The following is @oplerno March Update

Dear Community,

At Oplerno we believe in transparency. That means we share with you both our successes and our failures. At a startup working to transform education we are going to try out some fairly radical ideas. Some will work and others will not.

Six weeks ago, I started teaching a class called “Course Development for Oplerno Faculty.” I learned more from the faculty who took the class than they learned from me. I made a couple of mistakes. First, I decided to teach about pedagogy rather than help to develop an understanding of how to use Canvas. What this says to me is that we need to develop a much better way of orientating students to the use of our LMS. Second, I did not fully grasp the importance having different classes or groups based on skill and experience with the use of technology. Faculty come to Oplerno with different skill sets and it is important to have differentiated instruction. Third, we need more help teaching faculty how to market their classes. I would say that as an instructor I failed to deliver what I promised in the marketing section.

About halfway through the course, I realized that we needed to create more opportunity for faculty to learn about online teaching. It turns out that we have some great expertise in our own community. I contacted Dr. Linda Kaiser and asked her if she would like to work with us in this area. She agreed and we are finalizing an agreement that will create more options for all of us to improve both our technical and pedagogical skills.

When one fails, it is important to acknowledge any mistakes and move on to try to find a solution.

As for marketing, I don’t have an answer yet but I will define the problem as I see it. Within the current dynamic across higher ed, faculty members have somewhat of a co-dependent relationship with their institutions. A significant number of people think that it is the responsibility of an institution to provide students for a class along with a course outline and curriculum. Many feel that getting the word out and recruiting is somehow a “grubby” activity best left to an admissions department. This attitude worked in the 20th Century and still dominates many of our higher education institutions but it is no longer the way and further creates co-dependence. It is easy for us to hang onto the idea that our legitimacy comes not from our ability as individuals but from our institutional affiliation. In fact, we are willing to trade our freedom for potential pseudo membership in the “tenure” club and even believe that those with tenure have more “legitimacy.” We put ourselves in a bad position when we question our ability to speak, teach, and learn freely because we are not sitting at the “cool” tenured kids’ table.

Oplerno creates the opportunity for you, as a faculty member, to create your own network of scholarship and earn a good living by creating your own network of students and fellow scholars. It is really important to remember that creating this new kind of academic life will involve failure and success. It will be difficult, but the rewards of independence, autonomy, and control are priceless. Jump in! Create new courses and degrees, send out messages to students, and recruit other scholars to join us in this endeavor. Together we will change things for the better.

See you online,


By Robert Skiff (@rskiff) and Dan Kirk at Oplerno — a global institution empowering real-world practitioners, adjunct lecturers, professors, and aspiring instructors to offer affordable, accessible, high-quality education to students from all corners of the globe.

Originally published at

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