[Cross Post] Can a university redesign itself? Yes – with your help.

Cross posted from: https://hub.msu.edu/can-a-university-redesign-itself-yes-with-your-help/

“Why would any human being anywhere in the world come to East Lansing, Michigan (of all places), for their education and spend lots of money to do so?”

We ask this a lot, because in order to serve the needs of students and create a culture of care, we have to regularly interrogate what we offer and reflect upon the value of that portfolio. For more on what we mean by a culture of care, see previous works by Hub director Jeff Grabill and CAL Dean Christopher P. Long. This commitment is reflected our value proposition, represented in the mission and vision of the Hub:

The Hub will collaboratively transform Michigan State University as a learning institution in order to realize a more valuable student experience.

The Hub guides our partners through a design process that facilitates transformation and creates sustainable learning solutions.

These are lofty goals. To execute them, we need to ask human-centered, design-focused questions about where we are, how we got here, where we’re going, and why.

In the coming months we will share a series of resources, narratives, case studies, and questions centered on how key competencies in design (learning design, assessment/research, learning technologies) and the basics of design inquiry (asking good questions, opening people to possibilities, structuring conversation, and providing intellectual and analytical value) help us imagine and create. Further, we will highlight some of the projects and people who have helped our partners incubate and grow ideas into action.

In the meantime, what do you want to know? What do you want to share? E-mail me at JLKnott@msu.eduwith your ideas, and keep an eye on this space. We’re about to have some fun.

[Cross Post] Infrastructure, Power and Opportunity: Reflections from the Biosphere 2

Cross-posted from: https://hub.msu.edu/infrastructure-power-and-opportunity-reflections-from-the-biosphere-2/

This week I have had the incredible opportunity to camp at the beautiful Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona with a small group of interdisciplinary professionals engaged at the intersections of science, design, pedagogy and social justice. I am not locked in, and I have not met Pauly Shore, but as part of an NSF grant entitled Principles for the Equitable Design of STEM Learning Environments, I have the opportunity to work with a group that is charged with assembling a set of principles for the design of inclusive STEM studio learning spaces and providing direction to the NSF in regard to future opportunities.

exterior of Biosphere 2 in Arizona

In this human-created ecosystem, I’m struck by a number of things, but as we toured the Biosphere the thing I kept returning to was the infrastructure needs. It takes a LOT of purposeful, intentional, and carefully designed infrastructure to keep an ecosystem alive and thriving. It also takes regular interrogation and reflection to identify what works, what doesn’t, and what can or should be done to keep the symbiosis working and generative. Building a Biosphere takes continuous experimentation and evaluation. So, too, does building learning experiences and infrastructure.

Inspired by this group of collaborators and how the space we are working in physically is influencing and enhancing the work we are doing creatively, I see a lot of opportunity for design practices and measurements coupled with conversation and collaboration to serve as that infrastructure in learning innovation spaces. Because, while “studio-based learning” at this event is strictly defined as “environments organized to engage learners in authentic, open-ended, iterative problem-setting and solving,” I can’t help but see the world as our collective studio. What infrastructure is present in our world that must be present in our micro-environments to spur the kind of exploration and learning we hope will happen? And, perhaps more importantly, how is this infrastructure holding back the people who may need it most to instead help them along?

One of our charges as an outcome for this experience is to come out with some recommendations for funding opportunities for the NSF. Much of this work is interdisciplinary, with focus on emergent outcomes and inquiry, culture-building, and intersections and intersectionality. Historically, NSF funded grants focus more on empirical outcomes, tested hypotheses, and clearly defined outcomes and measurements. As we look toward a future that is increasingly messy and undefined, how might we seek drive conversations that not only accept, but embrace emergent outcomes and messy paths?

As I look at the immense opportunity before us as designers of experiences I find myself thinking about where we might find the resources to drive the chaos that may (or even must) happen. Is this work that will be funded by grant funding? In this affective space, how might we make the case for funding agencies to, if not embrace mess, to focus on outcomes? The path to any outcome is less of a straight line and more like a tangle of yarn. We need to get comfortable with that as practitioners, scholars, and funders. When we commit to a straight line, or expect one, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and misunderstanding. We are also likely losing sight of some of our best ideas due to artificial or perceived constraint.

In a conversation with some colleagues and collaborators in regard to a different idea, I started thinking about the collective catalytic power that institutions (and, more importantly, their people) can bring to bear in initiatives of inclusion, creativity, and experience. Rather than rely so much on grant funders, should institutions band together and fund initiatives to facilitate this culture building? Note that when I say institutions here, I see them defined as not only universities but also community, corporations, non-profits, etc.

This has been an incredibly rewarding, yet difficult week of design, creation, and reflection. While I usually carefully script my posts for the Hub blog, this time I tried to embrace the mess a little more. Most of my thoughts are half formed. I have thoughts but no proof, ideas but no direction, a million “how might we” questions but only 2.16 potential solutions. Beyond anything, while I’m here as an invited expert this week has taught me how very much I still have to learn. I hope to follow up with future writing about how all of the work we did this week shapes up, but for now I’m going to go outside in my snowy home state and think about how environments shape and define our work, our identities, and ourselves.

Jess Knott

Jess Knott is head of learning experience research and professional development for the Hub. Follow her on Twitter at @jlknott

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[Cross Post] Chasing the Horizon (Educause Review)

The 2018 NMC Horizon Report was released on August 16, 2018, offering a catalyst for futuristic thinking in digital learning. As a field, higher education suffers from innovation fatigue and differing definitions of what innovation is and can be; questions of evolving and amorphous instructional design roles; and the emergence of academic innovation as a discipline as well as a community. The Horizon Report offers a valuable scan of the landscape for teaching and learning practitioners and administrators working in academic innovation spaces (and in transforming higher education more broadly) to surface and support what’s next in their organizational strategies for the student experience.

As the learning design manager at Michigan State University, I’ve experienced a professional sea change in the past three years. The advent of the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology in 2016 introduced new opportunities at an institution that seeks to refine its digital learning identity in human-centered and forward-thinking ways. In the relatively short span of two years, we completely changed the structures and processes we follow in learning design and academic technology support, introduced a learning design strategy, and recently began rethinking the overall digital strategy for our campus based on the question “what ideas are at stake for MSU in the future of digital learning?”

I was a member of the 2018 Horizon Report Higher Education Expert Panel, and this participation connected me, my team, and my organization to a global network of experts and thought leaders as we looked at a wide array of trends and challenges. As I experienced change at my own institution, I learned about the changes experienced by peers in other contexts. And I discovered that these challenges are very, very similar.

In the relative silos of our institutions, it can be easy to narrow the lenses through which we look at the world. We look at our feet instead of the horizon (get it…Horizon?). We forget to look behind us to see how far we’ve come. We forget to ask others where they are and how they got there. We forget to offer and ask for support.

Now, do an image search for the word “horizon.” Overwhelmingly, you’ll see empty horizons, or horizons with a solitary person gazing into space. But what if we changed the look of the horizon? What if it instead involved a collective?

Here are a couple of thinking challenges that I encourage you to do:

  • Read the 2018 NMC Horizon Report.
  • Select two challenges or opportunities from the report. What do they look like at your institution? What are your challenges? If you could ask for help, perspectives, or collaboration opportunities, what would you ask for and why?
  • Share your thoughts and make a connection. Tweet to me at @JLKnott with the hashtag #HorizonEdu. Comment on this blog post. I’ll monitor the comments, and others will too!

Let’s see what we share, and let’s amplify this conversation to a larger community. There are shining constellations of innovation happening all over the world. How can we connect them? Is there a way to share the load by focusing on functions and conversations more than structures and budgets? I’d like to think so. What do you think?

[Cross-Post] The Secret Life of Introvert Connectors

The Secret Life of Introvert Connectors

in·tro·vert /ˈintrəˌvərt/ noun

  1. a shy, reticent person.
  2. a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.

con·nect·or /kəˈnektər/ noun

  1. a thing that links two or more things together.
  2. a device for keeping two parts of an electric circuit in contact.
  3. a short road or highway that connects two longer roads or highways.

Origin stories are funny things – often when we take a moment to reflect on how we arrived at a certain summit in our lives, we find a circuitous path that may be shocking to even us that we were ever able to walk it.

As your OLC Innovate 2018 Conference Co-Chair Emerita, we’ve spent much time brokering meaningful connections between colleagues, and carving new channels for initiatives and opportunities for engagement.  We’ve done it (and luckily, continue to get to do it) with genuine passion and joy. And yet, when we share with folks that the two of us are introverts to the bone, we are often met with consternation and protests.  How is it possible that two gregarious and earnest colleagues might lead this double-life as introvert connectors?

Let’s break this revelation down with a little etymology exploration.  The term introvert takes its roots from the Latin “intro-” and “-vert” which most closely translate to “inward” and “turning” respectively.  Typically, when folks think of introverts, they think of shy and reclusive individuals that are scared of crowds and attention.  Within human personality theory, introverts are classified as individuals who lose energy from interactions with others. This energy is replenished by solitude and time away from external stimulation.  Conversely, extroverts gain their energy from crowds and external stimuli, thriving in environments with people and attention. The terms introvert and extrovert can also be used as transitive verbs, delineating between the act of concentrating on oneself, or oppositely focusing on the outside world.

There are myriad examples of the term connector in use – from transportation to circuits to dots, we use connector metaphors regularly to describe the world around us.  Malcolm Gladwell famously described connectors in The Tipping Point as one of three personas holding the power to spread social epidemics (Gladwell, p. 33).  If you imagine a network of people as a constellation, connectors are not only bright stars, but ones from which linkages to other stars emanate.  They are adept at not only keeping a wide network of contacts, but in calling forth contacts to match them with new people, initiatives and ideas. Gladwell describes them as “people with a special gift for bringing the world together.”

Reflecting on these labels shines a light on the fact that they are not binary truths, but rather, theories of personality.  For instance, the term ambivert classically describes a person who is neither an introvert or an extrovert.  We, however, like to think of it as a broader classification of all of the social interactions that occur, with each interaction plotted on a line with introversion and extroversion at the two poles.  Ambiverts comfortably move along the entire spectrum of introversion and extroversion, with that movement controlled by themselves at times, and at other times by others who push or pull them along the spectrum.  Think of those times that you “stepped up to the plate” or that you were moved out of your comfort zone. Ambiversion is a truer indication of how we might describe our interactions en masse rather than lumping them into one discrete category.  And the binary logic of “you’re either THIS or THAT” just doesn’t hold up in the real world.

Similarly, the way that connectors are described quite often carries stereotypes of “social butterflies” and “people person(s)” – individuals who thrive in environments where they can network and collaborate.  In actuality, having the ability to meet people and make connections does not necessarily mean that a person is driven by the social aspect of connection. Erica Dhawan expanded on Gladwell’s definition of connectors by separating them into different groups – thinkers, enablers and executors. She describes thinkers as the people who explore and curate ideas, enablers as the individuals who build spaces for communities to grow, and executors as the people who tie people and resources together.  You may have read Gladwell’s definition of a connector and not resonated with it, but with Dhawan’s elaboration, does your answer change? Are you perhaps one of these other types of connectors – linking ideas or spaces or resources rather than people?

Cruising up to 30,000 feet, the view from above is that we still struggle under the weight of labels, both those that we assign ourselves and those given to us by our colleagues and friends.  These labels are not inherently harmful, but if they drive our actions, they can limit our propensity to connect, collaborate and meet our goals. Something that surprises almost everyone is to learn that the two of us are introverts who believe in connection and conversation. “But you’re so outgoing!” Yes, we are. But it’s also a challenge. We write this blog post as a reminder that just because you don’t see yourselves as extroverted, or feel like you have important things to say – you’re wrong. You do. And, in recognizing our shared commitment to collaboration and a culture of gratitude, we wanted to reach out with our story and this message. Behold: the secret life of introvert connectors!

Leadership, whether in conference settings or at your our own institutions is not about focusing on the same couple of stars in the constellation. For example, you can spot Orion and its major shape, but there is no Orion without the twinkle of the whole of the stars that create the experience. Conferences and other on-site professional development opportunities should unfold like a visit to the planetarium, the goals and outcomes of which differ for everyone. Maybe you’re really interested in the bright stars you admire regularly. Or maybe you’re more interested in how the universe links together, with stars and connections as the foundational building blocks. There is no right answer. Everyone seeking knowledge belongs, and we encourage you to draw the map that works for you while acknowledging the important role you play as individuals that build the whole.

One of the common themes we’ve heard in our conversations is the belief that admiration isn’t warranted, or that people think they have nothing to say. We want you to know that we feel that too. Here are a couple of questions: When people compliment you, do you believe it? Do you receive it? Or, do you find yourself opting out of the compliment and attributing the perceived glow to something or someone else? We’ve both been victims of this habit, and have started to act with intentionality when people praise us, and say “Thank you!” and “You’re welcome!” instead of deflecting.  Additionally, it may seem disingenuous to tout your wins without sounding like a brag-o-saurus. How do you share your accomplishments with others – and mitigate the feeling of “I don’t want to brag” with “I did an amazing thing, and I really want to share it with you?” And more broadly, you may be thinking “That all sounds great, but how do I actually do this?” Well, hold on to your pantaloons, because we have some tips:

Build a culture of gratitude around you. Jobs are hard, and education is no different. We’re called to teach and empower and that’s at once a heavy load and an incredible blessing. Look for the gratitude around you. Thank those who help you, tell those you admire that you admire them, and try to recognize all that you have to offer others. Conversely, don’t let yourself be overshadowed or diminished. Hold your space and find those who will help amplify your message.

Find conference or PD event planners and ask how you can help. Conferences, and professional development experiences in general, are a very heavy lift. The people working with the folks at OLC are often volunteers, and involved for the sole rewards that come from helping others. Don’t be afraid to ask how you can help. Sometimes the answer may be “I don’t know” but that’s also an opportunity. Try using a proposal format. “Hi, X, I love what the Innovation Lab is doing this year, and I wondered if you had any interest in some help formatting the handouts?” While the number of discounted registrations is finite, the desire for many voices and contributors is endless. If you don’t hear back from your query, try reaching out to the OLC conference staff. They’re great connectors and love to hear from you.

Stay in touch with folks in deeper ways. Some of you may have seen the #SquadGoalsNetwork hashtag, or may still be following the #OLCInnovate one after your conference experience. Try setting up Zoom calls, or starting some cross-institutional projects and initiatives with the people you met onsite. Travel funds are often limited, but don’t forget the power of face time (even if it’s on an iOS device and not breathing the same air). Keep the conversations going, make something together, or just meet to chat. Virtual happy hours are a fun and easy way (timezones pending) to keep the conference connections and conversations going. That’s the most important part: whatever modality you choose, keep those conversations going and growing. And then use your travel funds strategically to connect and strategize!

As we watch the final details of OLC Accelerate 2018 unfold, we’re moved to encourage you to participate, and want you to know that your contribution will shape the overall conference narrative in ways you can’t imagine. Since our run on the Ops committee of OLC Innovate 2018, we’ve heard from a lot of you who attended; seeking feedback, looking for ways to connect, wondering how to get involved. In addition to employing the strategies above, we invite you to connect with us.  Seek us out at OLC Accelerate and talk to us about the work you are doing and the people that you’re collaborating with – we’ll be sure to amplify your efforts across our network. Unsure of how to kick off the conversation? We’re super friendly, but our favorite icebreaker of late has been “Where do I know you from? I feel like you were last wearing very different clothing…”

Camp counselor gear aside, you’ll be able to find us in the Speed Networking Lounge during a networking break, at the Field Guide Kickoff, or at the Women in Digital Learning Leadership Lunch.  We’re also presenting on our work that we’re currently doing, including on establishing students as epic heroes in online courses in a Tuesday pre-conference workshop.  Additionally, learn more about our efforts to connect people within and beyond conferences in networked practice on our website Squad Goals Network.  We created a framework that maps how to move from your conference connections to collaborations outside of the conference and then BACK to the conference to share your work.  It’s a model that has been essential to our work, our professional development, and our overall well-being (*signing* We get by with a little help from our friends!) And we felt compelled to share this framework with our colleagues as an OLC Effective Practice that you can use and share with your network.

All in all, we’d love to carve out new ways to collaborate.  Please find us! Talk to us! Connect with us! Introverts or no, we’re proud to extend ourselves for the greater good of connecting as many stars in the constellation as we can.  It’s in this work that all can see that we’re better and brighter together.





Angela Gunder (Director of Instructional Design and Curriculum Development, The University of Arizona) and Jessica Knott (Learning Design Manager, Michigan State University) are the OLC Accelerate Enthusiasm Co-Chairs, leading the Speed Networking Lounge and helping to organize the Women in Digital Learning Leadership initiatives.  They were the OLC Innovate 2018 Conference Co-Chairs, and frequent OLC co-conspirators on such initiatives as the Technology Test Kitchen, Innovation Lab, and the OLC Institute.  You can find them on Twitter (@angelagunderor @jlknott), on their websites (Squad Goals Network and Monomyth Online), or on their respective couches playing iPhone games and eating cold pizza.

[Cross-Post] On the Horizon: MSU and the Future of Digital Learning

Linked from: https://hub.msu.edu/on-the-horizon-msu-and-the-future-of-digital-learning/

One of the things we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about in the Hub is what the future of digital learning looks like at Michigan State University (MSU) and beyond. Some of the technologies we use in our teaching, learning, and research practices today are the same ones we used 20 years ago. Internet technology has evolved, but the idea of loosely networked, highly configurable information structures remains largely the same in 2018 as it was when Vannevar Bush conceived of the Memex (As We May Think). Or when J.C.R. Licklider conceived the notion of an “intergalactic network of computers” (Who Invented the Internet?) Or when the first correspondence and distance courses were developed (A Brief History of Online Degrees). The idea of adaptable, open, connected, and connecting experiences for learning is powerful—and nothing new.

As we look backward, however, it is critical that we also look forward. Last week, I had the opportunity to serve as a commentator for the Educause Learning Initiative’s introduction of the 2018 Horizon Report Preview webinar. For more information, read The 2018 NMC Horizon Report Preview. Or, for a deeper dive, read the full 2018 Horizon Report released on 8/16. The Horizon Report assembles and charts the educational technology landscape year by year, identifying exemplar projects in the field, as well as discussing some of the biggest catalysts (and challenges) that organizations harness and navigate in pursuit of teaching, learning, and student success. If you are interested, read a more in-depth history of the Horizon project.

For the webinar, I, along with Malcolm Brown and Noreen Barajas-Murphy of Educause, and David Thomas of the University of Colorado Denver, heard from three institutions sharing work that exemplifies ideas in the Horizon Report. Here at MSU and the Hub, we have projects in progress that share similar attributes, and this blog post serves to tie the larger, national conversation back to our local contexts.

The first project highlighted in the Horizon Report broadcast was entitled “Adaptive Learning and open educational resources (OER) at Scale,” by Jeremy Anderson from American Women’s College. Combining adaptive learning and open educational resources, American Women’s College has saved students over $176,000 in course material costs. At the Hub, the math reform project is re-thinking the structures of mathematical education at MSU, and exploring competency-based and adaptive learning options as potential solutions. Further, the Hub’s OER course resource project has funded a number of faculty initiatives as they look for ways to create and share open resources intended to increase access and success for MSU students. I see these projects as highlighting the importance of cross-sector collaboration that took place in its design, as well as the fact that scale is an innovation in and of itself which is important as we look toward digital learning futures. Any future we see must be seen as scalable.

The second project the Horizon Report broadcast shared was an AR/VR Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) response simulation, presented by Eileen DeCourcy at Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. View an example and overview here on YouTube. This project is an excellent example of taking the theory of authentic learning into practice, giving students the opportunity to collaborate in building the content as well as experiencing MCI in a safe, low-risk environment.

At the Hub, authentic learning has played a key role in a lot of our projects, spanning from working to create the Hub itself to the Snares to Wares initiative that put students at the helm of a fully-functioning business and sustainability initiative (to listen to the podcast, visit Experiential Learning with Snares to Wares). We also worked with Dr. Miko Rose of the MSU Department of Psychiatry on a prototype for an asynchronous version of her Joy Initiative program. An example prototype is available at joyinitiative.com. The future of learning is caring. It is conversational, and it works to create safety in trying (and failing at) new things. Like that which came before, technology isn’t the magic, the people who teach are. Technology helps make that magic possible, but the future of digital learning is quite human at its core.

Finally, Patrice Ludwig and Sean McCarthy of James Madison University shared their story of Making Space for Innovation with the JMU X-Labs. This project is very similar to what the designers and educators involved with the new MSU STEM building are trying to create.

I also saw ties to the Student Innovation Team and the Hub itself. When we work together, how can we make education further tangible, accessible, and possible? The future of learning is collaborative. It transcends physical space and melds the physical campus and the virtual sphere. It requires literacy, fluency, and care. And it always has!

In conclusion, I urge you to review the Horizon Report released on 8/16. In a field suffering from innovation fatigue and differing definitions of what innovation is and can be, the report can serve as a catalyst for new ideas as well as a look at some of the challenges the field of higher education is trying to solve. The future of digital learning is and must be a lot of things: scalable, open and shareable, universally designed and accessible, inclusive, conversational, and intentional. It may look new—and it may look the opposite. What does the future of digital learning look like to you?

Cross-Post: On Thought Leadership and Impermanence

Cross-posted from the MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology Blog, posted December 19, 2017

Today, I find myself reeling. The New Media Consortium (NMC), one of my most valued professional development organizations and networks declared itself financially insolvent yesterday. Treasured colleagues and role models now find themselves on the job market. And, the Horizon Report (which I am linking to here, but may no longer be available online at any time), one of the longest-held, most valuable tools in my design manager toolkit, which I had spent six exhilarating months contributing to, is in limbo. What’s the big deal, right? It’s just a professional development organization – how does this affect Michigan State University (MSU)? It surprises me how deeply I feel the answers I’m about to share with you. This is a very different 2017 reflection than I would have written last week, and I hope it reads as a love letter of sorts to those who inspired me toward thought leadership in the past year, and will continue to inspire even if they’re under a different organizational identifier.

As a learning design manager for both MSU IT and the MSU Hub, my team is challenged daily to meet the IT and academic needs of a large, vibrant, global campus and all of its unique stakeholders. To be a learning designer means to be a lifelong learner – to analyze changing needs, to identify gaps in support, to translate between the technical and the ephemeral, and to bring tangibility to the unknown. It is not uncommon for our jobs to evolve so much from year to year that we find ourselves in entirely new disciplines and spheres of expertise. Learning designers embody the very essence of the T-shaped professional, with deep expertise in areas like cognitive and learning science, design, and media creation and a working knowledge of soft and hard skills spanning institutional and disciplinary boundaries. In my role, 2017 has been one of learning to navigate complex systems with a growing team of designers, and shifting institutional roles. We’ve begun to resemble Ms more than Ts, and my hope is that we can become an agile, responsive, institutional “alphabet soup” in the years to come.

To maintain this expectation for constant learning, change, evolution, and iteration in higher education, we in MSU IT and the MSU Hub rely heavily on our networks and professional organizations — our communities of practice. “Communities of practice develop around things that matter to people. As a result, their practices reflect the members’ own understanding of what is important. Obviously, outside constraints or directives can influence this understanding, but even then, members develop practices that are their own response to these external influences (Wenger, 1998).” As professionals, learning designers, faculty, and technology support staff rely on these communities as a means of support, as an avenue for learning, as an idea generator, and as the very foundation upon which we identify the theories and frameworks that will carry us and the institutions we serve into the future of online and technology-enhanced learning. Thus, to hear the news about NMC yesterday can be likened to hearing that the graduate program that is my career development had been cancelled, suddenly and irrevocably.

These networks are platforms and facilitators for thought leadership – offering nationally connected workspaces that amplify voices and, to use a Dr. Jeff Grabill term, to engineer the collisions that allow a field of divergent ideas and philosophies to generate new and evolving learning design methods that help us support our learners and faculty. They force us from our campus bubbles, and expose us to new people and ideas, allowing for cross-pollination, as well as resource-saving collaboration and teamwork. This is an important challenge for me, as I am learning to put more of my intellectual work into the public sphere, as opposed to letting it all remain behind the curtains of institutional initiatives. This is very hard for me. I tend to dislike the spotlight, and prefer to deflect any attention to the larger team. As a developing professional, I am learning to find balance – to own that which I do well (and don’t do well) and to share what I have learned.

This year, the NMC provided me opportunities to serve as a subject matter expert on the previously-mentioned Horizon Report, as well as contribute to a webinar series focused on specific, community-selected challenges in higher education. In Scaling Evidence-Based Methods Across Disciplines, I had the opportunity to connect with not only other people doing work in this realm and share what we are doing at MSU, but also with nationally recognized centers of expertise in the field, such as the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements. Colleagues at NMC facilitated these discussions, opened the doors, and built the connections that allowed me not only to share the work of MSU, but to amplify and enhance it with the benefit of input from colleagues around the globe. Learning they have been removed from my professional spheres so suddenly leaves a hole in not only my personal practice, but in my ability to share the life-changing work we’re doing at MSU.

As the conference co-chair for the 2018 Online Learning Consortium Innovate conference, my eyes are open to the ripple effect those in our field are feeling and likely to feel further in the coming weeks. Will our attendees be feeling this loss and looking for us to help fill the gap? As the manager of a team, what exists to fill the development gap for my learning designers, who relied on the Horizon Report each year as a means of identifying and starting to develop the skills they were likely to need in the next two to five years? I find myself considering what I have to offer: as a practitioner, as a Spartan, as a member of the Online Learning Consortium, and as a collaborator.

In essence, this reflection is an acknowledgement of impermanence, and a call to the field for support. We are lucky to have access to the professional organizations we do, but to see them as permanent fixtures is dangerous. In the ecosystem of communities of practice, we must give what we want to receive, and support each other as we would like to be supported. Academia is a network of endless possibility – a web of hubs, where anything is possible. The work we do together, as individuals, as collaboratives and consortiums, as scholars, as practitioners, and as a field of study, is the thread tying these hubs together. This is the web that supports the innovative initiatives that are preparing our students to build their own webs and find their own supports. In the face of the impermanence we face everyday in our field, I end this reflection with one of my favorite quotes, from one of my earliest heroes. In work, as in life, remember the gentle kindness of Mister Rogers: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Thank you for helping, NMC.

Women Who Innovate – #3Wedu OLC Innovate Recap

On April 5, the women of #3Wedu traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana to facilitate a round table discussion on ways to re-define education to support women in innovative contexts.

News, blogs, and panels are filled with horror stories from Silicon Valley, reflecting pay gaps, gender bias, and more. In our roundtable, we first asked “what does it mean to be a woman in innovative education environments?” Next, we thought about how we might re-imagine the organizational structures of universities to be more supportive of women. Click here if you would like to review the discussion notes.

In this episode of the #3Wedu podcast, we’ll reflect on the roundtable: who we met, what we heard, and ways we might move forward. Join us, April 26, at 6 PM EST/5 PM CDT/4 PM MST/3 PM PDT. Click here to review the show notes.

You can listen to past episodes of the #3Wedu podcast in the following locations: