Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

MCAD Online Learning Goes to the Summit

We were lucky enough to attend the 2017 Minnesota eLearning Summit in late July, co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota and MN State, and held on the campus of Normandale Community College.

There were so many interesting presentations and speakers—and an abundance of idea sharing between professionals looking to advance online learning for students and instructors. We attended several break-out sessions, and we’ll take a look at our three favorite here.

From Walled Gardens to Ecosystems

Image Source: Presentation Materials of Lesley Blicker, MN State

This presentation took an illuminating look at the current state of learning management systems (LMS). It asked the central question, are the LMSs we use in higher ed optimally serving the students and instructors?

The presenter, Lesley Blicker of MN State, framed the existing model as a “closed,” rigid IT system based on the traditional physical classroom—and characterized the model we should be working towards as an “open” system featuring collaboration and interoperability (between classes, departments, and institutions).

This session further shed light on a couple of the key efforts to bring about the needed changes, including the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE), which the Gates Foundation rolled out in 2015. In the short term, a push is underway to utilize more applications and Open Educational Resources (OER) on top of traditional LMS modalities.

Getting Frogs to Market in a Wheelbarrow

Image Source: Presentation Materials of Mary Katherine O’Brien and Kelly Vallandingham, UofM CVM

As the title suggests, this session was creative and fun, and certainly didn’t lack for useful information, either. It was led by two online learning practitioners from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

These presenters focused on the process of administering online courses and building materials for the courses across a disparately located team. They stressed that, while the process can be characterized as a hybrid of a few different project management approaches (agile and waterfall, for example), those templates often have to be scrapped to achieve the needed “just in time” results.

The myriad of stakeholders in the delivery of online courses—with all the demands, ever-changing requirements, personalities—can be overwhelming. Just like getting frogs to market in a wheelbarrow, apparently, can be.

Building a Master Core Course

Image Source: Presentation Materials of Lisa Abendroth, STU/Opus

Lisa Abendroth, associate Marketing professor at the University of St. Thomas/Opus College of Business, presented this—focusing on a team approach in reconfiguring the Marketing department’s introductory/core course with a short turnaround window.

She explained how the team quickly determined the goals for the project, which centered around consistency of design/presentation and a way for department staff to gain valuable online development experience. The team was able to chart their process to consist of three phases: planning, development, and usage/feedback.

This was an effective presentation in how it made the case for a clear, if simple, plan of attack for a online development project involving multiple contributors. It pertains, again, to some of the project management tenets, and to the value of collaboration in such an undertaking.