I just got back from a great conference – Redesigning Instruction for the Future in Boise, Idaho hosted by Boise State University.  Why was it great? Two reasons:

  • The conference helped to dispel the notion that higher education faculty don’t care about pedagogy and course design.

  • It wasn’t a conference centered around users of Blackboard Academic SuiteTM – there were schools using Blackboard, WebCT, open source software, and some attendees – gasp – weren’t using a course management system at all to deliver well designed online courses.

It was great to hear discussion on course design. I hadn’t heard anyone talk about Bloom’s Taxonomy or Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory since back when I was a high school English teacher. Dr. Carolyn Jarmon, Senior Associate of the National Center for Academic Transformation, spoke about the need for course redesign, and gave a great example of redesign at University of Alabama that helped to significantly reduce course drops, failure and withdrawal. She also shared five specific models of redesign: supplemental, replacement, emporium, fully online,   and buffet. 

I also was fascinated by L. Dee Fink’s session about his Taxonomy of Significant Learning:  a more holistic and interdependent model for learning than the hierarchical Bloom model. Here, foundational knowledge, application, integration (all similar to Bloom’s stages) intersect with a human dimension (i.e. learning about oneself), caring (i.e. developing new interests and values), and learning how to learn (i.e. becoming a self-directed lifelong learner). 

The other big area of interest for me was the fact that it was such a mixed crowd.  The meeting was probably 75-80% faculty, and they represented schools that used a number of course management systems.  In the afternoon, I was able to sit in on Professor R. Robberecht’s session on his online course: Ecology Online: an extremely rich and layered self-directed course. His course was built without the use of a course management system at all.

There were presenters from Blackboard too.  I facilitated a meeting in the afternoon on developing an online community.  It was exciting for me because it was the first time I was able to see Blackboard and WebCT clients getting together to collaborate. I think everyone there was optimistic about the group moving forward as a community of practice.  John Dennett, Strategic Solutions Engineer, spoke about intellectual property rights in the morning, and he later teamed up with Craig Chanoff, Vice President of Client Services spoke about the company and product vision. 

All in all, Ben Hambelton, Director for Academic Technologies at Boise State and his team put on a great conference; it was a energizing example of a community of practice coming together across technology platforms to share great ideas and best practices in e-learning.

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