Power Play: Transitioning From Lecturer to Facilitator


The Fear of Obsolescence


Nothing haunts most people more than the fear of becoming outdated, obsolete, and no longer valued. This can probably be said more for educators than most other professions, especially as the form of education continues to rapidly change. While the form of education might be changing the function remains the same; to invite others to learn. The fear of change is a fascinating phenomena especially in a field that’s purpose has tended to be about facilitating change. Education brings about great change in the lives of individuals, communities, and entire continents, yet some educators opt for a static existence and strive to retain the status quo in regard to their own self preservation. Typically this is an unconscious act grounded in our base human nature. The thought of transitioning to online education elicits this feeling of outdatedness for educators. This fear becomes unfounded if the educator works with an educational designer who can guide them through the transition.


Smoothing bumps in the hybrid highway


“wavy roads 1″ by Amanda Woodward via Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by EMU MBA professor, Jim Leaman. -bg]

This past semester was my third experience teaching a hybrid course.  All were in the EMU MBA program where classes meet alternating weeks, onsite and online; this was also with my third different set of software tools. The technologies used in online teaching both limit and enhance pedagogy; the two need to be considered together when transitioning from traditional teaching environments.


Educational Design as Bridge Building


Sio se pol Bridge

“Sio se pol” by Shahab.mg (original), Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

Bridges are phenomenal feats of engineering that are used to traverse obstacles that would otherwise prohibit the connecting of societal groups. Often bridges have served to connect disjointed land masses bringing the various cultures of each into a shared environment. Throughout history bridge designs have changed to serve the various needs of the terrain being spanned and to withstand the weather conditions of the environment. The four basic types of bridges are beam, truss, arch, and suspension with variations that incorporate aspects of each. While the bridge design may vary its primary purpose remains the same.

Educational Design is an area of academia that has proven difficult to pin down into a specific area of the pedagogical landscape. Is it IT or is it education? I would propose that it is neither and both. Educational Design provides the often needed bridge between two important aspects of pedagogy. With a system of trusses, beams and arches firmly anchored on both sides of the divide, Educational Design understands both worlds in which it spans. The role of Educational Design is one of translation and implementation where the information of both areas is melded into power pedagogical tools that engage the student and transforms the educational landscape.

Bridges are more than utilitarian structures that serve to meet the needs of travelers. Bridges are functional wonders of architectural design that both awe and inspire those that traverse them and those that admire the manner in which they transform the landscape. Bridges, like Educational Design, bring together technical expertise and innovative design, to provide solutions to a spatial dilemma.

Taking inventory


"Boxing ourselves in?" by Linus Bohman via Flickr

“Boxing ourselves in?” by Linus Bohman via Flickr

Over the last few months, I’ve been putting together an inventory document of all online, blended, and hybrid courses being offered in our graduate and undergraduate programs at EMU for the current and next academic years. This has been a helpful exercise as it’s been surprising to me how much we’re already doing in this area, with new courses and programs taking shape with seemingly every passing week and semester. It is an exciting time to be in my line of work at EMU.

Today I gave a lunch presentation on our main campus to faculty and staff, surveying my work in instructional technology and design over the past few years, and how I’ve been working at both the program and faculty levels to help build capacity for online, hybrid, and blended education at EMU. At the end of the presentation I made an assertion and a posed a question…

If my sense that online/hybrid/blended education at EMU is only going to advance, and design and support resources such as I provide need to be bolstered, then what would be the best approach for moving that direction? How can my work expand and resources be added to best serve this emerging mix of delivery models in our educational mission? How can we move this direction while still maintaining the integrity of community and character formation which are central to who we are as an Anabaptist-Mennonite institution?


Coming to terms…


First off it’s been quite a while since I posted here on the ed-tech blog. Not for lack of activity, really, either. At the beginning of the fall semester, two exciting new collaborative programs rolled out, which I’ve discussed here before: the Collaborative MBA and the undergraduate sociology program, both ventures between Goshen College, Bluffton University, and us here at EMU. And so far they’ve both been a success! The year+ of technology and faculty development planning certainly paid off and we feel great about they’ve started out.

And recently I started a professional development course through the Online Learning Consortium (formerly the Sloan Consortium/Sloan-C) in “blended learning mastery.” In the early phase of the course we did some helpful setting of terms:

  • Blended courses - Any course that has 30-75% online activities and engagements mixed with face-to-face/F2F
  • Hybrid courses – A 50/50 mix of online and F2F

So basically, hybrid is a more specific mixture of blended.


The role of expectations in online education


Huh?A longtime friend of mine has an unusual knack for coming up with pithy proverbial sayings. My favorite goes like this:

Disappointment and elation
Are all a matter of expectation

Cute, right? Yet it’s strangely come to mind in any number of situations over the decade since I first heard it uttered. One such area has to do with established academic programs/depts. beginning to dabble, or trying to innovate, in online education.

What I’ve found over the two years in my role as an instructional technologist and (increasingly, of late) instructional designer for online ed. at EMU, is that if you’re not careful about how you incorporate online elements into the delivery of a course, you can stumble onto the wrong side of the “disappointment and elation” continuum. A few for-instances from experience…


Showcase: “To Wisconsin With Love”


For the past academic year we have been using the MediaCore platform to upload and embed digital video and other media in Moodle, for both on-campus and online courses. It’s been a great platform; the Moodle integration is very seamless and intuitive and it’s been ticking along well. It’s been used for recorded mini-lectures and presentations in a range of classes, by both teachers and students, and a speech class has also made extensive use of it for posting speeches for peer review.

The nice thing about the Moodle integration is that the video uploaded within courses are only visible to those enrolled in the course. Videos uploaded/embedded in Moodle are, therefore, “private.” But what about videos that you want to show the world?

This week we had our first chance to do this with our MediaCore site. Paulette Moore, a professor in the Visual & Communication Arts department, taught a documentary filmmaking course this semester and their final project was posted to MediaCore yesterday. It’s called “To Wisconsin With Love: Offerings on Water, Land, and Culture” and runs 44 minutes. Check it out:


Cultivating affection in online education?


Agrarian author, Wendell Berry (image licensed under Creative Commons)

Farmer, author, Kentucky boy – Wendell Berry; (Photo licensed under Creative Commons)

Wendell Berry has been a big influence on my thinking and doing in the past few years, thanks to a close friend who not only loves and knows well most of Berry’s work but also embodies many of the things that Berry is passionate about: place and community, to name just two. It’s not a stretch to say that my family’s moving back to our home state of Iowa was for me helped along by exposure to Berry’s work and its resonance with my primarily theological convictions.

But therein lies the tension for someone like me who loves Berry: We’ve moved back to my wife’s little hometown in Iowa and yet I still work as a telecommuter for EMU in Harrisonburg, Virginia. What makes this arrangement possible is a technology and communications infrastructure built upon a particular economic system (not to mention my periodic travel), all systems that Berry has spent a considerable amount of time rightly critiquing for their corrosive effects on local communities and our stewardship of the earth.


The ed-tech vision for collaboration in Mennonite education


Collaborative MBA logoFor the past year, a good bit of my energy at EMU has been focused on helping craft the technology framework for an ambitious project which has just recently been announced and begins this fall: The Collaborative MBA – a graduate degree program jointly offered by three Mennonite-affiliated schools, Goshen College, Bluffton University, and EMU.

You can read a bit about the formative story and strategic vision for this program in this recent EMU News release: Unique Collaborative MBA program launched from platform of three Mennonite institutions - What I want to focus on, though, is the ed-tech vision for this program, and how it’s connected to a broader vision for increasing collaboration amongst Mennonite higher educational institutions beyond this first pilot project, the Collaborative MBA.


MOOCs: The Little Engine That Couldn’t


Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895

I repeat: “Whoo whoo!”

Just 11 months ago, I chose the visual metaphor to the right to be juxtaposed against the title for a post: “All aboard the MOOC train!” – wherein I expressed some reservations about the MOOC euphoria that was then gripping the nation, having just ended the so-called “Year of the MOOC” in 2012.

Well, it seems my reservations were shared by a critical mass of folks in higher education, because 2013 is shaping up to be the “Year of the Backlash.” The early philosophical critiques by faculty across the US are starting to be validated by a few studies that show MOOCs really aren’t living up to even a little bit of the revolutionary claims their progenitors were making a mere year ago. So the train has indeed left the station, but…well, you know.

Even one of the early public cheerleaders for MOOC craze, Sebastian Thrun, has recently said that “we have a lousy product” and is shifting his company’s platform and approach to corporate/vocational training, away from higher education. But while it’s easy for me to gloat and say “I told you so,” there is something worth considering in the Inside Higher Ed. post above: The MOOC backlash may actually end up hurting perceptions of online education more generally. And that is not a good thing.