systematic

Hooray for Brian blogging again! 🙂1

I didn’t really (fully) articulate my position(s) on in my recent LMS post, either. I kind of ran out of steam at 1600 words. Maybe for the better. (I’m still not fully articulating things yet – more to come later, if I can come up with the energy – but I wanted to respond quickly to Brian)

I am really not a fan of the LMS as an end-state, but it’s a symptom of institutional models, not the illness itself. Unless/until the nature of post-secondary institutions changes pretty radically, the LMS (or something like it) is here to stay. Yeah. I feel it too.

Which leaves me thinking about how to proceed. I’m powerless to change the nature of The Institution™, so I have 2 choices – either give up entirely and write off online learning for anything larger than incubator/startup/pilot scale, or embrace the fact that the LMS (or something smelling awfully similar) will be around for awhile. How to turn that around so that we can still do interesting things?

If the LMS is set up to be the institutional plumbing – access control, grades, basic functionality for most users – what if we let it do that, so that the pressure of “scale” is taken off the innovators at the edges? Let the majority of people do their thing in the LMS, and slowly change as that beast evolves, while we work on the awesomeness in the fringes. Or something.

  1. I’m trying something – if I say people can respond by posting on their own sites and tracking back to here, I need to be doing the same thing. Reclaim all of the comments. or somesuch. []

2014 Week 39 In Review

I’m taking a page from Clint Lalonde’s book – he’s been writing “week in review” posts for awhile, and it’s been really interesting to see what he’s up to. And of course there’s the weekly recaps by Audrey Watters! I don’t think I’ll be able to recall that level of detail, but having some kind of record of at least the bigger things each week will be helpful to me. So…

New website launched

The new website for the new Educational Development Unit of the new Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning launched on Monday. It was a highly collaborative design project, built within the Unit. I’m really happy with the website, because we managed to steer completely away from “hey! let’s reproduce an org chart as HTML and call it a website!”. I think it’s a much more usable/useful website, and early feedback from the folks that actually need to find people and stuff has been extremely positive. Awesome.

Teaching and Learning Committee

I was asked to give an update to the General Faculties Council Teaching and Learning Committee (basically, the Associate Deans from all faculties, coming together with Vice Provosts to make decisions and actually work on teaching-and-learning stuff – it’s a really amazing group!). I had to give an accelerated version of State of D2L and Connect (our 2 key institutional eLearning tools, both of which are new at the institution this semester). I’d forgottenblocked out that for about half of the campus, D2L is new this semester. We’ve been working on the project since last summer, and have been adding faculties and courses since then, but Fall 2014 was the first full-scale semester with 100% of online courses being run in D2L.

The slides I used are available as a PDF.

I described the semester launch, and that we are now basically done with the transition. It’s time to reduce the number of intensive F2F workshops, and start the shift to a community support model. The EDU will take the lead in coordinating and building capacity, but it’s time to move past the initial orientation-level sessions. Also, it’s finally time for us to move past “OMG LMS”, and get into the more interesting/impactful/meaningful things we can be doing to improve teaching and learning, and the tools we use to support that.

UCalgaryBlogs

Still getting support emails for this – mostly from people who don’t receive the account notification email, so they have no idea how to login. I had a new blogs@ucalgary.ca address set up so that it would hopefully bypass spam filters that have apparently latched onto the account built into the server. Now, to make sure all sites are able to send mail via SMTP using that account…

Technology Integration Group planning session

We’re still a new group, and we need to find our voice. Part of that involves developing a shared vision and mission for the group within the context of the EDU, and within the broader University. We had a really amazing brainstorming session on Monday, and came up with a really great description of the purpose for our group:

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

Yeah. Still sounds a little marketroid buzzwordy, but we can work with it. It’s good.

Outcomes and Competencies

Had another great meeting with some folks who need to run a faculty-wide outcomes/competency analysis as part of their accreditation process. We’re looking at the tools within D2L (which appear to come up rather short from what they need, but we’re hopeful that this will eventually help), as well as dedicated tools to manage the data and analysis. Holy. That’s going to be a big project, but it has the potential to really change (and improve) the entire learning experience in the faculty.

Qatar campus

Met with the IT Partner for our Faculty of Nursing in Qatar, to talk about how we can better work together to support instructors and students over there. We have lots of great ideas (unfortunately, none of them involved “send D’Arcy to Qatar for a few days”).

Starting to plan our shift to community support model

As mentioned above, it’s time to shift from intensive face-to-face support – that was absolutely necessary to help people with the transition to D2L and Connect, but that’s just not sustainable. We have essentially 2 FTE dedicated to instructor support, and we need to plan how to change what we do to help people Out There, without them having to come to the mothership for support. Lots of ideas there – we’ll be rebuilding the elearn.ucalgary.ca and open.ucalgary.ca websites, and building many more resources to help out. We’ll also be working with the IT Support Centre to help build capacity there, so instructors and students are able to get many of their questions rapidly handled at that level without needing to be escalated over to the EDU for high-level support.

This is all based on the Strategic Framework for Learning Technologies, which was approved by the Board of Governors over the summer. The Framework lays out a plan to provide staff in each faculty to act as “coaches” or “educational technology specialists” to work within the faculty context to help instructors in a distributed/network/community model. We’ll be working closely with them (once they’re hired), to build capacity in each faculty and then share stuff across the whole campus. It’s going to be a really powerful way to bridge centralized support and services with the various unique needs in each of our 14 faculties (and we have a precedent in the IT Partner model, which has worked really well for the pure IT side of things).

President’s Community Report 2014

Holy cow. What an update! It’s easy to gloss over the whole “Eyes High” vision as just a marketing ploy, but dang have we ever picked up our game as a university! I’ve been (mostly) on campus since 1987 (starting as an undergrad, then an undergrad in another field, then as a consultant, staff member, and now a manager). I’ve never seen this level of activity on campus. We’re aiming high, and are actually pulling it off. Wow.

The biggest takeaway for me is that the University is counting on us making the Taylor Institute the “go-to place in North America” for research and innovation in teaching and learning. That’s a big goal, especially considering the building currently looks like this and we’re just getting started. Pretty amazing, to know we have that level of support at the university!

Research collaboration

I’m involved in a proposal for a research project involving theatre, library collections, teaching and learning, and some really high goals. Can’t share details yet, because it’s just starting to get fleshed out, but this collaboration has been absolutely amazing. My brain hurts after our last planning session.