Workshops and conferences are popular tactics for scaling a proven innovation that uses technology to improve outcomes for students so that it attains broader adoption. In a workshop, new adopters have hands-on opportunities to use the innovation, time with those already using the new approach in varied institutional settings, and time for interacting with the project’s leaders and others interested in it. (And there are usually muffins, coffee, and boxed lunches for all.) Last week, NGLC staff had the opportunity to take part in workshops offered by two Wave I grantees that are now continuing to develop their projects with follow-on funding from NGLC: IUPUI’s Cyber Peer-Led Team Learning and Cerritos College’s Kaleidoscope Project.
The National Adoption Workshop for cyber-Peer Led Team Learning brought together the project leaders from IUPUI; representatives from Purdue University, one of their scaling partners; and institutional teams – in most cases a faculty member and a member of the information technology staff – from 11 other campuses, including Ohio State University, the University of New Hampshire, two campuses of the University of Texas, Portland State University, and the University of West Georgia. The concept of cyber peer-led team learning is based on small groups of current students in a class meeting via videoconference to work on specific problems that the course instructor has developed. An “advanced peer” – that is, a student who has taken the same course successfully in a prior term – leads and guides the discussion, which incorporates use of a virtual whiteboard as well as video and audio.
Several students who had taken part as peer leaders, both at IUPUI and at Purdue, also joined the conference. Their enthusiastic participation helped keep the sessions lively. After a short introduction to the theory and pedagogical basis of peer-led team learning, the approach to which cPLTL represents a technology-enhanced variant, the workshop participants learned about best practices for selecting and training the peer leaders and about using the technology (in IUPUI’s case, Adobe Connect is employed). They entered the videoconference environment themselves, with small groups in separate breakout rooms , and also tried their hands at developing the problems for use in the peer-led sessions. During the second day of the workshop, participants heard from IUPUI’s internal evaluator about the demonstrated success that the project has had in improving student learning outcomes – as well as some of the challenges in designing research to measure that success when multiple institutions are involved.
As a key activity of their follow-on work, the Kaleidoscope Project, which originated at Cerritos Community College, is bringing 20 new campuses on board to join the effort to create and adopt course designs collaboratively, across multiple institutions, using exclusively open educational resources. At their Open Education Leadership Summit in Denver, Colorado, institutional representatives from some of the campuses that have joined in the past year joined with those who’ve been on board since the project got under way in 2011. The first day’s program was organized as a succession of rapid planning segments, with short, provocative presentations by leaders in the field of open educational resources, including David Wiley, Shuttleworth Fellow and Lumen Learning; Candace Thille, Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative; Dean Florez, Twenty Million Minds Foundation; and Michael Feldstein, e-Literate. Several of the project leaders from the campuses that took part in Project Kaleidoscope’s first phase also spoke. After time for questions and discussion in each segment, participants entered issues and ideas into an online system which allowed the group to prioritize those ideas for further consideration in follow-up after the session. For this NGLC observer, the lively and engaged conversations at the summit served to reinforce the aspects of the collaborative course design process that seem to make a difference, as shared in a post here in April by project manager Kim Thanos: the participation of multiple institutions in the development of each course design, the foundation of each design in student learning outcomes rather than “covering content,” and the focus on using assessments beyond the level of individual student performance, at the level of the project itself, to measure and improve the effectiveness of the course designs.