a new wave to jump into….

In the last few years, I have stepped into the world of instructional design for online teaching and learning – first by taking a course as preparation toward the goal of teaching online in the field of my doctoral studies, then through securing an internship that led to working as an Instructional Design Associate for the last year and a half, then also exploring an internship as an Instructional Design intern, then following up on a job posting that happened to cross my desk.

The experiences of the last few years have gone far beyond the basic preparation for teaching that I was seeking initially.  I have had the pleasure of interacting with people across the field of online teaching in higher education – those who research, those design, those who teach, and those who develop initiatives.  In most cases, I was able to dip my toes into the foam on the beach as each of these waves gently brushed up against my feet on my journey, but now I will be jumping directly into the wave.

Sadly, I move on from these experiences in one way and gladly, I deepen these experiences in another.  Next week, I take on a new position as an Instructional Developer working with faculty on one of the campuses in our large system of campuses.  I will be helping faculty as they develop new online courses and incorporate technology into their blended and flipped classes.  It seems to be an exciting time to come aboard and I look forward to meeting new colleagues and learning new things within what seems to be an expansion of programs.

At one of the internships, I met one instructor of Differential Equations who was trying out some interesting innovations; we had several conversations about learning and his goals/philosophies.  We worked together really well, and I felt fortunate to have had such a good experience of what the ID and Instructor relationship could be.  I am hopeful that I will find the same kind of relationship with many other instructors along the way.  I am very interested in designing and developing instruction in collaboration with faculty and learning more about useful instructional technologies that will help them to meet their desired learning outcomes.

 

one toe in the water – moderating my first online course…

Well, I’m currently moderating my first online course.  It is a short course to help prepare campus migration teams for their migration to Blackboard Learn.  I recently became responsible for managing our migration education efforts.  This includes trainings for faculty and migration teams as well as educational resource development.  I chose to create a short course for the migration teams to help prepare them for administering the LMS and for training faculty.  The course allows them to experience the student perspective, learn about the LMS and features that faculty will want to use, and also to learn about the main conceptual aspects of administering the LMS.  The course purposefully utilizes various features of the LMS so everyone can become better acquainted with the LMS.

One of the things I am finding challenging and a little unnerving is wondering what is going on at the other end of the screen.  Are the participants seeing what I think they are seeing?  Will they interact the way I think they might?  How do I encourage active engagement?  How do I know if there is engagement?  How should I manage my work as the moderator?  Where is the best place to look for submissions and course activity?  There are tools available and several ways to do most things, so….. Perhaps signing in as a test student would answer some of my questions.

As a student in online college courses, I always went to the learning activities to monitor my interaction and that of my classmates.  I never utilized the notification tools much.  I usually referred to the grades area to manage my work as there was a concise listing of everything that needed to be done, and at-a-glance I could see what was done and what was coming up.  This is not the same kind of thing though.  There are no grades or requirements; it”s meant to be somewhat self-paced and auto-instructional.  There is one interactive discussion space, but I expect that the migration teams will be very busy preparing for migration and may not be able to spend much time there. I do believe they will however find the course helpful as a basic orientation and acclimation for migration.

coming up on a year…

It’s coming up on the first anniversary of my job working as an Instructional Design Associate.  I’ve had the opportunity to focus on the development of educational resources for helping faculty migrate to Blackboard Learn.  Most recently, I’ve been working on redesigning self-paced courses for faculty learning the technical aspects of the new LMS.  Using Camtasia to create tutorial videos and a collaborative wiki site to curate print and video resource repositories, I was able to streamline the courses and improve navigation and the learner experience ( hopefully) while also making it so the course can be updated more easily as new features and service packs come out.  The key features of the redesign were (1) to reorganize the content from content areas to learning modules for a cleaner, more navigable interface, (2) to enhance the content with comprehensive introductory video tutorials for the modules to give faculty the basics for getting started and help to guide their learning, and (3) to update and simplify access to multiple resources for diving deeper into the topics – one stop repositories.  I think the design will avoid browser issues associated with mixed content and embedded videos too.  The courses are just about ready for launch and I hope to take care of that this week.

In the course of this year, I have had the opportunity to develop materials in varied formats for varied delivery mediums, learned alot about Blackboard Learn, learned about delivering webinars in Collaborate, learned how to record and edit video in Camtasia, and participated in some professional development through SLOAN, NERCOMP, and Quality Matters that I hope will come in handy as I move forward with the organization I work for.  In the last six months, I’ve been able to learn about the back end of the LMS a little and the overall process of migrating campuses from one LMS to another.  My colleagues have invited me to attend some meetings on that and have been very willing to answer questions and to teach me along the way.  There is much more involved in managing the behind the scenes aspects of online education in higher ed.  Our organization is involved in the development and implementation of initiatives related to Open SUNY – a huge endeavor focused on meeting the mission of SUNY to serve New Yorkers, not only increasing access to education, but also supporting student completion and success.  I am not directly involved in those efforts as I am involved with another large charge – the migration of 30+ campuses to Blackboard Learn.  Nevertheless, it is very educative to see and hear what is going on to try to ensure that the Open SUNY effort is successful.

I still want to include online teaching and engage in direct instructional design consultation with faculty at some point.  I looked into an internship in instructional design to supplement my professional development; it would have offered the opportunity to work directly with faculty on designing and/or enhance their courses – both online and face-to-face.  It didn’t work out at this time (which is probably good, since I will quite busy soon with my research).  Oh, that reminds me – in my spare time, I also had the opportunity to review grants for research related to innovative, scalable technological endeavors.  That was interesting! It look forward to seeing which projects are funded and how they turn out.  I have a fair amount of experience in research and felt I had something to contribute there as well.   I am very interested in gaining experience in all of my interests in the area of instructional design and media development – hopefully all of those opportunities will come along.

This entry is more of a listing than a reflection; perhaps I’ll return to it soon to add another entry that shares my thoughts on ID principles and practices I have been thinking about.

just over six months in….

It’s been a little over six months since I started this job as an Instructional Design Associate.  My primary function to date has been to assist in the faculty development aspects of migrating campuses from one Learning Management System (LMS) to another.  My role has been to revise and update two self-paced training courses that have been made available to faculty on campuses that in the process of migrating to Blackboard Learn.  It’s also been my pleasure to develop and deliver a series of three webinars to help faculty learn the basics of the new LMS – navigation and content creation, interaction and assessment, and teaching and managing courses in Blackboard Learn.  As part of these efforts, I created hundreds of slides and several handouts.  My next project is to coordinate a space for faculty-to-faculty sharing of the migration experience, including discussions on challenges and successes, co-construction of resources, and sharing of guidelines, tips, and FAQs.  The idea across these projects is to offer a variety of up-to-date resources for faculty.  My colleague and partner in these efforts is also responsible for face-to-face workshops that are provided during each of the three phases of a campus’s migration.  A cross-functional team led by a very capable project manager handles the various aspects of the migration; our role on this team is to focus on the faculty education needs.  Naturally, there are some other aspects to my job and of course the need to learn the various tools we use in our organization for communication and managing workflow.  I hope to eventually contribute to some of the other projects and initiatives going on around me as I also work to further develop professionally.  It’s been interesting to have the opportunity to engage in professional development so far by attending trainings, symposiums, and online courses related to course quality indicators, instructional design, business process mapping, developing and delivering webinars, and how to use Collaborate and Blackboard Learn.   Let’s see what the next six months holds in store….

the next chapter in the saga…

Tomorrow I start my first job in the field of online teaching and learning.  I have been hired by the SUNY Learning Network to serve as an Instructional Design Associate.  It’s a pleasure to have this opportunity; I’m excited to continue learning, but also to be able to contribute in meaningful, practical ways within the field.  I began this blog a relative novice in technology, nervous, taking my second course in which I would design online instruction.  That led to an internship for credit within my program – the Certificate (CGS) in Online Learning and Teaching at UAlbany, and that led to a job offer.  My hope is to design instruction and teach online, to prepare teachers to go into the k-12 world of teaching reading and literacy, to support faculty in both/either k-12 or higher education, to help improve access and opportunity for historically marginalized groups of people, and to contribute to the research efforts of those hoping to do the same.  I believe I am in the right place to begin that journey.

CIT 2013 – community and comraderie around online learning and technology….

This is the first CIT conference I have had the pleasure to attend. CIT stands for Conference on Instruction and Technology, but it could easily stand for Community for Instruction and Technology.  Much like the SLN-SOL SUMMIT in February, this conference has a family feel to it.  People know each other and new-comers like me are welcomed into the fold in a very genuine way.  There is an atmosphere of warmth and commitment, playfulness and cooperation, intelligence and concern.  So many interesting sessions to choose from.  Long days, but invigorating and energizing as well (except for my footware which is causing me to limp about)…..

I decided to attend a variety of sessions that would provide opportunities to learn more about the world of SUNY and its initiatives as well as discover some practical applications and implementations that might serve well in design projects.  To that end, so far, I have attended the following sessions and activities:

  • Student powered curation tools and strategies (Kathleen Gradel)
  • SLN instructional designer roundtable (Rob Piorkowski)
  • Using visual communication tools to enhance teaching and learning (Harrison Yang)
  • Conference speakers session (David Lavallee)
  • The more we work together: Promoting effective group work in online classes (Kelliann Flores)
  • last half of The Chancellor’s online education advisory team – Open SUNY (Carey Hatch, Kim Scalzo, Tom Makey, Larry Dugan)
  • Online, open, and accessible: How do we reach all learners? (Kathleen Stone, Hollie Miller)
  • last half of (mostly the Q&A) Educational design and technology: Systems thinking and the Regents reform agenda
  • Technology showcase (wide variety of vendors)

Lots of good take away messages, but no time right now to elaborate.  Gotta get some sleep for another full day tomorrow!

*****

So, it’s May 26th, the conference is over, and I’m back at home with a few minutes to continue this post.  Again I have color coded as above, but have also color coding for the more theoretical/philosophical/pedagogical sessions.  During the last two days I attended sessions on the following topics:

  • Faciltating communities of practice through the SUNY Learning Commons (Lisa Raposo, Kim Scalzo, Doug Cohen, Kathy Gundrum)
  • FACT2 Keynote – Rebooting the crystal ball: Looking into the future of higher education (Bryan Alexander)
  • first half of Connecting, creating, and sharing: The 21st century student on the global stage (Mark McBride)
  • Integrating the brain-based teaching and learning approach into designing the assessments of a blended course (Jie Zhang)
  • Toward a SUNY framework for evaluating online instruction (Mark Warford)
  • Critical thinking across disciplines (Rob Piorkowski)
  • Community-driven competency-based certificate programs for professional development (Kim Scalzo, Lisa Raposo, Alexandra Pickett, Maureen Zajkowski)
  • Using multimedia maps to engage students in science, culture, and geopgraphic literacy (Audeliz Matias, Sheila Aird, David Wolf)
  • “No, I don’t want to to watch your online tutorial “: An honest conversation between faculty and IT support staff (Rachel Rigalino, Linda Smith, Mary Fakler, Kate Hurd)
  • What is social presence? why do I want it? and how do I create it? (Alexandra Pickett)

For me, the conference was just the right balance of gaining more insight into SLN and SUNY, delving into theoretical ponderings, and examining interesting practice ideas and technologies.  As for gaining insight into SLN and SUNY, I am better informed of the initiatives being undertaken at both levels and how the sister organizations of SLN, CPD, and OLIS are working together to create new opportunities for faculty within the context of Open SUNY and Systemness.  As for delving into theoretical ponderings, I had the opportunity to see the thinking of a truly gifted societal observer and theoretician who hit on so many of the kinds of things that have crossed my mind; he however also shared a wealth of knowledge that supported and illustrated his thinking.  Another speaker reminded me of my love for multiliteracies and semiotic systems during his talk on transliteracy and metaliteracy; I just may have to dive into that again!  As for examining interesting practice, I learned about many very engaging ideas for instruction, most including technologies of all kinds; I especially enjoyed those that combined modes into attractive and/or interactive learning objects and activities.  Projects and processes that make students active collaborators and creators of knowledge objects piqued my interest – i.e., co-constructing textbooks and study guides instead of buying pre-printed texts, engaging students in successful group collaboration, and technological tools that support such efforts as well as tools that make greater accessibility possible.  For me, the CIT conference was a great opportunity to learn, but also a great opportunity to network and begin some friendships that I think will move into the future both professionally and personally.  I highly recommend the event and encourage others interested in such things to consider attending next year’s conference.

as my internship comes to an end….

At the start of this internship experience, I was asked to craft a set of desired learning outcomes for this experience.  As this second semester comes to a close, I revisit those goals to reflect upon my growth and provide a brief statement about my on-going learning in this internship.

1. To increase knowledge and understanding of instructional design principles and best practices.

I had the opportunity to explore designing and observing a group activity for online learning;  I also had the opportunity to work on enhancing the design of a previously delivered certification course to try to in corporate principles of andragogy, community of inquiry, and critical thinking as I worked to move it from ANGEL to Blackboard.  I tinkered with ideas for designing in learning modules, by topics, and by tasks – all valid approaches to design, but each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.  There is also the unique caveat that sometimes a course needs to be designed to be delivered by any one member of a team of individuals – all of whom may have different delivery instructional styles and different ideas on facilitation and where the balance lies between supporting student construction of knowledge through social interaction and expert guidance or apprenticeship to clarify misconceptions and misunderstandings as well as to lead learners toward learning and consolidation of key principles and capabilities.  For me, facilitation is critically important to maximizing student learning and satisfaction, but I also recognize that to do it well requires time that may not be available to instructors these days.  As for design, I think I have come to the tentative conclusion that the key is to examine alignment between desired outcomes, content, and learning activities.  This is not a new concept for me, as that was a big take away from my early learning in IDD&E over 20 years ago.  The idea that emerges now however is the multiplicity of valid options (not just one “correct” approach) available to solve instructional problems and the need for intentional leveraging of the affordances of each.  Making intentional choices about which limitations to accept and which to avoid, examining potential content and technologies critically, and varying activities to make learning accessible to the widest range of learners is the essential foundation for design.

2. To increase proficiency in varied technologies related to online teaching and learning (such as, proficiency in LMS platforms and troubleshooting, use of webinar platforms, creating/updating websites, and development of learning objects/instructional media).

This semester I had the opportunity to build in the Blackboard LMS.  It was a great chance to explore and apply some of what I had learned in the first semester about Blackboard in a real hands-on, embodied way.  I learned the limitations and affordances of the LMS as it pertained to the visual layout of the design as well as the functionality of the LMS features and learning activities.  Blackboard’s environment demonstrates some pedagogical assumptions that may or may not match individual instructor’s assumptions and goals, nevertheless, it is the environment in which the instructor needs to function.  It’s an interesting dilemma.  What drives instruction – the LMS or the pedagogical beliefs of the instructor?  This kind of goes back to what I wrote about facilitation and designing a course that needs to be delivered by any one of a team of people.  Nevertheless, I digress.  I have learned to build content and manage the content collection; create discussion forums and manage the discussion board; set up self/peer reviewed assessments; set up and manage the grade center; and quite a bit more.  I hope to have the opportunity to deliver a course at some point so I can learn about other LMS features that support managing enrollments, interaction and communication – i.e., announcements, messages, and other administrator level things.

3. To gain insight into the practical reality of online teaching and learning and to learn about innovative solutions to practical issues encountered.

Helping with the delivery of the last certification course gave me some perspective, especially in observing the participants’ interactions during the group project.  Again, noting benefits and drawbacks and the role of facilitation.  Students were also asked to share reflections on the experience and I think this was critical because it really underscored that the activity had benefits and drawbacks and that no one activity is likely to meet everyone’s preferences.  There aren’t really black and white solutions to instructional matters in the online environment, but there are options and perhaps creating options is a good way to go to ensure that there is something for everyone.  For an online environment, communication is critical to meeting student needs responsively; designing for that communication is as important as planning on facilitating in a way that gets students to open up.

4. To develop a flexible, collaborative approach to working with designers and instructors that supports their efforts, generates comfort, and promotes a safe community for exploration and co-construction of effective approaches for meeting online teaching goals.

In working on the redesign of the certificate course and its move to Blackboard, I had a unique opportunity to feel out these waters and to experience the act of collaboration in a new way.  I haven’t had that many opportunities to work collaboratively, having spent a lot of time homeschooling and self-employed.  However, in this project I was working with the course as laid out by another individual and was quite conscious of the personal investment inherent in that.  Truth is, any recommendation I make can be viewed as criticism in the negative sense and I was rather concerned about that potential.  My intent was to try out potentials and try to enhance the already strong ideas to incorporate the key principles of critical thinking and community of inquiry as espoused here at SLN.  I found it stimulating and exciting, but worried about appearing critical in a negative sense.  I found it helpful to bring that out directly and speak to the personal aspect so that collaborative efforts and budding friendships could both flourish.  I do hope to have continued opportunities to collaborate in a way that allows me to contribute, but also to learn; to recognize that there are many valuable perspectives and how integration of perspectives can lead to outcomes that no one party would have envisioned; and to develop open honest work styles that allow for all to feel valued as products/projects are completed effectively.

5. To contribute to, and support the efforts of, SLN through completion of work on target projects related to the Education Services provided by SLN.

This semester, my main contributions were to help design and facilitate the last four-week course in the ID certification sequence and to recreate the first course in the sequence for its upcoming deployment in the summer.  I am hopeful that these efforts have helped the organization and the Ed Services staff to meet their goals.

 

This internship has been a very rewarding experience that will inform my decisions as I go forward into instructional design work and/or online teaching related to my field of study in education – reading and literacy.  Thanks to SLN and everyone there for this learning experience and for making me feel integrated into the organization.

flowing with the tide of technology….

I have always been one of those people who likes to know as much as possible about whatever I’m doing so I can do the best job I possible can.   I am learning though that in the age of technology in which we live, new technology – both hardware and software – seem to pop up daily, and older technology disappears (or at least is treated as obsolete) just as fast.  How are people and organizations to function?  I really feel that technology is the big equalizer these days.  No matter how well you know your field, you can be brought to your knees by the technology.  In that regard, I kind of like it.  I think it reminds those in positions of expertise what it feels like to be the novice.  I think it reminds us as a people that we are all really just people with the same basic vulnerabilities.  But I digress…..

My point is really about being able to flow with the tide of technology, to dive in and swim even if you don’t quite know where the next wave is coming from or where it will take you to.  In this internship, I have been given the opportunity to explore the Blackboard Learning Management System by helping move a course from the ANGEL  LMS to Blackboard.  I was able to explore ways to redesign it within Blackboard to leverage the functionalities offered by Blackboard to enhance the goals and objectives of the original course.  I was provided a wide range of latitude to explore and given the access needed to re-create the course for the organization.  The content and discussion prompts of the original course remained the focus and foundation for the redesign. I was able to explore how to create and work with a content collection, how to set up discussion forums and the discussion board, how to utilize self and peer assessment for assignments, how to set up and manage the grade center, how to build different kinds of content, and so forth.  I’ve gained alot, but I know that it will quickly change and Blackboard will issue updates or another LMS will emerge that gets taken up in  a feverish way.  I’ll have to avoid being afraid of not knowing everything about it.  I’ll have to embrace learning as I go, exploring, experimenting, and appreciating the missteps along the way.

For me, this was a great way to engage in thinking about the pros and cons of various design ideas, to experiment a little with the tools provided in Blackboard, and to gain some hands-on knowledge of the functionality Blackboard  does (and doesn’t) allow.  I am looking forward to other opportunities to continue to build my knowledge and skill with LMS, both on the design side and the actual instructional side (i.e., facilitating or teaching a course).  As a doctoral student, one of my goals is to teach online at some point, and all of these experiences with SLN are helping me feel more secure about my success when that time comes.

participatory activities on a webinar….

Yesterday, I participated in two webinars on Quality Matters.  The formal program website is at www.qmprogram.org .  The webinars I attended were SLN’s  QM program.  In any case, the webinars were vibrant spaces.  Why?  Was it just a question of the people who happened to participate on this day?  Was it something about the activities were asked to complete?  There were some application activities that required some independent examination of materials followed by discussion through the chat area in the webinar.  The exchange of view points and deep thinking that was occurring, the genuine interest in understanding, and a sense of having our sleeves rolled up and connecting on the intellectual level over the material, was invigorating.  I think some people wonder if you can get that kind of engagement through webinars – the answer is clearly yes, but it is not something I have often experienced on the webinars that I have attended.  I think usually it is difficult to get that level of engagement.  Perhaps it was the group of attendees and their vested interest; perhaps it was the facilitator of the webinar and his skillful injection of social presence along with the cognitive challenge of the application assignments.  It is difficult for the facilitator to know if the attendees are engaged or not and this participatory activity made that engagement visible.  The conversation in the chat area was evidence of that as was the variety of people who took control of the screen and mic to illustrate and explain their points.  I think that was a very important facilitative move – to give over control of the webinar to attendees.  It makes them more active in the process and I think makes for a more dynamic environment in what could be a rather sterile environment.  Two very successful webinars and participatory activities that really got me engaged, not just tasks to get through and tolerate.  I wonder what it was about those activities that brought about genuine connection and investment where often such experiences feel contrived and lacking in authenticity.  That must be it, the authenticity.  The activity did place attendees in authentic courses to play the role of reviewer which is what the course was designed to trained, so the participatory activity, while a simulation, was about as close to the actual experience as you could get.  Hmmm….  well designed, well facilitated, well attended.

shift in stance….

Just a quick entry to keep my thoughts on how I’ve been shifting my stance in life.  I am finding that the interning experience has prompted a shift toward a genuine learner stance, toward the idea that failure IS an option and a good learning experience, that risk-taking in learning is a GOOD thing, that trying new things without fear of mistakes is freeing, that sharing feedback with/from colleagues can be a non-threatening space.  These have always been part of my philosophical stance, but are now becoming part of my lived experiential stance, and it feels good.

I have been working on a redesign of certification course here at the internship.  The course is due to run again soon and we needed to move it to Blackboard anyway, so I have been the freedom to try out some redesign ideas.  I have confidence and misgivings, but it is an experiment based on theoretical ideas and may appeal to some users very much and may be disconcerting to others at first.  I think I will set up a back up plan – just in case – but I think with attentive facilitation and support it can be a successful approach for a short-running course like this one.  I hope most find it to be an intellectually challenging, stimulating, and satisfying experience.  It’s been tons of fun for me so far!