SLATE 2016 Conference Reflections

by Christine Scherer

On October 20, 2016, most of the SPS Distance Learning team attended and presented at SLATE 2016. There were numerous sessions and opportunities for conversations with our colleagues in distance learning and online education. Below are some reflections on what we heard, saw, and learned.

Jessica Mansbach

The Mobilizing Classroom Assessment addressed different ways to decide which technology tools work best for your assessment needs. The presenters reviewed pros and cons of a variety of classroom assessment techniques. They shared Classroom Assessment Techniques Advance Organizer, a useful resource to use to carefully consider what students already know, what skills you want students to develop, and how you will conduct the assessment. This was a comprehensive presentation that encourages learning designers, instructional technologists, and instructors to select assessment techniques that are well thought out and designed to address a specific instructional goal.

Krissy Wilson

In Text Messaging: Its Effects on Online Student Retention and Success Rates, Dr. Darrylinn Todd (DePaul University) and Selom Assignon (City Colleges of Chicago) discussed ways that faculty can connect with students in an online class. Participants in the interactive presentation named a variety of techniques, including weekly video messages, a course Twitter hashtag, and prompt e-mail response. With those ideas in hand, Assignon provided his solution, keeping in touch with his students by text message. He has used texting to communicate with students in online information systems classes since Fall 2014, including automatic text reminders that assignments are due, and answering ad hoc student questions. And it appears to be paying off; he presented retention data showing a rise from 70% to 100% retention over the past two years.

Jacob Martinez

I had the pleasure of presenting a session on Using Gamification to Design an Online Course Template to a very enthusiastic audience. What stood out for me in the session was a question that was asked by someone in the audience about the relevance of badges; more specifically on if badges actually add any value to a course or are they there simply because we can use them. This often comes up when talking about badges, and my response is that badges do in fact add value to courses, especially since they can help students articulate the skills they learned in order to gain that badge. That is why each badge or reward should be associated with a certain objective that can be measured.

William Guth and Jackie Wickham

In Effective Outreach for Introducing New Tools: The Case of Kaltura, Lee Scarborough (Vanderbilt University) shared the approach, outreach, and support mechanisms used by the VU Center for Teaching to help faculty and staff to adopt new technology and course tools. Scarborough’s presentation covered the time period from when central IT hands the tool to the Center for Teaching for Admin training and deployment to adoption of a new tool over the first year. In the case of Kaltura, the rapid adoption outpaced expectations, so the outreach was successful. Scarborough’s techniques balance digital outreach including online guides, blog posts, and webinars, with in person outreach consisting of partnering with departments for workshops, and drop-in support hours. Attendees of the session shared tips and techniques, as well as successes and failures in their own approach to introducing new tools to online faculty. Similar challenges include an initial lack of buy-in, difficulty to convince key stakeholders, and fear of being the first to try and possibly fail. We left the session better for knowing that we share the challenges of other online universities in connecting with faculty on new technology, and that our monthly online webinar series is both unique, and an effective tool for outreach.

Elizabeth Lemke

The Distance Learning team was well-represented at this year’s SLATE Conference. We presented on various topics ranging from how to make your course accessible to implementing games in the online classroom to improving faculty training with self-assessments. I think it’s worth noting why, as designers, technologists, and directors in online learning, we should and want to attend conferences in the first place. We attend to not only share examples and perspectives on how we apply new ideas and trends in our online courses, but to also learn from other institutions and professionals. I learned about a multitude of educational tools to use in assessment from Patrice Boyles at Chicago State University, how to make interactions in the online classroom more effective from audience participation at my presentation on group work with Distance Learning team members Reba-Anna Lee and William Guth, how the Erikson Institute uses a commitment to social justice and community engagement to drive the design of continuing education programs for childhood development and social work. The SLATE conference is just one of many opportunities for us to see how others approach online design challenges, create exciting learning opportunities, and contribute to the whole of education. Next up is the OLC Accelerate Conference in November. We’ll report back soon!

Christine Scherer

One of the best takeaways from SLATE 2016 was the high levels of interest in accessibility present throughout the conference. In every session I attended, someone–either a presenter or audience member–brought up accessibility in online learning. At the “Birds of a Feather” round table discussion forum, I was able to participate in a lively conversation about accessibility challenges and successes encountered by colleagues at other institutions. Many of them reported that their institutions were struggling to play catch-up and retroactively make already existing courses more accessible, or even waiting until a student requested accommodations. They also said that they knew this wasn’t a sustainable process and were interested to hear how we approach things at SPS. And finally, Krissy Wilson and I gave an updated version of our Planning to Design an Accessible Course presentation, which was very well-attended and raised a lot of great questions from the audience. There were many levels of experience in the room, and people freely shared knowledge–even teaching me and Krissy a thing or two! It was really great to see how much the online community as a whole is focusing on this issue and committing to making sure that all students have equal access to education.

Reba-Anna Lee

In my presentation at SLATE 2016, Quality Indfused =Quality Output which covered a comparison of the Quality Matters rubric to the OLC Scorecard, which one would work best for NU SPS online courses, and how SPS DL has implemented Quality Matters  into our development process. There was a lot of interest in Quality Matters and how it can be used at other schools in the area. Many participants asked about the implementation and the review process for the two approaches. I appreciated the interactivity of the discussion and the genuine interest of  the participants. Overall, I felt that the conference was beneficial in seeing where other schools are focusing their online course development efforts.

Aaron Bannasch

As a first time attendee of SLATE and also a first time conference presenter, I enjoyed connecting with others who share my interests of integrating time-based media and digital learning environments. My presentation on selecting the video style that fits with the content of a given lesson raised questions about how instructors and instructional designers determine when to use video as an instruction format and what type of video to use. The discussion with the presentation participants focused on instructor-generated videos and the resources needed to create them. Many of participants in the presentation elected to continue sharing ideas and asking questions beyond the duration of the presentation, so we are continuing to investigate the role of instructor-generated video by maintaining digital communication with each other. This ongoing investigation and experimentation will help shape my future conference proposals and presentations and also have direct impact on the video production processes we use at SPS.

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