Resiliency in the Now Normal: Spending for Sustainability and Scale is Key

Published by Carrie O'Donnell
on Apr 22, 2021

Earlier in April, Matt Reed proposed the best use of the $12B included in President Biden’s infrastructure legislation for updating infrastructure in community colleges, would be “ways that situate colleges to be more resilient in future economic headwinds.” 

For those of you unfamiliar with Reed, not only does he write the “Confessions of a Community College Dean” blog on Inside Higher Ed, nearly 18 years of his career has been in community college leadership positions. Dr. Joshua Kim, director of online programs and strategy at Dartmouth College, fondly refers to him as “Dean Dad.”

In fact, Kim penned a response in support of the infrastructure spending recommendations Reed made in his post and offered an additional recommendation of his own: learning designers. 

“Today, schools (including community colleges) need to invest in three things to develop their online learning infrastructure:
1. Learning Designers
2. Learning Designers
3. Learning Designers
Learning designers (what used to be called instructional designers) are the secret sauce of academic resiliency.” Dr. Joshua Kim, Director of Online Programs and Strategy, Dartmouth College

We couldn’t agree more. After surveying over 12 thousand faculty last summer, we learned from nearly 500 responses that faculty were spending an average 49 hours prepping new courses for the online environment – and 23 hours prepping existing courses. Moreover, 42% had little experience teaching online and nearly half were simply attempting to mirror their face-to-face teaching. It’s no wonder faculty burnout is a significant problem in higher ed.  Everyone is being asked to do more with less. 

Which is why I’d like to suggest that key to the resiliency Reed and Kim emphasize is a focus on sustainability and scale, especially in light of the pandemic. Infrastructure spending must be directed to initiatives that support this. As higher ed continues to reimagine learning for the now normal, whether online, on ground, hyflex or blended, we need to remember that infrastructure also includes people, namely faculty and students. Supporting both with infrastructure spending is critical. [Learn more about Flexing Your Blended Learning Muscles: Let’s Get #PHYGITAL in our recent webinar on-demand.] 

The challenge of course, as Kim points out, is how “learning design talent is massively unequally distributed. The schools with the most resources have the most learning designers.”  Which means even with $12B available, community colleges will need to intentionally and purposefully invest in faculty support and development for teaching in this now normal to create a sustainable future.

The good news: this doesn’t necessarily mean a massive investment in onsite learning designers for every campus. Nor does it mean a big spend in education technology experts. 

For example, last summer, St. Francis College infused their existing faculty development efforts with our Jumpstart bootcamp product to help faculty increase online learner engagement. Central Ohio Technical College leveraged a combination of our Jumpstart and Propel (1:1 consultation with learning designers) products to prepare a team of eLearning Champions to drive learning innovation among fellow faculty. Both of these immersive experiences are grounded in “learn by doing”  principles, central to our Purposeful Learning FrameworkTM. Clients even outsource redesigning existing learning experiences or building new from the ground up to outside experts. 

It really comes down to leveraging your available resources to yield the most sustainable impact at the greatest scale. External partners are an often effective path for making that happen.  

How can we help you sustainably support your faculty?

Contact us to learn more!

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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.