Right before Accelerate 2019, I sent an email to one of my favorite OLC leaders and asked about the possibility of serving on the OLC Institute faculty. Honestly, I did it from the place of “it never hurts to ask,” having taken a few leaps like this over the last three years stemming from my transformative experience in the Institute for Emerging Leaders in Online Learning (IELOL) program. Each of the leaps I have taken since that experience have paid off, some worked out and some did not, but all of these leaps kept me in a place of stretching, and stretching is growth, after all.
So I sent the email and I waited, and I didn’t wait very long. I received a lovely email back asking me to attend the Institute Faculty Meet n’ Greet at Accelerate to learn more. What a great crowd with some new and also some familiar faces, all focused on raising the bar for online learning from every possible angle and perspective. A room filled with diversity, deep experience, passion, and a kindness that was palpable. Only a month or so later, I was thrilled to join the Institute Faculty and accepted the opportunity to facilitate the Online Leadership Mastery Series that started in March. Yes, I said “March”…March of 2020.
Professional Development during the Pandemic of 2020 may not have been an ideal set of circumstances, but what a fantastic experience both for me (and it seems) for the participants in the series too. We had a broad array of experiences, types of institutions, and also had participants from the United States, Australia, and India. We had participants looking to start online universities, some starting their journey with an online unit already existing in an institution, and still others looking to learn from others and potentially refine their online units.
We studied both synchronously and asynchronously, we shared what we know about online units, what we don’t know, and also what was/is emerging from the Post-Pandemic world as we know it in higher education. Each of us left with a new personal learning network, a plan for implementation or improvement of online (new or existing), and a firm sense of validation that we are not the only ones talking into an echo chamber about online and its importance. Moreover, we left knowing that we all played a small part in the future success of online, here in the United States, and abroad. And, it is that — the piece around us all rising together — that makes an OLC Institute experience special and impactful. In the OLC Institute, no matter if it is a short webinar or a longer one such as a Mastery Series, an Online Teaching Certificate, or IELOL, we all lay down the spirit of competition and shift our mindset into collective improvement, learning, and forward movement. We share excessively and, perhaps obsessively, so we can all WIN at online and make the communities and world we live in a better place. We shed the idea that the pie is only so big and think about how we can open all the doors with convenient, intelligent, and meaningful online learning for all, and then we get back to work because there is plenty to do.
The messages in all of this? The first being, I hope you picked up upon the fact that I said “we” throughout that last passage. Sure, I was the facilitator, but much like anything that I teach, co-construction of knowledge is where I live and while I had some knowledge to bring to the table from my years of online leadership, I had as much to learn from the participants. The second message I hope you take from this blog is to take the time to develop yourself. Even in the midst of a Pandemic, set aside the hour (or so) for yourself to learn, improve, and contribute to the cause we are all working so hard for. In the end, you will leave with something — a plan, a new skill set, and friends that are only a web conference, text, email, or phone call away!
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey is Associate Professor of Business and Management and Associate Dean of the College of Professional Studies and Advancement at National Louis University. She also holds university-wide responsibility for online academics. She is a 2018 IELOL alumni and is co-founder of the Collegiate Online Research Leaders Collaborative (CORAL). Her research interests span online pedagogy and the effective leadership of the evolving organizational structures of online education in higher education. firstname.lastname@example.org or @DRBouchey