Monday, June 19, 2017

Summit Notes: Essential Institutional Capacities to Lead Innovation

I recently attended the WECT 2017 Summit on Essential Institutional Capacities to Lead Innovation. It was a very good conference that shared some best practices in higher education for innovations to improve student success. Below are some of the notes I took during the conference.

Michelle Weise - Sandbox Collaborative – Southern New Hampshire University

Michelle discussed some of the things that her university has been doing to promote design thinking and collaborative, creative problem solving at her university and as a service for other universities. They created the Sandbox Collaborative, which is a space where people can really think through their design needs and consider solutions for their work. They pulled together a variety of research-based tools and techniques from research and other organization. The space looks very open, beautiful, different, and inviting. It seems to be the kind of space that would be interesting and exciting to be in. The space and group serves as internal consultancy focused on performance improvement for the university (the current needs) and to help look at over the horizon solutions and opportunities (the future). In my experience, it is very difficult to maintain and optimize what is already existing while simultaneously planning for new, innovative systems and approaches.
She noted that they started in “stealth mode” which allowed them to develop and grow and innovate. If you are under scrutiny of others and have the existing culture and patterns imposed on you, you may have a difficult time being able to move forward and will likely lose many of your innovative ideas. Autonomy is critical in the initial phases.

Jeff Borden - St. Leo University – Innovation Incubator

Jeff talked about their innovation incubator, which has been a place for innovating and creating great solutions for the university. They eventually created LionShare, which is a system that pulls together all kinds of student behavior data and provides the students with a variety of supports and tools that provide just in time support to students that is strong up-front and decreases over time. “For technology to work, integration is the key.”
Does your university support innovation? Will they put money behind it? Will they support it?
If an organization or individual is rewarded for innovation, then innovation will happen.
Some reflections: to me, it seems that implementing the innovation is a major issue. Jeff addressed it with the need to consider stakeholder engagement, but there is much more to it than that. What if we never put enough resources toward solving the problem? What if we don’t beta test? What if we ignore cultural or international issues? What if we don’t use foundational project management strategies effectively?

Breakout Session 1: Identify the Talent You Have, What You Need, and Where to Discover Candidates

MJ Bishop
Dr. Bishop shared some key results of a couple of powerful studies that look closely at centers for teaching and learning.
Bishop, M., & Keehn, A. (2015). Leading academic change: An early market scan of leading-edge postsecondary academic innovation centers.
The results of the study included the following insights:
  • Institutional culture is one of the biggest challenges to innovating, along with lack of resources.
  • Innovation centers seem to be regularly undergoing reorganization. (7 of 10 interviewed were undergoing a major revision).
  • Building collaboration was a key thing organizations were doing (collaboration within campus organizations).
  • There seems to have been a shift from faculty success to student success.
  • Most teaching/learning centers started between 2001 and 2010.
  • Most leaders of these centers have had faculty experience.
  • Most report to the provost or academic affairs.
  • In most, the mission and reporting function changed a lot over the last several years.

Outreach to department chairs and financial incentives were the most effective methods for increasing faculty engagement with the center.
Christina Anderson
Christina asked a few questions that really help us gain a focus with the changes we are working to make within an organization. Some good questions here:
  • What are you trying to change?
  • Why?
  • How will you know it’s been successful?
  • When does it need to happen?
  • Who needs to be involved?

There are certainly some foundational project management/goal setting/change management principles embedded in these questions.
Jay Hollowell
Sometimes we are pushed into a swimming pool of sharks. (If you don’t know the joke, it is funny J). This is often the cause of innovation –we do it as a reaction to something in the environment. We can also do it proactively without a push into the shark pool - either way, we must react and adapt and innovate.
Near the end of the presentation, we met as a table and discussed the following question. I have added in our responses.
How must higher education institutions change to better support learning?
  • Redesign the tenure process to go the teaching track or research track. This will help facilitate improve teaching and learning.
  • Bring in additional roles such as mentors to help students move through a learning path as opposed to different courses. Western Governors seems to do this. There could be other supplements including having students provide that kind of support.
  • Incentivize faculty to design courses more effectively so that the students start effectively.
  • Faculty learning communities – faculty teach the same course and come together and have a  conversation about the course and what they are doing, struggling with, what is working. Faculty seem to struggle with the concept of community and dialogue can help instill the idea of sharing experiences and expertise.
  • Hire more full-time faculty.
  • Quality onboarding of new faculty. Be more intentional in onboarding. Focus on teaching them how to teach online and face-to-face. Create an experience of up to 12-18 months. Use quality standards and rubrics, peer evaluations, and others.
  • What role should the teaching and learning center plan in today’s learning design infrastructure?
    • We focus a lot of effort on instructional design to help support the teachers Simplicity is often key – focus on the basics of ID, teaching effectiveness. 
Again, this was a great experience. I have found, though, that very often the context of sitting in a conference is not that I am acquiring the content that is being shared, but that I am thinking alongside the presentations. These presentations often spur ideas and insights that are meaningful but that are not at all related to the presentation content! That was the case at this conference - many ideas for improving myself, my work, and creative endeavors, and the university for which I work.

Thanks, WCET, for a great experience!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Using Track Changes for Scholarly Writing

Very often in academic settings, there is a need to write collaboratively or provide feedback within a Word document. This can become very complex, but one powerful tool for tracking changes in a document is the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word. I created this video to explain how it works.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Professional Development in Instructional Design

In the absence of growth, atrophy.

The world is constantly changing, and as a learning professional, your role is constantly shifting. To remain relevant and to have a positive impact in your profession, you must continually acquire and expand your knowledge and skills to improve yourself in your craft.

In this blog post, I will share some of my current thoughts on professional development in instructional design.

4 Strategies for Setting Professional Development Goals
  1. Be clear about how you will impact peoples’ lives. If you have this clarity, then your next step often becomes more clear. I have articulated my professional purpose in this manner: “My professional purpose and mission is to discover and share knowledge that inspires, empowers, and equips others to succeed in their careers and lives.”
  2. Envision your future self. What kind of a person do you want to be? What do you want to become?  Look at examples of people you want to be like and identify the traits you would like to develop. Who do you want to become in a year? In three years? Create a compelling vision of yourself and make it a reality!
  3. Have career goals. Your career is going to happen, so you might as well be deliberate about what you want to happen within that career. What is the next position you would like to hold? What is the dream job you want to work toward? Work to align your career with how you want to impact peoples’ lives.
  4. Create clear actions for reaching your goals. Be specific about the steps you will take – the skills you will develop, the people you will meet, and the knowledge you will gain. It is sometimes helpful to create a timeline for what you would like to happen, realizing that timelines and paths are fluid and ever-changing. Be sure to identify the most important step you must take and focus on that step.

Categories of Development in Instructional Design
There are 4 basic areas of professional development within the field of instructional design:
  1. Process knowledge and skills. These include project management and workflow, and the result of these skills is increased efficiency, quality control, and empowerment of designers. What knowledge or skills would increase your efficiency or effectiveness in your design processes?
  2. Technology knowledge and skills. These include technologies that deliver or enhance the learning experience, track design processes, evaluate learning, and manage the overall learning experience. What are your technological gaps as an instructional designer?
  3. Theory. These include research and theory on how people learn (learning theory) and how to help them learn (instructional theory). There are many theories and models for learning that are pretty innovative, and improving and refining your understanding of how to help people learn is quite important. In addition, younger generations experience information and knowledge differently than perhaps older generations do, and understanding their experiences and expectations will also inform how you design. How might you deepen or refine your theoretical knowledge?
  4. Self-improvement. You are the instrument through which all design takes place. You must make yourself the most effective “technology” possible. How could you improve and optimize your attitudes, beliefs and habits? How could you improve your health and mental sharpness? What could you do right now to make yourself a more balanced, well-rounded individual?

General vs. Specialized Development
I have a fairly high level of specialized knowledge in learning and instruction. I have been involved in teaching, learning and instructional design for nearly 20 years, now, including an MS degree, a PhD, several years of training and design experience, and years teaching ID to graduate students.  However, I have realized that I use a great deal of general knowledge and skills to make my work meaningful and useful. These general skills are not necessarily design-specific and might include communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, among many others. Design skills are essential, but so are the general skills.

I will finish this discussion with two questions for your consideration:
  1. What design-specific knowledge and skills (e.g. technologies, processes, theory, etc.) do you personally need to develop to make yourself more effective as an instructional designer?
  2. What general knowledge and skills (e.g. communication skills, critical thinking, project management, political savvy, etc.) do you personally need to develop to make yourself a more effective professional?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Types and Benefits of Innovation in Learning Design

Innovation in instructional design generally revolves around three major areas: Technology, Process, and Theory.

Technology - innovations in technology for learning typically yield several benefits:
  1. learning enhancement - appropriately used current and emerging technology can significantly increase learning
  2. tracking - quality technologies enable us to (a) monitor and measure student learning and progress, (b) manage learning experiences, and (c) manage the processes of creating and evaluating learning more effectively.
  3. delivery - technologies enable us to deliver learning experiences quickly and efficiently to broader audiences quickly and at relatively low cost
  4. management - technologies allow learners and others to manage their learning more effectively
Process - innovations in instructional design process should yield the following benefits:
  1. efficiency to reduce cost and time to produce instruction
  2. checkpoints and controls for creating quality instruction
  3. empowerment to the instructional design team to be creative and innovative

Theory - innovations in instructional theory, or how to design what the learning experience actually looks like, yield several benefits including (but not limited to):
  1. increased efficiency in the student learning experience
  2. improvements in meeting the defined learning outcomes and goals
  3. increased student motivation in learning
  4. increased ability for students to transfer their learning to the real world

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Critical Question: What Should I Do Right Now?

I just had an interesting and slightly stressful experience. Within about a 5 minute time period, I had the following take place:

  1. My brother contacted me about a design-related issue he wanted to talk through.
  2. My coworker popped into my office and asked me if I wanted to take a quick walk to a nearby cafeteria.
  3. I was trying to read through an article on instructional design leadership.
  4. My boss sent me an instant message asking if I could meet with him briefly about something he was concerned about.
  5. My wife called and asked me if I could meet with her the kids for an impromptu lunch.
  6. All of this happened with several other design, reporting, and management tasks calling for my attention from the back of my head.
Which would you do?

I imagine this is a common situation for many people these days. The options are endless, and the right decision is not immediately obvious. But we have to decide and move forward with confidence, adjusting our actions based on how things seem to be going. And hopefully we have guiding principles that provide us with guidance on how to move toward what is most important..

A few reflective questions:
  • How do you focus on what is important to you? 
  • What should you do right now? 
  • What will help you achieve your goals? 
  • What will uphold and support the values that are most important to you?
  • What is absolutely essential?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Importance of Balance

One thing I have been thinking a lot about is the need of balance in life. Just like Mr Miyagi taught Daniel in The Karate Kid (which is, by the way, one of the best films of all time, in my opinion), balance in life is absolutely critical. Yest, it can be very difficult to find a balance that is healthy and produces the positive results you desire in life.

I been thinking about quite a bit because my wife, birth-daughter and I have recently adopted 4 children. For the past 8 months, we have worked to combine two families into one. We have worked hard to establish new positive routines that will bring a sense of family, joy and satisfaction to everyone.  As a result of this change, I have been thinking a lot about life and the need to achieve a sense of balance.

How do you you know when you are out of balance?
Striking a healthy balance means that all areas of your life are sufficiently cared for. It means balancing between happiness now and working for a better future. It means balancing time at work and time at home. It means balancing between focusing on your own needs and the needs of others.
Here are some great ways to tell whether your life is out of balance:
  1. Your emotions - your feelings will tell you when you are out of balance. Common feelings associated with balance issues include uneasiness, stress, anxiety, and unhappiness. (That reads like a list of side-effects like the end of a medication commercial).
  2. Your body - Often when things are out of balance, you will become ill, feel sick, have pit in your stomach, have tense or cramped shoulders, experience extreme weight loss or weight gain. You have got to listen to your body to and learn over time to determine which of these is affecting you the most.
  3. Your family - your family members know when you are out of balance. They may not like being around you as much. They may want to see you more. Perhaps you don't spend time with them as much as you would like to.
  4. Your supervisor - your supervisor knows when things are out of balance. She will notice your performance dipping, your engagement flagging, or your attendance faltering. 
Typical Life Balance Issues
So what are the areas of life that often become imbalanced?
  1. Enjoing Now and working for the Future at the same time
  2. Taking care of your Self and Others
  3. Maintaining Temporal needs and Spiritual health
  4. Having a life and work that has Structure but affords Autonomy
  5. Work hard but enjoying Rest
  6. Balancing responsibilities and time with Work and Family/Home
  7. Maintaining Control of your environment and Letting Go of what is unimportant
  8. Striking a balance between a life of Routine and Novelty
I plan to write about each of these balance issues from time to time over the coming several weeks.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

7 Ways to Build Your Emotional Immunity

If you're like most people, there are probably times when life gets you feeling like this guy:

As you probably know, it's hard to accomplish anything productive in this state - everything can seem dark, negative, unpleasant, and toxic. Feeling this way easily spills over into your attitude about your work, family, friends, and social situations, which can cause some major problems if left unchecked. Hopefully these negative times are infrequent for you - I experience this kind of a dip in my emotions from time to time, and it can definitely hurt my productivity and relationships at home and work.

 The ideal, of course, is to feel like this guy:

In this state, you are more positive, energetic, bright, upbeat, and full of resilient energy. When you are in this state, you feel immune to the negativity in the world and are prepared to deal with the obstacles that you face in life. You are more effective and positive in everything you do. But sometimes these feelings can feel fleeting or random. So, how can you build emotional immunity and maintain your positive energy? 

Building Emotional Immunity
Just like your body's immune system that prevents and fights disease in the body, you can build an emotional immunity to the noxious negativity that is part of life. There are specific things that you can do to build this immunity and increase your personal sense of vitality, energy, and health in life. Certainly, things that happen to you can affect your emotional state, but since you can't really control these things, you might as well focus on the things that you can control.

Below are seven tried and true strategies for building a powerful emotional immunity. These habits are like vitamins that keep your mind, body, and spirit in good health. 

1 Eat Healthy Food
What you eat has a profound impact on your well-being. Eat the foods that are nutrient-dense and avoid foods that deliver little or no value. Fruits and vegetables are powerful sources of nutrition. I find that I am most energized when I limit dairy, meat, and refined foods and focus on eating whole grains, fruits, legumes, and vegetables.

2 Exercise
Exercise has a significant impact on your attitude and your ability to succeed at what you are doing. It boosts your energy level and helps you stay clear and focused. When I lift weights, walk, run and stretch, I have a greater sense of health and well-being and feel better about my day.

3 Sleep.
Sleep 7 to 9 hours a night for optimal health. I have found that I need about 8 hours to be in a healthy, clear state of mind. When you have been working long hours or need to recuperate, sleep for 10 or more hours and you will find yourself significantly refreshed.

4 Prayer and Meditation.
Prayer and meditation allow you to go inside and connect with the source of joy, peace, and life. I have found this to be a profoundly positive way to build my mental and emotional strength and immunity.

5 Inspirational Learning
Read and listen to uplifting books and audio programs. These help program your mind with the positive and the pure and help you se the world from a positive lens. Listen to spiritual leaders who can provide you with perspective and messages of peace, hope and joy. I am constantly listening to motivating, inspiring authors and speakers as I commute to and from work.

6 Nurture Relationships.
Nurture and enjoy positive relationships your family and friends. Serve and support the people around you. My beautiful wife is my best friend, and she provides me with a great deal of love, kindness and joy. Uninterrupted time with her is a great source of joy and rest for my mind and heart.

7 Hobbies.
Be sure to take time to work on personal projects that give you a sense of purpose and enjoyment. I have many projects that I like to work on - blogging, writing, yard work, etc. If I don't work on these hobbies and projects, my sense of well-being decreases.

These are 7 ways to build your emotional immunity. I often use these to infuse my mind, body, and spirit with positive energy, and they bring me a sense of balance, joy, and purpose.

If you feel like you need a boost in your emotional state, try a couple of the strategies above. Give them time - try it out for 30 days, and soon you will find yourself in a healthier, more positive state with greater happiness and success in everything you do. Just like this guy.