“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I believe learning is a life-long endeavor. I’ve always enjoyed working with computers, computer networking and software and felt I had a strong technical background. However, in the last 3 years I have learned more than I could ever imagine. Beginning my journey as an eLearning Support Specialist has sparked a desire to learn more and seek out new technologies and tools that can be incorporated into learning in our Institution. I am very passionate about technology and how it can enrich our lives as learners and professionals. As a digital leader, my goal is to educate faculty in my institution about Blackboard, course development, and the effective integration of technology into their courses. The part I like most about leading workshops is sharing knowledge that I have found invaluable to me. Therefore, I center my workshops on skills and tools that would be relevant and significant to faculty. It’s my goal to ensure faculty obtains the skills they need in order to be successful in building their courses with appropriate technology. To ensure a successful learning experience, we host all of our workshops in our computer lab so that every attendee has access to a computer. This is especially beneficial for the workshops in which we engage in simulation activities. I plan these types of activities when I give demonstrations of presentation tools such as Prezi and free Web 2.0 tools. For other workshops I develop PowerPoint presentations, which focus on how to create and publish assessments in Blackboard including the basic steps, tips and best practices for deploying assessments.
As a digital leader, I value feedback from the faculty that that attend my workshops. The feedback I receive from the surveys helps me improve the effectiveness and relevance of my presentations. I distribute a brief survey to those that attend in order to assess if I’ve met my teaching goals. This survey includes questions in which the faculty can rate different aspects of my presentation including content relevance, materials provided and my knowledge on the subject matter. It also includes room for any other suggestions they may have. I recently converted our traditional paper survey into a Google form, which I hope to use in the future instead. I feel I improved the survey by adding a few more questions I felt were important to ask. In addition, the survey is now in electronic form which could be emailed and the responses are now stored in a spreadsheet for better analysis.
As a digital learner, I plan to continue my personal pursuit of knowledge through independent research, my Personal Learning Network (PLNs), and continued professional development through the Online Learning Consortium (OLC). In addition, I plan to attend technology conferences more frequently. My immediate goal is to actively build, participate and contribute to my PLN so that I can continue to grow through collaboration, building upon my current knowledge.
One emerging issue I discovered relating to digital leading and learning is there is a lack of digital literacy among faculty at higher education institutions. There is widespread agreement on the importance of digital media literacy and that it is a key skill in all disciplines and professions. However we are far from seeing digital media literacy as a norm due to the lack of formal training (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2014). I believe that institutions should boost funding for professional development in order to bridge the technological gap between faculty and their students, the digital natives. Within my division, we aim to promote digital literacy among our faculty and hopefully create life-long learners of digital technology and demonstrate ways it can enrich their curriculum. We try to encourage an attitude shift among instructors that may be reluctant to embrace new technologies and incorporate them in their teaching. I believe we can achieve this through offering an increased number of workshops on more varied subjects, more opportunities for professional development activities through other sources like the OLC and technology conferences and additionally providing an incentive for those that participate in these knowledge-building activities. In addition, I aspire to create a Professional Learning Network for our faculty at Lamar University, which will foster professional growth and collaboration as well as host invaluable discussions and resources specifically for higher education.
Another emerging issue related to digital learning and leading in higher education is the competition from new models of education such as the MOOC, Massive Open Online Course. Average university tuition is already steep; MOOCs present an appealing alternative, especially for graduates looking for professional development opportunities. However, there are challenges in determining how to award formal credits for these new online experiences (Johnson et al., 2014). I think my institution is heading in the right direction by offering a wide range of affordable online graduate programs. According to Brian Sattler (2015), Lamar University’s online master’s degree programs were ranked third in the 2015 Rankings of the 50 Most Affordable Online Graduate Schools for Master’s Degrees. My institution is definitely at the forefront of innovation and staying competitive in a time where technology is emerging and will soon encompass all aspects of education, whether in K-12 or higher education. In order for Lamar to remain competitive as an institution of digital leaders and learners, I believe it is important to strongly support innovative integration of technology and rich media into our programs, vigorously encourage networked collaboration among all, and continue our journey of learning and knowledge building in ways we never before thought possible.
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2014-nmc-horizon-report-he-EN.pdf
Sattler, B. (2015). LU’s affordable online graduate programs tapped 3rd nationally. Retrieved from http://www.lamar.edu/news-and-events/news/2015/03/lus-affordable-online-graduate-programs-tapped-3rd-nationally-.html