Chicago Online Learning Summit Reflections

by Kristina Wilson

On December 9th, 2015, the Learning Design team attended the 2nd annual Chicago Online Learning Summit, hosted by DeVry University’s DV X Labs at the digital startup coworking space 1871. The summit included presentations by industry leaders and pitches from up-and-coming educational technology startups. Here, the team shares their takeaways from each of the event’s components.

Reba-Anna Lee, Director of Online Program Development

Arizona State University (ASU) Dean of Online Learning, Philip Regier, shared his forward-thinking approach to online learning. He spoke of how the ASU online program became an educational partner with Starbucks, the growth of the ASU online environment, and ASU online plans for the future.

The program with Starbucks guarantees all employees free bachelor degree courses based on a reimbursement plan with Starbucks. The Starbucks employee/ASU student pays virtually nothing for bachelor-level courses. The program is also extended to veterans’ family members. If a veteran works at a Starbucks, they and their dependents can receive a bachelor degree through this program.

ASU has also pioneered a dynamic online community for its online students called SPARK (the mobile app name). It combines mobile accessibility with student-to-student and instructor-to-student interactions. The mobile app is connected to a desktop version and gives students and instructor real-time updates and notifications. The dynamic nature of the conversations this encourages makes the student feel a part of ASU and always connected to the campus, their courses, and other students.

ASU online’s future includes more business partnerships and expanding the use of SPARK to all of its online programs. There are also other innovative, community-building ideas in the works as well. Overall, ASU is blazing a trail in the online environment on how to build and maintain an online community for students and instructors beyond the cohort frame of mind.

Elizabeth Lemke, Learning Designer

GetSet encourages students “to develop a growth mindset, reinforcing that effort and hard work will ultimately lead to success.” Students describe their authentic life stories and experiences about overcoming challenges and then share them with incoming students. These stories help new students recognize challenge as something to overcome rather than an insurmountable obstacle. They are encouraged to practice and exhibit “grit” and persistence. GetSet gives students a chance to see what success looks and feels like.

StudyCloud is a smart and engaging learning platform that helps students easily navigate their course content by aggregating the what, who, when, and where. The learning platform provides alerts when new content is available or due date reminders; students can informally continue an in-class discussion anywhere they can access StudyCloud, which can be synced across many devices. Students and educators alike use the learning platform to stay connected, organized, and poised for success. StudyCloud touts the motto: “learning integrated into your life.”

Jessica Mansbach, Learning Designer

Jeff Merrell, Associate Director of Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change program, discussed master’s degree students’ use of an enterprise social network. An enterprise social network (ESN) is a platform for tight integration of multiple types of web 2.0 tools into a single private/semi private network for businesses and organizations. Some of the activities students engaged in on the ESN were talking about course assignments, sharing career development resources, working in groups, accessing student resources, and holding discussions.

Merrell, from observations on students’ activity levels in the ESN, found that the students formed a community of inquiry within the ESN. A community of inquiry has three components: social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. Students demonstrated social presence by communicating openly with their peers as a full class and in small groups. Students demonstrated cognitive presence by brainstorming questions and connecting ideas. The instructor demonstrated teaching presence by providing direct instruction and facilitating discourse. In addition, the ESN functioned as a community where students demonstrated learning presence by reflecting on the course and strategically seeking out additional information about the course and the field. Based on the students’ usage patterns, Merrell concluded that ESNs have potential to serve as a valuable informal learning space.

Krissy Wilson, Learning Designer

Tim Harrington, the Senior Product Manager for DeVry University’s DV X Labs and former national program dean for the school’s Game and Simulation Programming degree, discussed a recent project in which employee compliance training—an often dry but increasingly important topic—was entirely gamified.

After collecting and analyzing data on employee gameplay, he arrived at a few conclusions that I feel are important for anyone considering gamification of coursework.

Some employees completed the training with a passing score, but returned to the game in pursuit of a perfect score.

Imagine if your students sought an A+ or 4.0 or 100/100 instead of just a passing grade—you can encourage this through gamification. Consider using a High Scores Board to highlight excellent work, or providing a Perfect Score badge to encourage more students to complete.

Employees who were not as fluent with computers wished that they could partner with others to complete game challenges.

Students with lower levels of digital literacy are looking to their peers (rather than their instructors) for help, and you can facilitate it! Consider providing group challenges or using a communication feature either in your game or with the assistance of a learning management system.

Learn more about DeVry University’s DV X Labs and their collaboration with 1871, Chicago’s entrepreneurial hub for digital startups. Let us know what you think in the comments below or via e-mail.

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