Campus News

Modern art: Instructional designer helps faculty sculpt online courses

Flint Buchanan

Being raised by a single working mother, Flint Buchanan saw the real impact of night classes firsthand as his mother, Susanne, balanced educating herself and raising him. Now as an instructional designer in the Office of Online Learning, Buchanan is trying to help those who may be in a similar situation.

In the Internet age, night classes are not always the preferred education option for full-time workers.

“I think that UGA’s online classes are that opportunity for those people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to a quality education,” Buchanan said.

As an instructional designer, Buchanan works with faculty to help increase and improve UGA’s online course offerings. He assists them with transitioning their in-person courses to online offerings. Through workshops, classes and training, Buchanan also helps teach faculty members everything about online courses from how to grade coursework to ensuring that quality material is available.

“Part of our office’s charge is to do everything we can to help faculty create quality online education that is par with UGA,” said Buchanan, who has been in his current position since August. “Sometimes my job can be hands-on and technical or it also can be very nebulous and thinking pedagogically about the difference between an online course and an in-person course.”

Buchanan also works with faculty to help answer any concerns they may have about online courses. He said concerns are “very rare,” but one he hears sometimes is that faculty members are worried they eventually will be replaced with the online courses, something he said will never happen.

“Most faculty members are accepting and good about working to make sure students get the same level of education either way they take a course,” he said. “But good instruction is good instruction; it’s the tools that can change.”

Buchanan’s interest in instructional design grew out of his time in the College of Veterinary Medicine, where he worked for 10 years creating 3-D animations, working on grants and serving as an instructional designer. He also taught veterinary medicine students how to be more Web savvy.

“That’s where I really learned about how you marry creativity with instruction and instructional design,” he said.

Buchanan’s background is in art-he received a bachelor’s of fine arts from Georgia State University in 1997 and a master’s in fine art from UGA in 2001-and meshes with his current duties of helping shape online courses.

“It fits well with my model of making art in terms of communicating and trying to bridge the gap and what the viewer’s thinking,” he said.

Buchanan said he really enjoys what he’s doing now, and feels it makes a powerful impact.

“There are a lot of people who, their first time around at college, didn’t do well,” he said. “Now in their 30s, 40s or 50s, they can’t move to the college campus but they want to have access to a quality education.

“I’ve got the chance to help give people opportunities,” Buchanan added. “I honestly feel that this is probably one of the more important things that I’ll do in my career.”