One lesson I have gotten from this is that communication over the phone adds an extra layer of challenge to the relationship. I know I’m still interrupting (I think eastern urbanites tend to jump in quickly so they don’t lose their place in the queue). Fortunately, my partner has been very patient with me and we figure it out. I’m really glad we’ve both committed to calling each other every other week and keeping up with the book (even if we’ve read it just that morning).
One of the reasons I was glad to partner with someone from outside of Penn State is that it gives me a chance to learn what is happening outside of my Penn State TLT centric bubble. One thing I have learned about the set up at University of Nebraska is that many IDs are on one central organization (Office of Online and Distance Education) but assigned to different colleges (e.g. business). I think it has a lot of good advantages in that each ID has access central resources, but gets to know a smaller set of instructors on a more personal level. I don’t think that organization would be possible at Penn State, but I do think figuring out ways to establish communication channels between units is very important to the Penn State community.
We’re also having interesting discussions about Canvas which is in pilot mode at both Penn State and Nebraska. The difference is that we’re moving from an older LMS, but Nebraska might be moving from the newer Blackboard LMS which my partner likes. Both of us are discovering that our current LMS systems have features not (yet) available in Canvas. However, I feel that no matter what new LMS an institution chooses, it will never exactly replicate every feature from the older system, so there will always be an issue of finding alternatives for missing functions and explaining how they work to instructors who may not be willing to make the change.
A final interesting revelation happened in relation to accessibility. Unlike Penn State, they have not been involved in any legal actions, so there tends to be less awareness of the issue among instructors and, in fact, the number of students needing accommodation for sensory impairments is very small in comparison to Penn State. My partner noted he was more likely to encounter an accessibility accommodation request at his local community college. Unfortunately, I suspect that there are still a lot of barriers preventing students with accessibility from being able to attend an R1 institution, so numbers remain low and the problem has not seemed critical until recently. Going online though makes accommodation requests more likely because students with disabilities feel that the environment is more favorable. At Penn State the college with the most accommodation requests is World Campus. Harvard and MIT received a complaint from the National Association for the Deaf for uncaptioned videos associated with their OER resources. If Nebraska does significantly increase their online education presence, they will probably see that accessibility is no longer a theoretical issue.
Of course, a lot of things are just the same for every instructional designer. We both have to deal with quirky faculty, flaky students and occasionally balky LMS platforms. My partner asks me if I have any advice and a lot of times I just shake my head and tell a crazy war story. This reminds me that we have a long way to go in understanding how to design learning that works for humans. Which is great for job security I suppose.