Innovating Before It Was Cool


Josh Herron, Dean of Online and Continuous Learning, Anderson University (SC), Leadership and Institutional Strategies (Track Co-Chair)

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This is the next of a series of Trends & Perspectives blog posts. The Track Chairs will reflect on each of this years’ presentation tracks, analyze and discuss some of the trends that you can expect to hear about at OLC Accelerate this year, and also get the perspectives of the Best-in-Track winners.

The word innovation often gets knocked because it is frequently used as a buzzword with not much substance behind it. While it’s rightfully knocked when used that way, this is not how online learning leaders use the term — and their track record proves it.

Online learning leaders have been innovating before it was cool to use the word on campuses. This year’s track submissions for the Leadership and Institutional Strategies Track of the OLC Accelerate Conference shows that leaders are continuing to set the bar for innovative programming and operations. One trend that we’re continuing to see in tracks like this, however, is that the focus is moving toward the center or the entirety of an institution instead of pockets of the organization.

Session topics for 2019 range from leading innovation, examining the role of the learning engineer, adaptive learning, and the latest trends and issues that institutions need to strategically consider to ensure online programs and institutions remain forward-thinking as well as sustainable.

This year’s Best-in-Track winner for the Leadership and Institutional Strategies exemplifies this particular type of innovation at the institutional level. It is also representative of a new Gamified session type for 2019. As will be evidenced in the winner’s presentation, this session type will be an engaging, unique experience. Participants will engage in gamified sessions styled after game shows like Jeopardy or Family Feud. These 45-minute sessions will include prizes for some and a good time for all.

Seattle Pacific University’s David Wicks, Julie Antilla Jung Hyun, and Munyi Shea will be presenting Best-in-Track presentation titled “Breaking Out To Develop Creative Sustainable Online Programs” in the new gamified format. The game will be that a task force charged with guiding online program planning and professional development needs your help.

Seattle Pacific University has had an online degree since 1998 and yet online learning has never been a high priority for the University. Recently, administration and students have asked for more time and place flexibility for graduate programs.

The game will be similar to the experience that the four presenters from Seattle Pacific had when they formed a committee charged with addressing important questions online programs need to consider. Issues for their committee (and for you in the session) centered on how to maintain rigorous, high-quality courses while providing greater flexibility for learners. Their dean provided them with a list of questions for session attendees to answer in small groups. Those answers will be used to unlock clues that will help us all break out of conventional ways of thinking about online programs. Teams will use their clues to escape their Breakout EDU box. Members of the first team to “break out” will receive a prize. The session will end with everyone winning as they will have time to share key takeaways and ideas.

After the task force returns to Seattle, they will analyze responses and share a summary of participant recommendations with the conference community through social media and email. What are the questions? What is the prize? You will have to come to the session to find out. We hope to see you there.

The Best-in-Track presenters stated, “We are surprised, humbled, and honored to win this award.” They also jokingly added that it adds a little extra pressure to make sure the presentation is meaningful.

Look for more innovative presentations like this one in the Leadership and Institutional Strategies track at OLC Accelerate 2019 to learn from professionals like you who are seeking to keep their programs and institution on the leading edge.

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