Elemental learning uses real-life outcomes and those closely simulating real-life to assess or learn a real-life task or a simulation of that task. We know that focused attention is necessary for learning to occur. The best way to focus students' attention is to design instruction that uses students' previous knowledge and develops learning outcomes that students can apply to their personal and professional experience. Using real-world outcomes is the most effective approach to designing online learning.
Technology should be looked at by instructors as more than just a way to deliver instruction. Using a video to say you used multimedia in your course design is not enough. Technology is not just a means of delivering information. Reiser and Dempsey (2018) talk about using instructional technics that are unique learning strategies to maximize technology to attain a specific learning outcome. Technics are more sophisticated and more comprehensive than just media and engage students in activities that involve what they learned. This course is an excellent example of this. We create a forum post in response to questions that ask us to apply the knowledge we learned through the video and reading to the real world and our experience in higher education. Our peers read our posts and respond to them, allowing us to interact with one another virtually and give each other feedback.
My concerns with online learning include access to technology for marginalized students and instructors' ability to master the technology and create interactive active-learning content. I am hopeful that as online learning continues to grow, resources and training will be made available to instructors.
Social media has become a prominent fixture in everyday life, from staying connected to friends and family to looking for a new life partner. The use of social media in higher education is a relatively recent development. Technology is constantly changing as well. New channels are developing, and changes are being made to existing channels. In addition to the well-known tools, additional social media platforms are being designed for use in education that contain extra privacy, security, and instructor oversight features.
Social media can be a great tool when used correctly. Social media can deliver content to students or as a companion to the course content. It can be deliberately designed as part of a class activity by the instructor or used by the students without prior planning. Some of the advantages of using social media in higher education include using social media as an instructional tool to make the learning experience more student-centered and expanding the course content. It also allows students and instructors the ability to access a large variety of learning resources and experts. For example, LinkedIn is a great resource to connect to subject matter experts as guest lecturers in a virtual class. The SME can be located anywhere and connect with the course virtually. Social media can enhance communication within the class. Slack is a great way to do this. I create a Slack channel for each course I teach accessible only to the students in the class. Students use it to post comments about an assignment, ask questions, or give other students feedback. I find it a great resource to be part of the students' conversation. Social media is also a way for students to get feedback from their peers or from professionals in the field they are studying.
Social media has its challenges when used in higher education instruction. One of the most significant issues is maintaining students' privacy if social media is used in a course. Students may not want their personal information shared on social media. Limiting what students share on the platform used in the course is one way to do this. Instructors can create a private group or page that can be seen or accessed only by students in the course. As we know, the anonymity of social media can influence bad behavior. People will post things on social media that they would never say to someone in person. Social media handles can make a person unidentifiable, letting them hide their true identity. One way to combat this is for the instructor to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on cyberbullying. Social media can also have a decentralized effect on education. Students may try to multi-task when using a social media platform, posting something irrelevant to the course instead of focusing on the assigned task. There is also an intellectual property concern about what information can be posted on a social media platform. We have a significant number of international students enrolled in our courses. There are international considerations that need to be considered if we expect those students to use social media as part of their learning activities.
For social media to be a positive factor in higher education is needs to be used in a very deliberate way by the instructor. There is a lot of pressure for instructors to incorporate social media into their courses, but that is not reason enough to do it. The instructor must see the value in using it and have the skills needed to use it effectively and appropriately. The type of social media platform must also be considered by the instructor when integrating it into a course activity. Some platforms work better than others, and the instructor must know enough about the platform to be successful. I had an instructor in my graduate program that was desperate to integrate Twitter into his course. He had no idea how the platform worked and that there was a character limit to each tweet. He assigned a written assignment to be five pages in length and sent to him via Twitter. His attempt failed miserably.
Rich media is defined as animation, video, audio, and other types of media that are used to enhance the teaching and learning experience. Instructional designers should take a learner-centered approach to determine how to integrate rich media into their course design. Rich media needs to be designed to serve the needs of the learners. A good rule to follow is that less is more for learner media because students can be overloaded with information. Focused attention is required for learning to occur. The more information we are presenting to students, the less they can focus on each piece of information presented. The information presented verbally and visually needs to be organized and presented to allow the student to retain and retrieve the information.
Cognitive load is the amount of mental work imposed on working memory during learning. We know there are three cognitive load types, extraneous, essential, and generative, in the instructional design process. As instructors, we can control the cognitive load. Extraneous cognitive load is the irrelevant mental load resulting from poor instructional design. Essential cognitive load is based on the complexity of the presented material. Generative cognitive load requires the student to be motivated to exert the effort needed to make sense of the incoming material. We know that information comes in through the senses and is analyzed. There's so much information coming in, and only part of that information can be processed. The cognitive processes prioritize information critical to survival or a specific goal and turn that information into mental representations of things in the world. Typically, the richer the sensory reception to the media presented, the more potential there is. However, we also know that using overly complex visuals with irrelevant details increases the extraneous cognitive load. This causes the information to be too complex and overwhelming to be retained.
A goal of integrating rich media into the instructional design process should be to help the learner manage essential processing. Rich media can have a positive impact when used correctly. Text and visuals vs. only text can improve learning, especially for novice learners. These learners need more details because they struggle with simple textual cues or information. The integration of rich media into course design should be based on the learners' level, the content being taught, and the way the visuals are used with text or audio.
I am a higher education administrator with over 15 years of experience in communications and operations. The views in my blog are my own.