Design For People, Now.

Published by Carrie O'Donnell
on Apr 16, 2020

“Design is for people, not content”. These wise words were sent to me in a text message by my friend and collaborator, Gerry Hanley of California State University, Long Beach and Executive Director of Skills Common and MERLOT.

This thinking sparked a conversation between Gerry and I that we are eager to extend to a larger group of faculty and leaders in higher education. To get the ball rolling, we are co-facilitating a discussion at OLC Ideate next week.

Gerry’s comment also got me thinking about my experiences in 30 years as a learning designer, and how this principle is baked into everything we do at O’Donnell Learn. Clearly, learning design must be centered on the learner. Over and over, I have seen that the most successful learning designs focus on mastery, not failure, with student success as the primary objective. And, our team is careful to consider the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can either motivate success or inhibit it.

I have also been thinking about the increased challenges placed on learning design post-COVID-19. We are already seeing an increased demand to upskill displaced workers, and there will be pressure on higher ed institutions to help retool our workforce for the new normal. This presents a new urgency towards learner-centric design. We designers, and the faculty we support, need to consider intrinsic factors like stress, anxiety, grief and fear that may be inhibiting student success.

Learning design also must be centered on the instructor. Many faculty members are wary of “training” rather than educating. Others are worried that virtual education is less effective than the classroom variety. History shows that returning adult workers have constraints–often juggling work, family and school–that make online or blended learning a better option. Yet, few college instructors have been trained to design learning for people. In the past, most faculty members have designed learning based on their content expertise. I am thrilled to extend this dialogue and engage in conversation with partners, colleagues, and friends working hard to figure out how we educate displaced workers and design learning experiences in our new normal.

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Higher Ed Has the Toolset, But Do They Have the Mindset to Future-fit?

Published By Joana Jebsen
on Aug 12, 2021

Imagine a fresh-faced eighteen year old, naive to the great big world ahead, hoping for an acceptance into an accredited two or four year college. They’re navigating the long hall towards their college counselor’s office, reviewing the list of schools in their mind, while envisioning a future of friends, inspiring courses and eventually a career, a life. College, whether community or four year, will be their first steps towards adulthood, towards maturity, or so they think.  What they don't know, what they aren’t told, is that most higher education is unequipped to prepare them for life. The real responsibilities they’ll meet when they exit campus are not delineated, explored or taught in school.  To make matters more complicated, the notion of the “traditional student” no longer exists. Students are opting out of four year residential colleges for two year schools and online programs. They’re also delaying the start of college in pursuit of a career. Additionally, there’s been an enormous uptick in adult learners, with families, who start school later, or attend school in tandem with a job. It’s clear: there’s a broken talent pipeline. And an enormous question: is higher education fit for the future?

Looking Back/Learning Forward: Lessons For the Now Normal

Published By Brett Christie, PhD
on Jul 20, 2021

Looking Back, Learning Forward, a motto and mindset to utilize as we envision the future of distance education and fuse historic learning practices with modern lifestyles. I recently co-hosted a webinar with Dr. Jim Julius, Faculty Director of Online Learning at Mira Costa College, where we walked a group of educators through insights gathered over the last fourteen months of online learning. If one thing is clear, it is that it’s been a journey for everyone: faculty, students, education consultants, learning designers, institutional leadership, and families alike. 

Launching Faculty Learning Communities: Participation is All About Perceived Value

Published By Brett Christie, PhD
on Jul 14, 2021

In an earlier webinar, O’Donnell Learn CEO, Carrie O’Donnell and I shared practical ideas and examples for building learning communities among faculty. These communities provide a rich opportunity for faculty to gather around a common goal, learning together and from each other while accomplishing a desired outcome.   Faculty learning communities can provide the time, space and resources for mission-critical efforts related to teaching and learning. Teaching expertise is most often not part of the faculty background, nor is instructional design a common skill. Plus, faculty often develop courses in isolation. In contrast, gathering faculty around learning design can create vibrant exchanges of what’s working, what’s not, and problem-solving around how to make improvements.