Key Highlights from the Online Learning Consortium

I recently attended (and presented) at OLC Accelerate 2018, an annual conference hosted by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), an organization offering regional and national conferences, educator resources (research, journal, book series, insights) and a quality scorecard framework for digital education and program administration.

OLC Accelerate 2018 included over 500 sessions on trends and innovations in digital teaching and learning, edtech, gamification, open educational resources, and advancing best practices in online teaching. Here are some highlights from the conference:

AI, Blockchain and Semantics

Miguel Molina – Cosculluela managing partner of Analytikus – Simplifying Data, discussed the application of blockchain technologies and advanced analytics frameworks to Higher Education in AI, Blockchain, And Semantics – Making All The New Buzzwords Work For You. A few applications  included Career Planner, an academic advising tool integrating career information and semantic analysis of course content to create personalized pathways, helping students visualize academic pathways to career goals. Foresight, a predictive analytics tool uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify potential academic problem areas for a student.

Learn more about the blockchain ecosystem at EducationDive, the Center for Blockchain Research at Stanford University, and Pushing the Boundaries of Learning with AI. Also, here are a few more case studies in higher ed.

Design Thinking for Digital Projects

Do you have education challenges that design thinking can help solve? Christine Paige, Alena Rodick, and Mark Lewis, from Open SUNY Online Teaching, shared examples of how they applied design thinking to instructional design practices at their institution. Design thinking includes five steps: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test. It’s a creative and iterative process that can be applied to designing digital learning experiences, including large-scale projects. I appreciate its focus on the user perspective, to help us design a more inclusive digital learning experience.

The SUNY team shared the following resources: Using Design Thinking in Higher Education, Design Thinking for Educators, Design Thinking Explained, and the Interaction Design Foundation. We learned about empathy maps, the ideation process, point of view statements, and saw examples of the 5-step process in action. Here’s a blog that helps instructional designers think through problems learners encounter, and a link to the IDEO design kit. Consider adding a design thinking framework to your digital projects!

Digital Campus and the Future of the University

A panel of four members from the University of Arizona’s Online leadership team  (Joshua Steele, Melody Buckner, Matthew Romanoski, and Vincent Del Casino) shared how ASU’s digital and online initiatives helped the institution re-envision the 21st century residential model. ASU Online, its online campus, has over 700 courses and approximately 80 fully-online programs.

ASU Online is a creative hub, serving both online and residential students for high-impact initiatives and strategies. A key takeaway was the team’s “people and partners” strategies, which involved building support across the campus with solution design summits, a Quality Matters initiative, and connecting Arizona online faculty to residential faculty in a peer-to-peer sharing of best practices, teaching experiences, and mentorships.

Steal This Workshop! All About OER

A terrific overview of a 2-hour facilitated workshop offered to faculty in Open Educational Resources (OER). Olena Zhadko is Director of Online Education at City University of New York, working with faculty on course design to align learning outcomes to OER resources. The session reviewed an Open Educational Resource course previously piloted with faculty at her institution, and one that can be implemented in our own institution to promote OER implementation. The resources for sustainable, scale-up to implementing OER are available here. The workshop is geared to help faculty identify, evaluate, and integrate OER into their teaching.

Flipping the Classroom for Workforce Development

Gerald Hanley, PhD also hosted an Express Workshop on Academics and Workforce Development teaching us how to use SkillsCommons, the US Department of Labor’s open library of workforce development OER, including 21,000 free worldwide resources. SkillsCommons can be used for apprenticeship programs, professional development of faculty, and to jump start development for quality career and technical training at your own institution.

Engaging Gen Z Learners

I attended an insightful discovery session on Rethinking Student Engagement with Generation Z led by Dr. Vickie Cook (Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois). We explored characteristics of Gen Z students and how to effectively engage learners born between 1995 – 2010, who have an attention span of 8 seconds, thrive on immediate feedback, and have a global perspective for learning. Instructors should integrate authentic, real world projects, map courses to careers, create self-learning pathways, and integrate active learning and problem-solving activities in their teaching.

Gen Z likes to receive and give immediate feedback. Online tools such as Poll Everywhere and Socrative engage students and provide feedback to instructors, and Slack is a great collaboration and discussion platform for Gen Z. Since Gen Z values class discussion, faculty interested in designing effective question prompts can use the Practical Inquiry Model (PIM) framework to promote higher order thinking. The PIM is based on 4 phases of cognitive presence: 1) Triggering event (2) Exploration (3) Integration and (4) Resolution. Sadaf and Olesova write about the benefits of using PIM in Enhancing Cognitive Presence in Online Case Discussions With Questions Based on the Practical Inquiry Model. See eCampusNews to learn about the tools to engage these learners.

Quality Digital Learning Experiences

How do you benchmark quality in digital education? Using the OLC framework, including the Quality Scorecard Suite from Open SUNY (available to download for free) and the Five Pillars of Quality Online Instruction providing a framework to benchmark quality from the course to the program level.

I’ve attended and presented at OLC for several years and it’s always a valuable experience.  This is a great conference for digital education leaders, instructional designers, program administrators, edtech leaders, online teaching faculty, and others involved in faculty development for online teaching and learning. If you’d like to learn more, contact me!