Synthesising Digital Learning and Leadership

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Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

I have absolutely loved the autonomy that we have had through this program. By encouraging us to choose our own paths, we were able to make significant and meaningful connections with the concepts we were learning. This allowed us to really experience concepts such as COVA (Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic learning), and CSLE (Creating Significant Learning Environments). I would like to say that I quickly embraced COVA, but in all honestly, it took a while… mostly because I lacked confidence in my abilities. As a returning student, and a non-millenial, I have felt the reality of a world influenced by the millenial generation… a world where older employees are considered expendable and not valued. My confidence has taken quite a hit through the last few years  of this environment. But through the feedback we have received throughout much of this program, I think I have started to restore my confidence.

I have been able to craft a well-designed plan for supporting our faculty, including the development of a professional learning center, with classes and workshops for faculty being provided regularly. With one of my co-workers, I developed an Online Teaching & Learning Certification Program that will be required for all faculty who teach online or hybrid/blended courses. Through the five courses that make up that program, we have infused the COVA approach, and the final course allows participants to develop a project that compiles the concepts they learned throughout the program. Because they are identifying an area of online teaching/learning that is significant and meaningful for them, they take ownership of the process. We have encouraged them to develop online portfolios, to document evidence of implementation of the concepts as they are learning them, and to reflect on the way their teaching philosophy and teaching styles have changed.

I worked closely with one of the participants of that program over the summer to redesign his courses. He teaches studio arts, including Ceramics and three-dimensional design, but also teaches art history. Art history is part of the core curriculum, a course that is often taken because students are required to take it, and not because they want to take it. His retention and success rates were not very good, but in the summer he changed the design creating a significant difference in the learning environment (see post on Significant Learning Environments) For that course in the summer, he had 100% retention, and a 95% success rate. One of the strategies he introduced in his course was weekly feedback, asking the students their thoughts on the design of the course, on the assignments, and he made changes to the course based on their feedback. This was remarkable in that it allowed the learners to see their suggestions being implemented, and they seemed to take more ownership of the course. Pretty amazing overall. He has also implemented the use of online portfolios in his studio courses. Students were apprehensive at first, but then seemed to really embrace that practice, and most really like the portfolio process.

I feel as though I have more confidence in my self, in my skills and abilities, and I honestly believe that this is making a difference with our campus leadership. My opinions are sought now, and I feel like my suggestions are actually considered. This is huge, because I really do have good ideas! We are implementing changes that I have been suggesting for a while, including something Jerry Yamashita mentioned in this week’s Connect session. Jerry talked about Maslow’s Hierarchy, and the basic needs of students. Because I worked for so many years with a program that focused on meeting needs of learners in a holistic manner, I have a strong passion for ensuring that the basic needs of our college students are met. Bill Milliken, founder of the Communities In Schools program, maintains that students cannot learn Algebra if they are afraid, if they are hungry, if they are in pain, or if they do not feel safe. From the outside, our economy looks good. But from within, the cost of living is ridiculous. In this community, we have so many residents who are food and housing insecure… and this affects our learners too. For years, I have been pushing for programs on campus to help the students with social services and basic needs. We need social workers who can help our learners connect with resources to help them with those basic needs. And this is something that the leadership is finally taking seriously. We have implemented a food pantry and a clothing closet for our learners. And we have plans to hire social workers.

Innovative changes are happening. I believe that our learners will benefit immeasurably because of what I have learned in this program, especially through our immersion in COVA+CSLE. But I also think that the feedback and support I have received through this program has been instrumental in the increase in confidence that I have found through this program. Thank you!


 

References

Morrison, N. (N.D.) Laptop and notepad [Photo]. Retrieved from Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/photos/FHnnjk1Yj7Y/share)