This week I attended QM WORKS! Great Northwest Regional Conference in Vancouver, WA. It was the first conference in our area - and had nearly 200 participants, so I believe there will be more. Sessions concerned QM - Quality Matters - is an organization that has developed a detailed rubric for online courses to ensure the best learning experience for students. I got involved a little over 2 years ago, and QM has become a major force in the way I look at online classes. Obviously I'm not the only one it has had this effect on - over and over I heard people say they started from dubious and become committed to the QM review process. I'm now a master reviewer, and really enjoy how much it continues to teach me about education, and picked up some ideas about how to help other faculty get on board as well.
One of the most interesting sessions I went to was presented by Clayn Lambert from Idaho State University, "Un-Inventing the Wheel -Using QM Standard 1 to Revise Perceptions of the Role and Function of the Course Syllabus." (How could I resist going to a session that was going to "un-invent" something?) He discussed several ideas regarding how we look at our online syllabus, such as making it available in formats in addition to being written, and one of the participants gave a hilarious on-the-spot presentation why a video can portray the intent and personality of the instructor so much more than words. (Wish I had had my video on; comedy in academia is such an unusual sighting.) Lambert talked about our assumptions that 1) students read the syllabus and 2) they understand it. Another participant noted that she discovered one of her students thought "office hours" were the time she would be working in her office and did not want to be disturbed. Ah-hah. We need to clarify ourselves with adult learners, which Lambert likened to "penguins in a desert"....needing a pathway shown to them.
My major take-away was to start breaking up the syllabus into bite-sized pieces the way we do with other information in online courses. It is unrealistic to think someone is going to read a 14 page document, but by using links, the schedule can link to the calendar page, the "start here" button can explain the course expectations, and links can be used for school policies. Lambert pointed out another advantage for doing it this way; you can track which places the student has been, as opposed to just seeing that syllabus page has been viewed.
I carried out my MOOC pledge too...tweeted the whole way through about the conference at #QMconf, and even put in a few photos. My Canvas Network Social Media MOOC #CNSoMe is empowering me!!
Great conference....nourishing and inspiring.