2021 in Community Experience: A Roadmap


Jessica Knott, AVP of Community Strategy, Experience and Management

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Through feedback from the experiences we’ve had together in 2020, we at OLC have a pretty clear roadmap for the experiences our members and community would like to have in 2021.

This post focuses on three things we’ll be focusing on in regard to community experience. As a nod to the end of calendar year 2020, we’ll refer to them as new year’s resolutions, and they’re ones we intend to keep.

Figure out how to connect you more effectively to services

What we’ll do: We’ll ask you to update the data we have in our systems, specifically in regard to your job role. This isn’t so we can sell you things, it’s so we can connect you to programming and membership benefits you may not know about. We don’t use algorithms to analyze our data, we use humans.

Our focus on member experience has been more formalized in 2020, and we care as much or more about the way you feel at OLC events and in digital OLC experiences as we do about other, more standard attendance and digital use metrics.

As always, we invite you to opt out of mailings, sharing, et cetera. We see and read all of the critical conversations around privacy and equity in our field and want to assure you we have learned a lot from you over the years in this regard, we value your privacy, and respect your data.

How we know you want it: You asked. Loudly.

We’ve received inquiries at and after every event and workshop this year about how we can make it easier for you to find the things that are of interest to you in your role as president/provost/instructional designer/faculty/director of online/academic technologist.

We also see your concern on social media and elsewhere about data, algorithms, and making sure that equity is at the center of data analysis.

We’ve seen huge spikes in our Institute for Professional Development enrollments, as well as requests for partnering to help you deliver faculty development at your own institution. You’re also asking for more help with quality scorecards, and partnering to use them to measure your online courses as well as your online programs and institutional online plans.

With these increases have come increased requests for helping you find your way, and suggestions for how we might make things a bit easier for you. By updating our data in safe and non-invasive ways such as asking for job roles, we can save you time by letting you not only the whole ecosystem but, if you choose, also exactly what membership benefits you have, which might benefit you best should you choose to use them, how to access those benefits, and the problems membership services and benefits can help solve with you.

Create and share more research, driven by articulated member needs

What we’ll do: Share more of the critical research being done within the OLC ecosystem.

For example, did you know that the OLC Board Member Tanya Joosten’s Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements released an updated, interactive research toolkit this year? Click here to learn more about it.

We’ve also worked with K-12 educators globally – click here to read a report about the State of Online Learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And, most recently, we’ve released a new report from Seaman, Allen, and Ralph: Teaching Online: STEM Education in the Time of COVID.

In 2021, we will release the third and fourth parts of the Pulse survey in partnership with Cengage, WCET, UPCEA, and CDLRA, and more playbooks are in the works like the popular Delivering High Quality Instruction Online faculty playbook.

How we know you want it: Web metrics, session attendance patterns and feedback, and requests.

In every event, in every survey, in every conversation, we see and hear the question “do you know of any data to back this” or “is there a report I could look at” or “do you know of a citation for X.”

We rarely use the word “every” but in this case it is very clear. You want to back your designs and opportunities with research data, and you want that research to be performed by experienced, knowledgeable researchers who are experts in online, blended, and technology-enhanced learning. We hear you, and we’re committed to increasing the visibility of the research we already have as well as creating more knowledge with you and for you.

Build more opportunities for sustained engagement over time

What we’ll do: While events are a great way to connect, they are not the only way. And, they can be taxing for some, who still seek ways to engage meaningfully around important topics in online education teaching, administration, design, support, and practice.

The OLC and its board is committed to finding new and innovative ways to sustain engagement over time, and create meaningful connections around not only events but also content, ideas, and celebration.

We’ve had some success in this space already with OLC Ideate and the summits we’ve hosted at larger events like OLC Innovate and Accelerate. It’s important to us that you feel connected to help and to each other always, not just when you’re in attendance at paid events.

How we know you want it: Our attendee feedback from our virtual events has clearly articulated the value you find in having the ability to participate in events when you have time, yet still having the opportunity to be and feel included in the activities.

Our community-building commitment to you is that we will continue designing experiences that you can sit with, reflect on, and participate in in a number of ways, not just face-to-face. Our conference experiences will continue to offer time for reflection and we’ll be working with purpose to build meaningful collaborative output and co-working communities around the experiences we have together.

Instead of working in quick, disconnected sprints, we’ll work in quick connected sprints interspersed with longer reflections and work time.

In conclusion, your feedback has given us a pretty clear experience roadmap for 2021. And we’ll be measuring what works and what doesn’t. We’re excited about it, and hope you are too – we’ll guide each other down this path, and be strategic in our rollouts.

Together, we’ll continue to build and refine a community experience that is rewarding, useful, and productive. Look for conversation and input opportunities to come throughout 2021. In the meantime, feel free to contact me here if there’s something on your mind that you’re super excited about or would like to see happen.


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