“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’
I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” (Carroll, L. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland).
We know that doing the same things in the same ways will always yield the same results. But just because we’ve always done something in one particular way, does that mean it’s the only way? For many, the idea of doing things differently is not entertained. It’s not imagined.
But… What if…
What if we try doing it differently?
Think about higher education. Costs have risen tremendously over the years, so much so that higher education is prohibitive for many. (Christensen, et al. 2011.) Sure, students can get financial assistance if they qualify, but this is often exclusive of a large portion of the population. Of course, they can take out loans, but this leaves them reeling in debt when they leave school (even if they do not complete). In addition to rising costs of tuition and fees at universities and colleges, the cost of textbooks has increased in an obscene manner. Many educators are implementing courseware, course materials delivered through an online platform, that provide access to those materials for only a limited time; these courseware platforms typically cost between $150 and $300 at the community college level. Though the courseware tools often include simulation activities, and other digital experiences, are they really worth the cost? Imagine how difficult it is for a student who is struggling financially already to commit to a course that costs $200, and requires courseware that costs more than $300. In my opinion, most courseware that I have worked with facilitate the job of the educator somewhat by automating much of the grading and assessment of learner progress, but they often have a steep learning curve for the educator and for the learner. And are they really worth the cost?
Disruptive innovation is something that transforms the way things are done. Disruptive innovations are not necessarily better than the traditional method, but they tend to be easier to use, and are often less costly than traditional methods. At some point, I am sure that implementing courseware was considered disruptive. Courseware often facilitates the process of readying a course for online delivery, without the cost of employing instructional designers and content matter experts, and without the educators being required to fully understand how to structure learning in a digital environment. But even so, courses at the college and university level must be taught by qualified individuals. In Texas, at the community college level, courses that transfer are required to be taught by someone with at minimum a Master’s Degree in the subject being taught, or a Master’s Degree in some other area, and a minimum of 18 qualifying graduate hours in the discipline to be taught. For courses that do not transfer, the qualifications are different, often requiring industry experience. So even though the college/university employs content matter experts in all needed disciplines, it was more cost-effective for many colleges and universities to implement courseware solutions as they tried to meet the demand for increased online learning opportunities. (Hilton, et al. 2014.) But for many of the students, this change pushed the attainment of higher education credentials further out of reach because of the increased cost to students in courseware fees. And (from personal experience) I have found that many instructors do not have sound enough technological understanding to effectively implement the courseware to its fullest potential, rendering it less cost effective for the learners.
In a locally conducted survey, students who did not complete their academic pursuits at Odessa College expressed several factors that served as obstacles to their potential success. Financial need was the highest, with students many vocalising that the cost of textbooks and course materials, and particularly those courses requiring purchased access to courseware was a major contributing factor in their decision to leave. Because of surveys such as this, many colleges are disrupting the way things are done again, and implementing a system of open education resources (OER), or materials that are developed by educators for their courses, and shared with other educators in a the spirit of Creative Commons “Share Alike.” (Lumen Learning, N.D.) At Odessa College, the implementation of OER has resulted in the students saving more than $1,000,000 in course materials costs since implementation in 2016/2017. This, in my opinion, is an excellent example of disruptive innovation, with educators working together to truly benefit the learners,
This example, implementing OER, has demonstrated to me that the community of educators is ready for change that will benefit our learners. They are accustomed to working collaboratively and across departmental/disciplinary lines toward an end goal. From this perspective, I see a team of educators that is hungry for change that will continue to help our learners progress toward their academic goals. I have seen more dialogue open between faculty across campus, which seems to be resulting in more of our educators collaborating inter-departmentally to develop project-based learning experiences that can be used to gauge learner progress toward outcomes, rather than relying on multiple choice tests. And I am seeing more of our faculty sharing their knowledge and expertise with each other.
My plan for disruption involves providing technology training and professional development activities to all our faculty, both full- and part-time, to increase their ability to develop and implement innovative digital learning strategies for their students. Because the majority of our faculty are remote part-time faculty, anything developed will be created digitally for delivery through Blackboard Learn, our learning management system (LMS), even if it is also delivered in a face-to-face setting or in a hybrid/blended modality. I have started developing professional development activities that are sustained over a period of weeks and that require the faculty participants to apply their learning in their courses. I have created more learning activities that are delivered through our learning management system, or LMS, (Blackboard Learn), giving the educators regular opportunity to experience the LMS as their learners do. So this is what I think of when I really think of what I will do to disrupt our processes.
My plan is to create more learning opportunities that are delivered in multiple modalities for our educators. Professional development will be sustained throughout the academic year, not sequestered to one day or one week. And I am creating an informational blog on educational technology, with a repository of resources (downloadable instructional documents and videos). With additional training made available through multiple modalities, and with on-demand resources and tools, the faculty will be able to self-support with many technology issues they may experience after the first rounds of professional development. I think this will help develop our faculty team into a team of technologically savvy educators who are eager to implement strategies that will improve the success of their learners.
Technology has changed the way we work… the way we live… and the way we play. But more importantly, technology has changed the way we learn. The learner of today expects education to happen in a fast-paced environment… an environment they can hold in one hand. As educators, we hold the responsibility of keeping up with the expectations of our learners. What can you do as an educator to keep up?
Imagine. Innovate. Implement. Repeat.
Carroll, L. (1976 edition). Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. Dover Publications: New York, NY.
Christensen, C., Horn, M., Caldera, L. and Soares, L. (2011). Disrupting college: How innovation can deliver quality and affordability to post-secondary education. Center for American Progress: Innosight Institute.
Hilton III, J., Robinson, J., Wiley, D, and Ackerman, J. (2014). Cost-savings achieved in two semesters through the adoption of open educational resources.
Lumen Learning. Why we’re effective. Retrieved from https://lumenlearning.com/, 29-August-2018.
Pixabay.com. Alice in Wonderland. Licensed CC0, Creative Commons. Retrieved from pixabay.com on 28-August-2018.
Texas Higher Education Data. Retrieved from http://www.txhighereddata.org, 29-August-2018.