Hard Lessons in the Big Easy: The ELI Annual Meeting 2014

Last week NGLC staff joined 600-plus members of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative community for their annual meeting, held this year in New Orleans. Presentations included reports on a wide range of innovations using technology and the results of using those technologies, both for students and for institutions. Several sessions showcased NGLC-supported innovations and innovators, both from the “Building Blocks” and the “Breakthrough Models” cohorts, as well as NGLC’s Breakthrough Models Academy and Breakthrough Models Incubator programs.

Next-Generation Learning in Higher Education: What Did We Learn from the First Wave of Innovations? Barbara Means gave an overview of key findings from SRI’s study of the outcomes across NGLC’s first investments, the 2011-2013 Building Blocks grants.   She noted that the variation in effectiveness of student outcomes across the 29 projects offered her research team a chance to identify the design and implementation features that successful technology innovations have in common. Among such features identified in SRI’s work: projects involving whole-course redesign, projects targeting mathematics courses, and projects implemented on the campus of the grantee institution.

Proving Innovation Effective: How Three NGLC Projects Improved Outcomes for Students. Leaders from three Building Blocks innovations that produced convincing data about students’ improvement shared their approaches to getting that data in this session.  Presenters were Kate Stevenson of California State University Northridge (Hybrid Model), John Squires of Chattanooga State Community College (U Do the Math), and Steve Lonn of the University of Michigan, representing Tim McKay (E2Coach). They  invited participants to consider the approaches they’d found workable in answering questions such as “What should I have done when I hit resistance to change?” and “What should I do when folks won’t share data?”

Breakthrough Models Academy Winners Panel. Another NGLC-related session featured representatives from the Academy’s inaugural 2013 cohort. Phil Neufeld represented the team which designed UBelong, Kevin DeKock the team behind LifeTracks: both designs are available from the team projects page. They addressed questions about their team’s process, the challenge of rapidly developing a project collaboratively, keys to their success in creating an award-winning design for improving outcomes, and future plans for realizing their designs. A third award-winning design, WilAcademy, was represented, not by a presenter, but by the video that the team created for the competition held at the EDUCAUSE Annual Meeting in 2013. Phil Neufeld, joined by fellow Academy alumnus Lauren Fancher, also facilitated a learning circle discussion about breakthrough models based on their experience with the Breakthrough Models Academy.

Incubating Strategic Innovation, a showcase for the thoughts of institutional leaders from three of the seven institutions which took part in the first Breakthrough Models Incubator, saw Holly Morris of NGLC asking questions of Charter Oak State College President Ed Klonoski, University of Maryland University College Provost Marie A. Cini, and Empire State College Acting Provost Deb Amory. Coming off the process of structuring a disruptive change for their institutions, they spoke to internal institutional challenges, the role of leadership, and what it takes to drive innovation forward. Each of them described the process of designing and preparing to implement their project during the face-to-face component of the Incubator and over the following months leading up to their project submissions in January. This session is available to view as a free public webcast.

Many other sessions at the ELI Annual Meeting touched on challenges that face NGLC innovators, from practical matters such as determining readiness for learning analytics to wide-scale paradigm shifts of the kind Steven Mintz outlined in his closing general session Higher Ed Next: Innovations That Will Change of Face of Public Higher Ed by 2015. Those who weren’t able to attend this year can get a taste via webcasts of selected sessions.


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