Pivot to Online Learning

Lead a Team to Support Online Learning Transformation (2020)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I got promoted to Interim Manager for Learning Design and Development at Harvard Medical School as part of the Remote Teaching Excellence to lead four instructional design contractors to support the university-wide efforts of converting the in-person classes to online delivery.

Remote Teaching Excellence: Challenge

As a medical school, most of the classes take place at the hospital, during the COVID-19 pandemic when the university closed it's campus on March 18th, 2020 and asked all faculty to deliver their content online, they immediately starting using Zoom to lead their classroom sessions virtually. This was a good temporary solution. For the summer and fall of 2020 when the decision was made to continue to deliver content online, we called for reinforcements. And so it starts: The Remote Teaching Excellence Project. I spent 3 weeks reviewing 30 resumes, completing over 20 interviews and hiring and onboarding four instructional designers (IDs). We worked with a project manager to lead the project and a business analyst to collaborate with the instructional designers in completing the needs analysis.

The medical school didn't have instructional designers involved in curriculum design previously, so this was new to the culture of the organization. Each of the four instructional designers got deployed to support different programs at the school: Two IDs for the Program in Medical Education, one for Program in Graduate Education and one for the Office for External Education.

My Role

My role was to make sure the instructional designers were providing value to each department they supported. We had regular weekly project meetings in addition to weekly just--instructional designer meetings and individual 1-1 meetings with the IDs as needed. I checked regularly with the departments to make sure the instructional designers were supporting their needs and discuss with the instructional designers successes and desired improvements. I coordinated the following:

  • Creation of a Canvas Site "How to Teach Online" to provide resources for faculty on topics like: How is online teaching different, how to build community, synchronous vs asynchronous delivery and its benefits, VILT with Zoom, how to design asynchronous learning materials and how to manage assessments online. These 6 components were distributed among different subject matter experts. I created the site style guide and a quality control checklist to help make the content standard despite the different SMEs.

  • Lead the creation of course examples in Canvas. I worked with the instructional designers to crate a few Canvas course examples to help HMS faculty see what was possible and for coordinators to easily re-purpose Canvas components for their courses.


With the constant shift in needs during the pandemic response, the Learning Designers supported the programs in many different ways: Teaching Assistant support and training, development of Canvas page templates, redesign of course materials for online delivery and even video editing support.

The courses went live in their new online format in the fall of 2020 and the feedback from students was positive.

There was a shift in the needs of the departments from instructional technology to video production. After the Learning Designer contract ended, the department hired video production staff to support the increase in video support needs.