Category Archives: MARC12

Session Wrap-up: Planning for Informal Learning Spaces

Planning for Informal Learning Spaces
Sandra Miller, Director of Instruction and Research Technology, William Paterson University of New Jersey

William Paterson University knew that much learning happened outside the classroom – so they wanted to provide intentional support for social strategies with human centered design and support for diverse, personally owned devices. Their goal was to make the entire campus (as much as possible) a learning space. Here are my notes from the session:

  • Over the years, spaces were created on campus (some of which included high-tech elements) to meet the goal of making the whole campus a learning space.
  • They created a cross-functional group to evaluate and improve informal learning spaces. The group initially did not include students, but they quickly realized that needed to change.
  • To start, they did an audit of the spaces on campus.
  • After an inventory, they did a careful labeling of spaces (when considering updates, knowing which spaces were which was important – by their nature many did not have room #s!)
  • As part of the project, they surveyed students on spaces.
    • This was a huge effort – historically responses to surveys were very low. By using iPads and iPods to collect data, they had a much higher response to the survey than average.
    • They included open-ended questions like “What are your favorite spaces on campus?” and “What do you like most about the spaces you use most?”
    •  The responses were surprising. Students liked quiet above all when choosing informal learning space. 50% compared to next highest…9% that they liked the space.
    • When asked what they wanted informal learning space, students said: quiet, wireless, and comfortable seating.
    • They also found that most of the time, students wanted to study alone – in sight of other students!
    • Using the data they collected, they were able to renovate several existing areas to be more student-focused.

All and all an interesting session with lots of photos; we got to guess students’ survey answers before we saw the data. I know I was surprised by what the students wanted in their learning spaces! Thanks to William Paterson University for presenting at MARC12.


Session Wrap-up: Technology Project Selection and Governance at Loyola University Maryland

Technology Project Selection and Governance at Loyola University Maryland
Richard Sigler, Director, PMO, Elena Bozylinski, Senior Project Manager, Scott Sax, Associate Director, Loyola University Maryland

This was the most broadly applicable session I’ve attended at an Educause event, primarily because its subject – project management – is important to any business or organization. I learned quite a bit in the session that I plan to use for my own projects.

When a new executive stepped onto the scene at Loyola, she asked the IT department for a list of projects currently being worked. The team started writing – and realized they had long lists of unfinished, overlapping and redundant projects. They decided to implement a project management office (PMO). Most of the session focused on project selection, which seems to be the biggest problem for most. Here are highlights from my notes during the session:

  • The goals for a PMO are to invest well, increase success, lower risk, increase maturity and show progress (of projects)
  • And, to a great extent, simplify. Think of the directions for a kid’s playhouse and how complicated they can be. Now think about how IKEA simplifies those directions so that anyone can manage it.
  • The first step: Choosing the right projects. At Loyola:
    • Proposal: Organization member fills out an online form describing what they need (the pitch) – why, what, needs, benefits. The form outputs a proposal document for review by PMO.
    • Investigation: An IT director uses proposal to investigate project costs (both $ and people) and creates an estimate for project
    • Scoring: Data is entered into a scorecard. Scores impact (cost efficiently, regulatory important, transformative-ness*), risk (complexity, ongoing management, integration requirements, administration questions).
    • Check out their session’s PowerPoint and take a look at their scoring cards and PMO software choices.
    • Choosing projects for portfolio:
      • Class X – regulatory
      • Class 0 – project already underway
      • Class 1 – High impact, low cost = quick win
      • Class 2 – High impact, high cost = large, strategic
      • Class 3 – Low impact, low cost = nice to have
      • Class 4 – Low impact, high cost = declined (there is an appeal process, but generally, no can do).
    • Loyola schedules based on classification against resources (lower priority projects may fall off schedule).
  • Step two: Portfolio project scheduling. Loyola uses At Risk to do project and portfolio management. It allows high-level scheduling based on estimates. Both step one and two are great tools to help set expectations of organizations for IT requests.
  • Question: “Maintenance. How do you add it into the process?”
    • Loyola is still figuring maintenance out – with every project, the maintenance element grows.
    • However, use these tools to present data to justify new resources; also can show if project can make anything run more efficiently.
  • Question: “Emergency management?”
    • Loyola is still wrestling with it. However portfolio priority does help them make decisions. And IT directors have some level of flexibility within the system.

Great, informative session by Loyola University Maryland. A big thank you to them for presenting at MARC12. I’ll be thinking about how to use some of these steps in (of all things) managing my roller derby league’s projects. We have a lot to do this year 🙂

*Definition: transformative-ness: The quality that indicates the prospective amount of transformation something may bring about.” That’s my made-up word and I’m stickin’ to it.

MARC12 Wrap-up and Keynote Highlights

#MARC12 was my first regional Educause conference, after many years of attending the big annual Educause Conference. I could only stay one day, but I came away with lots of good info and would recommend the regional conference to anyone looking for an informative (and more intimate) Educause event. Here are some resources; please share yours in the comments!

Keynote: Disrupting Ourselves: Cherished Assumptions, New Designs, and the Problem of Learning in Higher Ed

The conference opened with a great keynote by Randall Bass of Georgetown University. Bass is a very engaging speaker with a delightful habit of using pop culture movies and TV to illustrate his ideas (sharing, for instance, an anecdote about the debut Blackboard Collaborate on campus launched a series of “Groundhog Day” conversations – I could instantly imagine what those might sound like). Here are some highlights from the session:

  • “Our concept of learning has expanded at a rate far outpacing our notion of teaching.”
  • “At the same time as we are getting serious about being accountable for what students are learning…our understanding of learning is expanding in ways that are at least partially incompatible with our structures.”
  • He believes that we are moving into the “post-course era,” away from the course/curriculum as the center of the learning experience.
  • Outcomes associated with high-impact learning experiences (integrate and synthesize, patterns, applying knowledge in diverse situations, viewing issues from many perspectives) are associated with practices like collaborative assignments, study abroad, undergraduate research, and internships – most outside the standard classroom curriculum. His question: Can we continue to operate on the assumption that the formal curriculum is the center of the undergraduate experience? Pithy quote: “low-impact practices – formerly known as the curriculum.”
  • He described the features of a participatory culture – low barrier to entry, sense of connection to other members, ownership, and asked “how often do students feel that something is at stake in the standard curriculum?”
  • So how do you disrupt the status quo to bring more of those experiences into the curriculum? One option is to make the courses more like high-impact practices – more participatory, virtual labs, social tools.
  • “We are so invested in changing FACULTY. We need to change the course.”
  • He described a fundamental and strategic shift from changing faculty to changing course structures so that faculty are changed when they teach them. Moving toward a team-based design – technologists, classroom instructors, library and content management, instructional design – all parties working to improve the course, to structure it around the learner.
  • He also spent some time discussing ePortfolios as a “bridge and integrator of the delivered, the experienced and the lived curriculum.”

At the end of his keynote, Bass shared part of an essay from a colleague who had passed on. I spent some time trying to recreate it from memory for these pages, but it wasn’t the same. You’ll have to trust me that it was worth it. I wish you could have been there listening with me!

P.S.  If you find this interesting, some of the same themes were explored in Bass’ ELI 2011 session, available on podcast here.

Civics Education in (Very Exciting) Practice

I really enjoyed the first day of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Educause conference yesterday. Wish I could have stayed another day!  But I made the most of my time and took in some great sessions. I’ll buck tradition and start with the last session I attended, as it’s the perfect follow-up to the blog post I published Wednesday, The Case for Civic Education.

Session: Making Teaching and Learning Authentic: Engagement through Social Media in Politically Charged Times – James A. Jorstad, Director of Academic Technologies, University of Wisconsin-LaCross

Jorstad says that authentic learning focuses on real world, complex problems and solutions. Taking a look at this video, one of many he posted during the Wisconsin budget protests, I’d say that his choice of subject matter qualifies. One of the main themes repeatedly discussed during my session at the Brookings Institute earlier this week was making government studies more relevant – creating a disposition in students to want to learn about civics. Jorstad is doing just that. What a wonderful way to involve students – taking events happening in their backyards and bringing it into the classroom in real-time.

Jorstad is a regular contributor on CNN’s iReports and during his session he shared several of the videos he took during the 2011 Wisconsin budget protests. He uses his experience to help students understand the power – both positive and negative – of social media; it’s also an opportunity to discuss how to disseminate fact from fiction in new and traditional media.

His videos of the protests, posted on iReports started getting big views very quickly – he estimates 200-300 views every 30 seconds. As the views climbed,  CNN vetted the post. Then his video started showing up on other sites, including Forbes. As the video went “viral” and from iReport to actual news, eventually the attribution was lost (I think it’s like a game of telephone…the farther the video gets from its original posting, the less likely people will include the creator). He noted that attribution is one of the challenges of a social media-driven news report.

Jorstad highlighted some of the comments made on his videos. Many were extremely hostile – another symptom of the lack or ineffectiveness of civics education that was noted in the Brookings panel. In fact, his videos of the protest were often flagged as inappropriate (which, ironically seemed to work against those trying to get the video taken down; Jorstad believes that it actually raised the viewer numbers by making the video “forbidden” for short periods of time). The comments on his video of Jesse Jackson speaking on campus were openly racist. Jorstad decided to leave the comments there, instead of flagging for removal, so he could use them as discussion points in class.

Other notes from the session:

  • He uses media examples as a tool to teach about how to effectively critique news sources. He shared a Fox news report showing “union protest violence” that actually contained footage from an incident in California. Many accept what they see on the news as truth. He uses different news sources to teach students to view media with a critical eye.
  • He had an expert evaluate his videos and his estimate was 200,000 attendees at the protest. Press reported “10s of thousands.” Again a reason to look critically at our media sources.
  • Jorstad shared his videos with students in class and asked students if their mothers would have attended the event. Most said yes – and many said their mothers were at the protests!
  • Jorstad surveyed his students (I believe political science and English classes). Over half identified themselves as Republican, with a strong bent toward the conservative Tea Party. Yet when asked which news network they thought was most biased, Fox was the runaway “winner” while CNN was considered the most impartial.
  • Students seem to realize they may rely too strongly on social media, saying something to the effect of “we know we already have poor interpersonal skills”
  • He encouraged everyone to go to and submit a story. A great learning experience for anyone!

Jorstad shared this link to resources from his session. I would add links to his iReports page on CNN, and his Learning Space blog.

All and all a great session – and I think any teacher might look to current events and social media as a way to engage students, especially in history, civics and government. I say steal this idea, teachers.   🙂