Loop Learnings: A Year of Insights from Digital Learning Leaders

Higher Education

Loop Learnings: A Year of Insights from Digital Learning Leaders

By Michael Sano     Dec 15, 2017

Loop Learnings: A Year of Insights from Digital Learning Leaders

Paper is the traditional first-year anniversary gift, but our EdSurge Loop members have been exchanging digital gifts since the networking experiment started just over a year ago. Each week, available members opt in for a video call with a peer in their cohort of instructional designers or cohort of deans, directors and provosts of digital learning. Together they’ve held over 500 hours of digital learning discussion and the anniversary week was our most popular week yet—these conversations just keep getting more valuable. So what have Loop members learned in a year of exchanging knowledge? We’ve collected some of their shared insights below.

The power of community

“There is an entire network of amazing educators and leaders willing to share their insights.” -Brad Washington, Assistant Provost for Online Programs, Notre Dame de Namur University

Small is strong. That’s one hypothesis about why Loop works so well. We have two hyper-focused cohorts. One is specifically for instructional designers and the other is for deans, directors and provosts leading digital learning initiatives around the country.

The cohort model provides an organic value to the discussions, much like seminars among graduate cohorts. Each week members also share the details of insights they’ve gained from meeting a new peer. Sometimes it’s something simple like a product to try, other times it’s more nuanced—a new perspective on a challenge or an idea for inspiring a culture more inclined to change on campus. Either way, the insights from these connections have an almost immediate impact on their peers’ current work.

“I really appreciated the commonality of the challenges our two institutions face in promoting innovation in online instruction. Knowing that others are struggling with the same issues will help us all find better solutions.” -Joseph Moreau, Vice Chancellor of Technology, Foothill-De Anza Community College District

“My match was able to identify with some challenges I'm experiencing and provide (in addition to empathy) some really concrete suggestions for how to navigate.” -Melissa Williams, Senior Instructional Designer, Mitchell Hamline School of Law

It’s all about the faculty

Well, maybe not ALL about our professorial colleagues, but faculty engagement is a topic of conversation that comes up just about every week. Whether the schools are large or small, public or private, research-focused or bent towards the arts, the challenge of improving collaboration with faculty is the same. Loop members report trading tactics for orienting faculty to online tools like West Chester University’s “In a Minute” videos. This is important. Progress can halt if faculty feel their governance power is not being respected. Recently, professors at Eastern Michigan University launched an ad campaign criticizing their university’s online degree programs. Loop members, on the other hand, seem to want nothing more than to get faculty involved in the decision making process.

My match “related their process for incorporating instructional design projects into new faculty training. That's something we've been working toward and it's good to hear that it's working well.” -Jacque Harris, Instructional Designer, Ozarks Technical Community College

“Approaching online course development from perspective of teaching philosophy in general (and not development) can be a more useful inroad for faculty.” -Ben Gottfried, Assistant Director of Instructional Technology, St. Olaf College

The future is adaptive

Another popular topic over the last year has been adaptive learning. Several of our Loop members have led large initiatives to implement adaptive courseware pilots at their campuses thanks to a grant partnership between the APLU and the Gates Foundation. Others are currently figuring how to get started, or sometimes even just decide what questions to consider if they plan to initiate an adaptive learning experiment. Members with a bit more experience have been sharing methods and results with those who are in the planning stages. But the fresh perspective of these “rookies” has been useful as others move to scale.

“We shared our successes, challenges, and insights about integrating student success strategies with the implementation of adaptive courseware.” -Patricia O'Sullivan, Manager, Personalized Learning and Adaptive Teaching Program, The University of Mississippi

“We talked extensively about adaptive and active learning; particularly how challenging it can be to get instructors and students on board. The "sage on stage" model is familiar and much easier for for everyone, resulting in pushback to pedagogy that requires change and effort.” -Teresa Kpachavi, Manager of Online Courses, Stanford University

Change is hard

Again, no matter the institution size or type, the challenges are often the same - change management and scaling are no exception. As Loop member Cali Morrison (Associate Dean, Alternative Learning, American Public University System) puts it, “Change is hard no matter your academic or business model.” But that does not stop our Loop community from pushing forward! Quite a few of our instructional designers see themselves as key change agents at their institution. Sometimes they are leading the shift from one LMS to another, other times they are helping to launch the first online program of its kind at their institution. Our directors, deans and provosts have been pondering how to shift the culture of their institutions to embrace change instead of eschew it. At least one duo has invoked Kotter’s 8-step model, but many have discussed techniques and models for driving innovation - and at scale.

“What (my match) is doing in her environment can be scaled to meet what I perceive as meeting our future needs in a small campus situation.” -Bill Kopf, Director of Instructional Technology, Lubbock Christian University

Credentials are going alternative?

A lot can shift over a year. More and more we’ve noticed Loop members mention they are swapping ideas and reflections about alternative credentials in higher education. While some are experimenting on their campus, others are watching how new partnerships develop and are starting to assess which of their degree programs might be best suited for disbursement into multiple credentials. At EdSurge we’re gathering stories into a microcredentials guide for Loop members to peruse as well as holding an online discussion about the future of microcredentials in January. We’re sure a lot of Loop members will be there to chime in, but it’s open to you too.

Get in the Loop

Want to get in on the conversations? We have a cohort for instructional designers and another for deans, directors and provosts leading digital learning initiatives at their institutions. Request your Loop invite today. Or, to get more details, check out our Loop FAQ.

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