Getting the Soil Right

How does a faculty member benefit from working with an instructional designer?

Working with an instructional designer gives you access to a vast array of distance education knowledge and expertise.  In a typical month a designer will work with an average of 20 faculty across the University,

  • seeing the activities they use,
  • the tools they incorporate,
  • the challenges they face,
  • and the solutions we develop.

If you work with an instructional designer, you gain easy access to the expertise and knowledge of all of those individuals.  You also gain access to the knowledge and expertise that instructional designers acquire when they attend learning events, like the 2016 D2L Fusion conference, which I just attended this past week.

In the spirit of connection and information sharing, I tried to encapsulate the value of this experience for you, the reader of this blog.  At first I took the analytical approach:

  • 1 moose selfie
  • 2 days of conference
  • 4 general sessions attended
  • 9 breakout sessions attended
  • 100 tweets (yes I counted my #d2lfusion hashtag tweets)
  • 1000 + attendees to interact with
  • way too much coffee

But numbers really don’t do the conference justice.  Next, I considered some of the questions raised and answered through the breakout sessions.

Why online education?

As Jon Becker (@jonbecker) said during his presentation on Connected Learning, “Because the internet is awesome.”  While true, he went further arguing that it enables Connected Learning with the instructional and design benefits like renewable assignments and the ability to cultivate wonder in students.

Why should I care about Universal Design in Learning (UDL)?

Because as Tom Tobin (@ThomasJTobin) said, “UDL is access no matter what the circumstances.”  He encouraged faculty to think about +1.  Add just one more way for the students to access the information or be engaged or demonstrate their understanding.

Why use gamification principles?

Because when done right, it can inspire enjoyment, engagement, and experimentation through the creation of challenge, choices, and consequences.  (Gamification presenters enjoyed their alliteration.)  Said another way, gamified courses create feedback loops where students get to keep trying to overcome learning challenges, receiving feedback each time they fail, until finally they reach mastery and succeed.

Yet questions didn’t capture the value of the conference either.  Finally, I considered the conferences broadest themes.

D2L used the theme “We Love the Way You Teach,” during the conference, but I prefer the message delivered from the two keynote speakers, Sir Ken Robinson and Angela Maiers.  While they each took a different tact, the core of both messages was the same.   Ken and Angela believe that every life matters.  That each person has unique gifts and talents that deserve to be in this world. That the role of an educator, of a teacher, is to help students recognize their value and bring it out into the world.

As Sir Ken Robinson was articulating his idea of human worth he argued that we need to change our educational system from one that is industrialized, focused on output and yield to one that is organic, that celebrates diversity and encourages mutual support and protection.  As he discussed his idea of organic education, he made an analogy to organic farming saying, “If you get the soil right, the plant will be fine.  It will flourish.” For some reason, that idea of “getting the soil right” stuck with me.

As educators, how do we get the “soil” right, so our students will flourish?  What makes up the “soil” in education?  Is that “soil” different in an online educational environment?

I don’t have easy answers to those questions, but I do know that we here at the Office of Distance Education are committed to getting the “soil” right when it comes to distance education. I also know that getting the soil right is impossible without you, the faculty.    We need you.  You matter to us.  So connect with us and benefit from easy access to expertise.

We make better “soil” together.

Five Reasons to Use Google Drive as a Student

You may be familiar with Dropbox or iCloud, but as far as cloud storage goes, Google Drive is by far my favorite provider. Here are five reasons why:

  1. You can create documents right from the drive.

Google Drive is equipped with applications that allow users to create documents directly inside the drive. A few examples of the applications available include Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides. Many cloud services require you to create a document using software on your computer before uploading it to the cloud. Google Drive cuts out this extra step. Additionally, if you prefer to create documents using something like MicrosoftGoogleDrive Word or Excel, you have the option to save those documents directly to the drive. All you need to do is install the Google Drive App onto your device. This will create a Google Drive folder on your device, which will automatically sync up with the online version of Google Drive. Any documents that you save into the folder will be automatically sent to the cloud, and any changes that you make to those documents in the folder will be automatically updated in Google Drive.

  1. You can access your files from anywhere.

You might prefer to create your documents using a desktop computer, but use a tablet when you’re on the go. If your files are stored in Google Drive you can transition between devices seamlessly, as it’s available on multiple platforms. This takes the worry out of losing another flash drive or not being able to find that one email that has information you need out of the thousands you receive.

  1. It’s attached to your other Google accounts.

You probably already have a YouTube or Gmail account, which means you already have access to Google Drive. Why not use what you already have? Additionally, if you use Gmail you have the option to save things directly from your email to Google Drive. Your days of hunting through countless email to find the document that your classmate sent you to contribute to your group project are over!

  1. It’s great for collaboration.

Group projects can be daunting if you do not have the correct tools at your disposal, and this is especially true in an online setting. Sending the same PowerPoint presentation back and forth with your groupmates dozens of times can clog up your inbox and cause confusion. Google Drive allows you to share documents with other people and facilitates collaboration. You can create your presentation right in the Drive, and then give editing power to people in your group. It will even show you which part each person contributes or makes changes to. This will allow you to keep your project in one place, and reduce the clutter of your inbox.

  1. It’s FREE!!!!

College is expensive. Between tuition, books, and other day-to-day expenses, having to pay for a service can make or break your decision to use it. Luckily, Google Drive provides users with up to 15GB of storage space for FREE!! If 15GB isn’t enough space for you, there is also an option to upgrade to 100GB for the low cost of $1.99 per month. That’s less expensive than getting one latte at Starbucks!