Building Momentum in Teaching, Learning & EdTech

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What do three fast and furious days of learning and sharing at the intersection of higher ed, teaching and learning and education technology look like? Those who attended the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative 2015, which just wrapped up in Anaheim last week (#ELI2015), had a chance to find out.

NGLC hosted two preconference events—one for the Breakthrough Models for College Completion (Wave IIIB) grantees and one for the Breakthrough Models Incubator teams—at which speeding tickets should have been issued.

After lightning rounds of conversation, we took a quick glance in the rearview mirror to note the changes and trends that these NGLC grantees spawned in just three short years:

  • new advising models,
  • disaggregated faculty roles,
  • new breeds of the LMS,
  • funding for students that side-steps Title IV,
  • new marketing strategies,
  • adoption and application of business concepts and practices,
  • rapid course development and prototyping of models,
  • and cutting edge learning analytics architecture developed in partnership with industry, to name just a few.

And we got a preview of challenges that face higher education innovators whether they are engaged in developing competency-based education (CBE) programs or other types of initiatives to open the “iron triangle” of accessibility, affordability and quality. 

The road ahead is about clarifying the key terms in the dialogue. What is a competency? What does it mean to personalize learning vs. teaching?

It’s also about opening new markets, connecting to K-12 students who have tasted personalized, learning-centered education and leading them toward higher education experiences that extend that experience. It’s about orienting students and faculty alike to new ways of engaging with curriculum and learning. And it’s about building systems for delivering and sustaining those programs and experiences by making innovation part of the DNA in higher education.

We got down to brass tacks with some of the challenges with the help of Bryan Setser, principal at 2Revolutions, and Rick Staisloff, principal at rpkGROUP to strategize ways to traverse the territory. And much of this comes down to organizational development and culture: it’s about prioritizing innovation and tucking away resources  (monetary and human capital) to protect that priority. It’s about investing in key partnerships – internally and externally, to build allies to carry the work forward and cultivate champions to hold the banner when leadership and team members change. And that may have been the number one juggernaut of them all: managing key personnel changes. There, the collective wisdom of our grantees surfaced a number of strategies, such as aligning to your core mission, doubling down on your external and internal partners and champions, and probably the most important of them all: not waiting for leadership.

The message? Be what you want to see. Step up and move things forward in whatever way you can – quietly and under the radar if need be, but never, ever, ever STOP.

Next year, we clearly need to change venues for these discussions; much as we at EDUCAUSE love the Lands of Mouse (Anaheim and Orlando), it is clear that we are beyond the Disney fairytale of new models and have entered the real, tangible work of building the future. Who knows? Maybe we’ll set up shop at Lego Land or California Adventure.

Photos courtesy of ELI; BMA and BMI alumni also participated in roundtables and other discussions throughout the conference