All posts by dnorman

2014 Week 43 in review


We’re working on a couple of badging-related projects in the EDU. Kevin’s looking into Mozilla’s Open Badges platform/framework, and we’re exploring what it means for a department/faculty/university to issue (and accept) badges as microcredentials. Lots of really great discussions on this. Looking forward to seeing what we come up with!

Committees and Reports and Bears Oh My!

Yeah. Making sausage. Mmm. Sausage.

Learning Object Repository

Seriously. I’m having flashbacks. But, we have faculties who need to be able to share files within the context of their online courses, and public websites aren’t appropriate. So, LOR in D2L is being spun up. Thankfully, this time around, it’s just a bunch of checkboxes instead of having to build a platform and implement IMS LOM and other fun bits. I’ve enabled a University-wide repository, where anyone can push content to share with the whole campus. We’re also working with the faculty of Veterinary Medicine, to figure out a good way for their folks to share learning resources across courses in the program.

Open Access Week

Some really good projects going on. Our library supports open access journals in a bunch of ways, including paying the publishing fees for UofC researchers so open access isn’t ironically cost-prohibitive. We also buy copies of every textbook to put on reserve, so students don’t have to spend $1700/year on books. Instructors are strongly encouraged to select less expensive (or free, or open) resources to help reduce the costs to students.

We are working on spinning tup OER and open textbook projects in the province and on campus, but I’m really interested in discussions we’ve started on post-print course resources. We shouldn’t be thinking just of save-as-pdf-or-ePub. What can learning resources be in 2014? How can we better support learning? Dead trees, or their electronic analogues, aren’t it. OER as a logical consequence of a high quality learning experience, not as the ultimate goal itself.

Also, Zygote Quarterly. A really interesting open access online magazine focussing on the intersection of science and design. Lots of stuff on biomimicry. Fascinating. And co-published by one of our engineering profs. Awesome.

Business/Consultant Speak

I’ve been catching myself speaking non-human consultant/management-speak. I don’t like it. Must work harder on not getting sucked into that world. Part of it is a side effect of the New Role, but it’s spewing out more often lately. Stahp.

on enabling innovation to enhance learning

When we work with instructors, there are 3 general groupings, in terms of their comfort level and technology integration and innovation in their courses.


There is a small group that doesn’t use much technology, doesn’t integrate much in their teaching, and don’t pursue any strategies that would be considered “innovative.” From the outside, this group is often labelled as Luddites or dismissed as being laggards, but that is definitely not always the case. There are important innovations happening in this group, but they may not be visible to outsiders because they aren’t using the shared language of silicon valley innovation. Not every innovation requires high technology, or even technology at all. We can learn much from the Reluctant adopters, because many of them are reluctant to adopt mainstream technology because it doesn’t do what they need.


There is a second, much larger, group that does integrate some technology, tries some new and changing pedagogical strategies, and basically is self-supporting as a status quo. This majority adopts technology because it’s there, and looks to their peers for guidance on what to do, and how to do it. Again, this is not a bad thing. These people are experts in their fields, and they adopt “innovation” when it suits their needs. And they ignore the new shiny when it doesn’t solve an immediate problem. And that’s fine.


A third group, at the “high end” of the bell curve, explores new technologies, integrates them into their teaching, and tries emerging strategies to try to engage students. This group builds stuff, finds new stuff, and tries new things. The Shiny. They take risks. Which is great, but not everyone has the time, comfort level, or experience to do that. So we need to learn from this group, give them support to help them do the stuff they’d do anyway (but maybe do it more? do it better? do it more successfully?), and learn from that.


It’s tempting to focus on the Pioneers, because that’s where new ideas are usually introduced, but we need to focus on all three groups in order to effect real and sustained innovation across the university. We need to work with all three groups, learn from what they do (and what they don’t do), and then showcase successes to help everyone adopt things that will help them in their practices.

This is basically just another way to look at Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations double-S-curve. Ron Newmann presented a version of it at the 2013 LiFT Conference. They’re looking at how to identify new innovations, and track their adoption from 0-100%, rather than trying to help foster adoption of constellations of innovation across a population, as we’re doing at the university level.

I see our job with the technology integration group as being the green arrows in the diagram. We work with everyone, and help them to enhance the learning experience. We work with them to identify, support, and enable innovation and successful integration of appropriate technologies, and to push the state of the art of teaching. That’s how we can help support and sustain real innovation broadly across the entire university.

I keep coming back to the guiding statement our group came up with:

To enable innovation and creative integration of learning technologies to continuously enhance the learning experience.

This is why we do what we do. It isn’t about shiny tech. It’s about working with everyone to help them enhance learning.