A Look Back Six Years

Monday, Lindsey Sudbury, a member of Academic Technology Services here at Northeastern University, and I did a 90-minute interactive presentation to our English department at their End of Term Retreat.  It was a 30,000 f00t fly-over of a variety of digital tools that might add engagement in writing classes, including social media tools.  Our slides are below:

I was struck by how things had (and had not) changed in the past six years.  In 2009, I did a similar workshop at the Innovations Conference.  My slides then:

In those six years, Diigo has replaced Delicious, and Feedly has replaced Google Reader.  But the concept remains on target.

One other change … more faculty are receptive to the idea!

Wirearchy as Leadership Concept

Over the last several years, I have taught Technology and Leadership in Creighton University‘s interdisciplinary doctorate program. This program brings students with backgrounds in business, education, healthcare and non-profits together to explore issues in an interdisciplinary way. My premise in designing the course is that leaders today operate in an unprecedented environment. In the past, information was related to power – those with information had the power, and the further up the organization hierarchy one was, the more information (and power) one had. In the past decade – due almost entirely due to the rapid global adoption of the internet, organizational power dymanics have shifted to an environment in which every employee (student, patient, client) has access through web devices to all the knowledge of the world. For background, I had my students explore multiple works, including Tom Friedman‘s The World is Flat, Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, David Weinberger‘s Too Big to Know, Harold Jarche‘s Personal Knowledge Management blog, and Jon Husband‘s Wirearchy blog, among others. Husband’s concept of a wirearchy was particularly relevant.

Husband defined “wirearchy” as a:

“dynamic flow of power and authority, based on information, trust, credibility, and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected technology and people.”

Hugh MacLeod illustrated the basic concept of wirearchy as follows:


Interestingly (on several levels), one of my students recently questioned the efficacy of the wirearchy model, given that it does not appear in Wikipedia!

(…new tag line – if it is not in Wikipedia. it must not be true…)

Given that the concept continues to resonate with me … and given the fact that I have admonished my students and colleagues for years that if you find a fault in Wikipedia – FIX IT! … I worked with Jon Husband to add a draft entry to Wikipedia. Please “peer-review” my initial draft … and make it better.

{Graphic: GapingVoid}



Minds Online – A Wrap

minds_online2Over the past two weeks, I have been reviewing Michelle Miller‘s new book Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology.  This post looks at the last two chapters, on motivation and on putting it all together.

Michelle noted that motivational challenges are one of the main differences between online and on campus teaching.  “Motivation,” as Michelle noted, comes for the same Latin root as the word “to move” – mechanisms that put you in motion.  The study of motivation is closely aligned with the study of emotion.  What we (and our students) are motivated to do … or not do … flow from what we feel and what we believe.  She noted that all of us in education (and I would say leadership as well) are professional motivators.

Many of us are pretty good as motivating people when we gather together.  The challenge is inspiring people in a virtual environment.

Michelle discussed the framework of self-determination theory, contrasting intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.  This suggests that people are motivated by the need for three basic things:

  • Competence,
  • Relatedness, and
  • Autonomy

When students are cut off from any of these three, motivation suffers.

Michelle noted multiple studies that have found that academic self-efficacy is a good predictor of academic success.  Providing videos of “average” students who succeeded boosted self-efficacy, as did presenting grades in informational rather than controlling ways.  Wording course materials in ways that suggest autonomy, such as “you might…” or “we suggest…”, as well as tying course materials to student long-term goals, increase motivation.

fixed2An interesting section discussed motivation issues associated with a “fixed” mindset versus a “growth” mindset .  If students have a fixed mindset, they carry a belief that intelligence is basically unchangeable, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that intelligence is not set in stone.  Online instructors can sometimes unwittingly foster a mindset by the feedback they provide.  Positive comments about intelligence, such as “you are smart” or “you are a math whiz!” actually feed a fixed mindset.  Michelle suggests that praise should be focused on the process: working hard, choosing good strategies, etc.

Motivation is a high stakes endeavor in online teaching, so Michelle suggested that during the first week, we steer the focus towards the “why” of a course and away from the “what” – why study this topic, why this topic might change you as a student, why this topic is important to your future … rather than what is required, what you have to complete, what the grading policies are.  The “what’s” are important and need to be covered … but they need to be covered after the “why’s” have been covered … and better yet, after the students have engaged with the whys.

Michelle closed the motivation chapter with four strategies she has used:

  • Early and Often Assessments
  • Bridging, Scaffolding, and Hooks
  • Rubrics
  • Peer TA’s

In the final chapter, Michelle provides tips for “putting it together” in ways that lead to a “cognitively optimized” online course.  Her goal is to design “active management of motivation” into the course design.  She has a series of key questions to guide this process.  For each question, she provided the cognitive principles behind the question as well as tools and techniques that address the question.


1.  Learning Objectives – What We Want Students To Know

  • How will the course ensure that students gain the right kind of thinking skills?
  • How will the course ensure that students transfer what they have learned?
  • Are there any skills that students need to be able to carry out automatically if they are to succeed in the discipline?

2.  Learning Activities – How We Want Students to Spend Their Study Time

  • How will you keep your students focused as they do the learning activity?
  • How will you minimize extraneous cognitive load while students are doing the activity?
  • How will learning activities maximize spaced study?
  • How will learning activities use emotions to promote learning?
  • How will learning activities promote deep processing?
  • How will you build on existing knowledge as you introduce new concepts?

3.  Assessments – How Student Learning Will Be Measured

  • How will assessments take advantage of the testing effect?
  • How will assessments function to motivate, not demotivate students?

4.  Peer-To-Peer Interaction – How Students Will Learn From One Another

  • How will you maximize the amount and quality of online discussion?
  • How will the online peer interactions reinforce thinking skills associated with the course learning objectives?

5.  Grades and Other Incentives – How to Get Students Moving in the Right Direction

  • How will you structure the class to discourage procastination?
  • How will you balance grades with other incentives?

Michelle closed this chapter with a detailed sample syllabus for her Introduction to Psychology course, with sidebars providing links to specific sections covered earlier in the book.

I found this to be a very readable and useful book.  There are many aspects that could be implemented immediately into one’s online teaching.  For me, it connected some dots between teaching practices that I knew were effective and the learning science behind why these practices work.

I highly recommend adding his book to your personal library!

{Graphics: Harvard Press, Live and Learn, Invisible Bread}


Thinking Better (and Visually)

Cover image of MINDS ONLINEI am continuing to explore Michelle Miller‘s new book Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology.  This post looks at her examination of the third broad area of cognition – Thinking – as well as the effective use of multimedia in online courses.

Michelle defined “thinking” as:

“…using logic to reason based on the available information, analyzing a problem and developing solutions that are both feasible and effective, and applying creativity in order to come up with new and nonobvious approaches.”

She noted that effective thinking is something that sets experts apart from novices…and it is a skill that can be built with practice.  Cognitive scientists have broken thinking down into the discrete areas of formal reasoning, decision making, and problem solving.  Formal reasoning is hard … and our brains tend to take shortcuts when faced with reasoning problems.  Her take-home lesson for online (as well as traditional) learning is that:

“Nearly everyone – A-student or not, math whiz or not – experiences occasional failures of reasoning, oftentimes stemming from an aversion to quantitative reasoning but also because fully abstract logic eludes most of us.  And people are particularly prone to being sidetracked by memorable details, substituting those for more systematic, mathematical thinking.”

One area that I found fascinating is the research on creativity.  Michelle noted that students who are given explicit step-by-step instructions tend to produce less creative work products compared to those who were given less-structured directions.  In many of my online classes, I have used fairly open-ended question prompts – which sometimes leads students to suggest that “I am not teaching them.”  Yet, intuitively, I have seen students provide very creative responses when I do not box them in with my own expectations.

Michelle noted that experts solve problems better – not because they are smarter but because they can draw on a richer base of stored and connected knowledge.  She suggested that for online teachers, providing practice opportunities is important, but equally important is providing scaffolding in the form of knowledge organizations and conceptual interrelationships.  This can help move students from the novice stage to a more expert-like stage of reasoning.

Michelle suggested that in designing online learning opportunities, one integrate metacognitive activities with learning activities.  These can include:

  • Emphasizing how knowledge is organized,
  • Going for depth rather than breadth,
  • Emphasizing underlying principles and conceptual structure,
  • Providing practice in recognizing the kinds of critical-thinking problems that are typical in your field,
  • Providing frequent and low-stakes formative quizzing,
  • Telling students why wrong answers are wrong, and
  • Having students reflect on the process of learning as well as what they are learning.

Michelle suggested the following strategies for online teaching and learning:

  • Assign students to practice the thinking skills you want,
  • Set up varied, realistic scenarios for reasoning, such as Problem-Based Learning or case studies
  • Use Analogies as Teaching Tools
  • Use discussion to build thinking skills

I like this last strategy.  My online courses heavily use discourse for instruction, and “discussions” – whether in discussion boards, wiki discussions, or blog posts (my favorite) – allow students to construct arguments, debate issues, analyze underlying aspects of problems, and reflect on their own learning.  This of course suggests that we as online teachers put some “thinking” into the questions we use as prompts in our courses.

Multimedia image by GeoffreyChapter 7 dealt with incorporating multimedia effectively into online learning.  Multimedia – a mix of text, audio, images, video, and animations – can engage students … but it can also distract students and impede the learning process.  Each modality of media affects learning in its own particular way.

Michelle discusses the time honored learning styles of VAK (Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic), noting that “VAK may go down as one of the greatest psychological myths of all time.”  The cognitive research suggests that we all have ALL styles and that there really is not one that dominates.  She noted that people tend to not know what their “true” style is and have poor skills as self-assessing.  Assuming one style can lead students to disengage if presented with an alternative style, negatively impact learning.

That said, the “multimedia principle” holds that adding pictures to text produces enhanced learning … but it is not that simple.  Images can be seductive, decorative, or instructive.  Seductive images are visually engaging but unrelated to the material.  Decorative images may not be as engaging, but again are unrelated to the learning.  Images can help with learning, but they need to provide a substantive connection to the learning.

Michelle also discusses accessibility issues, providing useful tips for making online material more accessible.  Something I had never thought through before (and routinely am guilty of) is to avoid using color to convey meaning in text, as colorblind students might not pick up on the visual cues.

The take away for online teaching is that pictures, audio and video can enhance learning, but the multimedia needs to align with the learning, not (1) overload or (2) distract.  Thinking inclusively, one should augment any multimedia with alternative options.

One post to go … the final two chapters are on motivating online students and “putting it all together”.

{Graphics: Harvard Press, Geoffrey}




Applying Memory Research to Online Teaching

minds_online2The last two posts have dealt with Michelle Miller’s new book Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology.  This post continues with an examination of Chapter 5 on Memory.

Michelle starts this chapter by noting that “…memory is central to the cognitive side of teaching and learning.”  This brought to mind the review my colleagues and I did a year ago of Randy Garrison’s 2011 Second Edition of E-Learning in the Twenty-First Century, as noted in my post “Cogitating on Cognitive Learning.”

In that earlier post, I discussed a 2009 article by Karen Swan, Randy Garrison, and Jennifer Richardson – “A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework.”  In this article, Swan and team lay out a table with the three presences, categories within each, and indicators.

CoI Categories

CoI categories and indicators; (Garrison & Anderson, 2003) – from Swan et al (2009)

Swan noted that much of the literature to date had focused on the role played by each presence rather than a holistic look at the interplay of all three together.  She noted that not only does the influences shift between them, but they also shift over time within a course and beyond a course.  The “learning” might kick in two to three courses later as continued integration and resolution occur.

This earlier discussion aligns with Michelle’s chapter on memory … and by “memory.” she means more than memorization, though memorization plays a part.

“It’s fashionable among educators to disparage “mere memorization” as opposed to the sophisticated reasoning skills we hope to foster, but this is a false dichotomy.  Focusing on memory doesn’t need to detract from higher-order thought processes.  You can’t make solid arguments, invent new applications, or apply critical thinking without a foundation of information in memory.”

Michelle’s key point is that technology opens up new opportunities for learning that never existed in face-to-face classrooms.  Technology allows one to build activities that capitalize on multiple interrelated sensory cues (video, audio, image, text, query, etc.), deeper-level processing, metacognition, and opportunities to engage the emotions.  Rather than simply providing content for passive intake, online classes afford the opportunity for students to understand why they need to learn something, along with the content to learn.

In applying memory research, Michelle discusses knowledge organization – a key difference between experts and novices.  Experts see patterns and how concepts are linked, including how they are linked to prior knowledge.  Michelle also ties in research on testing effects and spacing effects.  Testing as a tool for learning (as opposed to summative assessment) is not intuitive to students, so again, they need to understand why frequent testing is beneficial.  Spacing the activities and assessments helps build the neural networks for long-term retention…and mitigates against cramming.

Enoch Hale has been journaling his teaching in his Fall UNIV 200 course – and provides some great examples of applied memory research.  Through the vehicle of video games, he has his students writing about concepts that are relevant to them, and he routinely has them engage in metacognitive activities to think about their thinking.  As he noted in his latest post:

As I reflect on this class and my work, I still cannot escape what has become a mantra of mine: “There is an extent to which thought not applied is useless.” — for better or worse. If we can’t see it, we can’t evaluate it, and we can’t avoid, correct or use it deeply. I started blogging by challenging myself to a 30 Question Challenge. My organizing idea and goal was to pose 30 totally out of the box questions that I would blog about. It was a game that had meaning for me.

  • It was relevant to my context as a teacher and a faculty development coach.

  • It was challenging, but I could figure out how to have emerging success.

  • It forced me to identify and question my assumptions.

  • It forced me to examine things from different lenses and perspectives.

  • I called upon background knowledge and schemas to make connections.

  • I had to reframe my misunderstandings, knowledge inaccuracies and expectations.

  • I had to take action and produce something.

  • I had to check my thinking; assess it for quality.

  • I had to reach out to others (resource identification and use).

  • I wanted to contribute to others involved.

  • I had broader goals beyond myself.

  • I failed, regrouped and tried again writing multiple drafts at times.

  • I made a commitment to learn, explore, fail, succeed, and share.

Check out the work Enoch is doing – very cool!

How Learning WorksMichelle suggested five strategies for designing online learning experiences:

  • Include frequent tests and test-like activities
  • Structure for spaced study
  • Involve emotions (carefully)
  • Steer students into deeper learning
  • Base new knowledge on old knowledge

These five strategies align with Susan Ambrose’s How Learning Works principles of Prior Knowledge, Knowledge Organization, Motivation, Goal-Directed Practice and Feedback, and Development of Course Climate.

Lots of good examples in this chapter!  The next chapter is on “thinking” … looking forward to it!



Attention, Cognition, and Online Learning

Twitter-AttentionLast week, I began discussing Michelle Miller’s new book, Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With Technology.  In my post, “Cognitively Optimized Online Course,” I reviewed the first three chapters on online learning, how it works, and the psychology of computing.  In this post, I look at the fourth chapter, on attention.

Sooo … has the cute picture of the little dog grabbed your attention?

And in doing so, have I sidetracked our exploration of attention?

Michelle’s chapter begins with an exploration of the Stroop Effect, and how easy it is to derail attention.

StroopThe link above takes you to a simple task of speaking two sets of words, with the caveat that you speak the color, not the printed word.  It took me about 50% longer to complete Set #2 over Set #1, because my mind kept focusing on the mismatch between the printed word and the color.  Michelle noted that you cannot separate cognition from the mechanisms we use to allocate our cognitive resources…so paying attention to paying attention is important in online course design.

Yet, attention can easily be shifted.  The message ding on our phone pulls us away from the computer screen.  Images in our lessons that do not align with the task impact our attention.

We also have limitations, including inattentional blindness when we focus.  It goes back 8 years ago, but I used the video below as an example of inattentional blindness during a job interview.

As Michelle noted:

“The inattentional blindness effect illustrates a broader truth about human perception and attention, that looking and seeing are two different things – and that we are remarkably prone to missing stimuli when our attention is directed elsewhere.”

… as “The Invisible Gorilla” showed.

While capacity cannot be expanded, it can be altered by practice. Actions that become automatic free up the brain to process other information.  Michelle is quick to note that practice does not mean we can actually multitask…we just think that we can.

Attention is highly intertwined with visual processing, which is another facet of online course design that matters.  She describes change blindness, in which changes to the screen are not picked up readily.  Most people think they perceive more change than they really do.

 Working memory is an area of significant variation among individuals.  Michelle noted that attention directs what goes in to working memory, so again, understanding attention is important to creating a learning environment.

minds_online2Michelle suggested several strategies regarding attention and online learning.

  • Ask students to respond
    • Chunk material into short segments and have students do something (answer a question, click on a hotspot, etc)
  • Take advantage of automaticity
    • Use auto-grading features of LMS’s to provide practice opportunities and feedback, with incentives for completion
  • Assess Cognitive Load
    • You really can do little to impact the cognitive demands of the topic or the individual, but you can impact cognitive load by design features.  Poor instructions or requiring new features without practice can negatively increase cognitive load.
  • Discourage Divided Attention
    • The web is full of distractions, but simply informing students that they should pay attention actually increases attention.

The chapter on attention suggests that educating students about multitasking, making materials as seamless as possible, minimizing extraneous attention drains, and keeping them engaged through compelling activities – these will help with learning in online classes.

From attention, Michelle moves to memory – my next post.

{Graphic: Social Caffeine }


Cognitively Optimized Online Course

active-learning-stratsMonday, I attended a regional conference hosted by the Harvard University Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning on active learning.  It was a good day of conversation with colleagues from some 35 institutions in the area.  I met Jim Lang of Assumption College, and he pointed out that “active learning” is a potential active learning problem for faculty in general.  Totally agree.

During the morning, we worked as small groups to identify both barriers to adoption and solutions:

Some barriers:

  • Faculty personal identity as “one who lectures”
  • Loss of control
  • Fear that experimentation will impact student evaluations
  • Classroom spaces not conducive to active learning
  • Lack of faculty knowledge as to active learning techniques

Some solutions:

  • Creating culture of active learning
  • Sharing of practices … and sharing evidence of efficacy
  • Spotlights on faculty doing it
  • Discipline journals including SoTL in addition to discipline research
  • Convene faculty development around shared problems
    • Start with small teaching activities
  • Understand the difference between “starting” versus “sustaining” active learning

minds_online2Yet, my best take-away from the conference came when Jim mentioned a new book he was reading on the train that morning:  Michelle Miller’s (2014) Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With Technology.  I immediately went online and ordered my own copy, which arrived last night.  The book starts with the cognitive principles that could be applied to improved learning through technology, focusing on attention, memory and thinking.  It then provides practical applications of these principles to provide a “cognitively optimized, fully online course.”  That intrigued me!  Sixty-five pages in, I am excited enough to post this preliminary reaction.

Michelle noted in the preface that this book “…explains how principles of human cognition can inform the effective use of technology in college teaching”, noting:

  • “Technology enables frequent, low-stakes testing, an activity that powerfully promotes memory for material
  • Technology encourages better spacing of study over the time course of the class and helps prevent cramming.
  • Technology facilitates presentation of material in ways that take advantage of learners’ existing knowledge about a topic.
  • Technology facilitates presentation of material via multiple sensory modalities, which, if done in the right ways, can promote comprehension and memory.
  • Technology offers new methods for capturing and holding students’ attention, which is a necessary precursor for memory.
  • Technology supports frequent, varied practice that is a necessary precursor to the development of expertise.
  • Technology offers new avenues to connect students socially and fire them up emotionally.
  • Technology allows us to borrow from the techniques of gaming to promote practice, engagement, and motivation.” (p. xii)

She noted that technology does not promote learning by its mere presence … learning requires focused attention, effortful practice, and motivation (concepts that align with Susan Ambrose’s (2012) How Learning Works).

Michelle’s first chapter deals with whether online learning is here to stay.  She suggests factors such as economics, student demand, calls for measurable evidence of learning, new technologies and a drive to innovate as reasons why technology in higher education is now a given … and that we should invest in using it well.  She then looks at whether learning online works (noting that just by asking the question, we are holding technologically aided teaching to a higher standard than classroom teaching).  She charts out principles for optimal college teaching excerpted from four “best practice frameworks:

These best practices do suggest that online learning works…and some of what makes it work is active learning.

In Chapter 3, she tackles some of the prevailing myths about the psychology of computing:

  • Use of the web “rewires” the brain
  • Students today are “digital natives”
  • Social networking destroys real-life social relationships


While there are grains of truth, she provides some interesting analysis of the realities behind these myths and what that might mean for teaching.

So … I am through the first three chapters and stoked!  I will continue this as I move further through the book, and I will continue to find connections with the active learning session I attended this week.

If you are looking for a good book that applies the learning sciences to online teaching, I would recommend this book.

(…and thanks again to Jim Lang for the suggestion…)

{Graphics: Kenny, Barnes and Noble, Vogler}




A New Center and A New Seven

How Learning WorksI am excited to be headed to Boston next month to join the Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning Through Research at Northeastern University.  CATLR, led by Cigdem  Talgar, was formed by Senior Vice Provost Susan Ambrose, lead author of How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching.  Each member of CATLR works with faculty to explore ways to enhance learning that are firmly grounded in the learning sciences.  I am definitely joining a quality team … and “team” is relevant, as this appears to be a highly collaborative group.

I cannot wait!

During the interview process, several members brought up the white paper that Jeff Nugent, Bud Deihl and I co-wrote back in 2009:  Building from Content to Community: [Re]Thinking the Transition to Online Teaching and Learning.  In the white paper, we wanted to state unequivocally that teaching online involved much more than simply posting content online.  I still think that is true, even given the rise in MOOCs over the past five years.  To make our case, we noted the amazing growth of open content (i.e., the content was already posted online).  We then noted:

“In reviewing the literature, many suggest that the while the content and the learning outcomes are the same, the manner in which that content is delivered and the interactions with students are quite different. Ko and Rosen (2008) suggest that developing an online course starts at the same place where one develops a face-to-face course. One sets the goals for the course, describes the specific learning objectives, defines the tasks necessary to meet those objectives, and then creates applicable assignments around these tasks. The fundamentals are the same, the technique is very different. So in many ways, the design of an online course mirrors the design of a face-to-face course. Both have clear learning objectives. Assessment of learning is critical in both. Yet the fundamental practices for delivering the instruction and facilitating learner interaction are quite different.”

To illustrate these differences, we used a series of vignettes based on Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice for Undergraduate Education.   Chickering and Gamson synthesized fifty years of research and developed the following seven principles that they viewed as core to effective teaching:

7 Principles

  1. Good Practice Encourages Student-Faculty Contact
  2. Good Practice Encourages Cooperation among Students
  3. Good Practice Encourages Active Learning
  4. Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback
  5. Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task
  6. Good Practice Communicates High Expectations
  7. Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

Many others have coupled the Seven Principles with online teaching, such as in Chickering and Ehrmann’s Technology as Lever article or the recent Faculty Focus article by Dreon.  As I move to CATLR, I have been thinking differently.  I have been reflecting on recasting our white paper using the seven research-based principles described in Susan Ambrose’s book:

  1. Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.
  2. How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know.
  3. Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.
  4. To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned.
  5. Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning.
  6. Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.
  7. To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.

In many ways, these are “Seven Principles Two Point Oh”.  :-)  The Chickering and Gamson Seven focused on good teaching.  The Ambrose Seven focus on good learning – a neat shift.

Prior Knowledge

The online environment offers the opportunity to tailor learning based on what each student brings to the course.  If prior knowledge is activated, sufficient, appropriate, and accurate (not always givens), then learning can be enhanced.  To do this, some form of assessment is needed to gauge and surface prior knowledge as part of the online learning process.

Knowledge Organization

This principle recognizes that novices and experts approach learning in different ways.  If one approaches online learning from a constructivist and connectivist view, then strategies should be applied that help students collaboratively build connections with the concepts they are learning, teaming experts and novices.  Online concept mapping exercises are a neat way to move this forward.


Ambrose discusses the interconnections between a supportive environment, student efficacy, and the value of a learning goal – and these align with the earlier Seven Principle on High Expectations.   Passion for the subject and surfacing the relevance of the learning go a long way to increasing student motivation.  Empowering students to connect learning to their own passions and relevant interests applies here as well.

Mastery / Goal-Directed Practice with Feedback

In his book, The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests the “10,000-Hour Rule” – that greatness requires the investment of time and practice.  In a normal semester online course, one does not have thousands of hours, but the concept of practice to develop skills is important.  I coupled two of Ambrose’s principles here, because they are aligned.  Goal-directed feedback coupled with timely formative and summative feedback helps mastery.  It also might suggest connections between courses so that mastery grows over time across programs.

Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Climate

Every online class that I have taught has a unique personality.  As the faculty teaching, I have a lot to do with the tone set for a class.  The same is true for anyone teaching.  Our role is be proactive about climate.  Our students need safe places to try and safely fail, and then try and succeed.  We need to ensure that no students feel marginalized.  For me, this is a huge reason that my own social presence as the faculty member is so necessary in an online class.

Self-Directed Learners

Self-directed learners think about their own thinking.  Ambrose describes a metacognitive process in which students assess tasks, evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, plan their approaches, monitor their performance, and adjust as necessary.  One of the best examples of faculty developing his students is in the blog journal of my colleague, Enoch Hale.  In “Visualizing Our Intellectual Journey,” Enoch describes his efforts “…to track their intellectual journeys in clear, explicit and visual ways: then, now and into the future.”

So, I am excited to be moving to Boston and joining a high energy team!  And I am excited to explore learning through a new set of lens provided by Susan’s book!


A Philosophy of Faculty Development

In my Theory of eLearning class last night, the subject of working with clients came up.  This class is for the Educational Technology track for a Masters in Education in Adult Learning.  This program is designed for individuals who

“…want to gain in-depth knowledge and understanding of adult learning theory and practice, specifically in the fields of Human Resource Development and Adult Literacy, and through exploring technology in learning in today’s digital environment. Our graduates and current students work in business and industry, healthcare, government, non-profit, higher education, and community and human service agencies.”

NMC_HzSo, a program that attracts a diverse group of students … and my class is no different.  Last night, we explored emerging trends in technology for learning, using the 2014 NMC Horizon Report as a launch point.  As one might suspect, this track attracts students who are comfortable with digital technology.  During the class session, laptops, tablets, and smartphones were in constant use.  One student texted a resource to another student with his phone as we discussed it…and no one batted an eye.  So while we discussed the cost/benefit of staying with older technologies versus shifting to the new thing that is out … and facilitating those discussions with clients … their questions had less to do with their own ability to stay current and explore technologies as it did with working with clients who might not share their passion for digital technology.

Using Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation, we discussed backwards translation of their early adoption terminology and practice to the early and late majority clients with whom they might be working.  We also began to discuss general philosophies of instructional designer relationships with clients.


This brought back to my mind an earlier conversation I had with Enoch Hale.  Enoch noted that he had a Philosophy of Teaching, and that he intended to work on a Philosophy of Faculty Development.  It struck me as a great idea … and one I had never personally articulated.

My Philosophy of Teaching notes that teaching occurs in a distributed networked environment.  Per my beliefs regarding teaching and learning, I see my role as:

  • Promoting positive learning, modeling what I teach and learn;
  • Sparking learner enthusiasm for learning and peer-teaching;
  • And providing a strong foundation for lifelong reflective practice.

My role in faculty development is similar, but nuanced due to the collegial nature of the relationship one has (or should have) with fellow colleagues.  In my role as faculty developer, I hope to both inspire and empower faculty.  To do this, I like how Dakin Burdick framed his philosophy around three goals, and I will adopt them for my philosophical statement.

Digital StudentsFirst, our work in faculty development is a means to an end, and that end should impact student learning.  There is little empirical evidence that can directly correlate faculty development with improvements in student learning, and yet, that goal should be at the heart of what we do.  My first priority is to effectively coach the fellow faculty with whom I work to experiment with new practice informed by what we know about how people learn, evolving theories of learning in distributed networks, and the selection of digital tools that lead to active and authentic learning.  I also wish to partner with them to observe the impact and learn from it.

Happy ClientSecond, what we do should enhance faculty satisfaction.  For me, faculty development is all about the relationships I build with my colleagues.  Jeffrey Nugent suggested a mindset with the term “Consultant for Life” that really resonated with me.  Tom Peters noted once that in any organization, we are “all in sales” … but as faculty developers, I believe that we are all in the Human Capital business.  In working with colleagues, I have my passions … but it is equally important to understand the passions of my colleagues … and look for ways to align the two.  I need to see linkages between the digital affordances of the web and the learning goals of each discipline.  By building relationships, I am also able to bring an interdisciplinary lens to these discussions.  If I can help raise the faculty comfort level with digital processes, while keeping true to their disciplinary passions, I will facilitate faculty satisfaction … and perhaps spark some creative juices!

Social ReputationThird, our work should enhance the reputation of our institution.  In a networked world, we have an amazing opportunity to share our celebrations and share our missteps … learning from each other.  The web has evolved in the past decade to be one that is participatory – what danah boyd in It’s Complicated calls “networked publics.”  Through blogs, through Twitter, through LinkedIn … name your social media … we have an obligation to share … and to build community with our faculty colleagues.  My LinkedIn network map below shows five separate nodes … and I have an opportunity to add to our reputation by interacting across each of these nodes… and to enhance my institution’s reputation by learning from my network.  It is a two-way street!

LinkedIn network map

So, inspire, empower, impact student learning, enhance faculty satisfaction, and enhance institutional reputation.  Am I off base?  How would you add to or modify this for your role in faculty development?  If you have published your philosophy, link to it in the comments.  In this remix world of ours, I am looking for additional models from which to draw inspiration and learn.

{Graphic:  NMC, Natebailey, Louisa Goulimaki, BusinessOfDesign, ColumbiaTeachingCenter, LinkedIn Labs}