Bracing for the Storm: Building an Online Learning Rapid Response Team

Concurrent Session 2 & 3 (combined)
Streamed Session HBCU Leadership

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Brief Abstract

How prepared was your institution when COVID-19 struck? Even the most advanced online school still struggled with organizing and responding rapidly to going online. This workshop will helo institutions to create a plan to bring together a group of remarkable people to quickly address a crisis.


John Vivolo is the Director of Online Education at the Katz School of Science and Health, Yeshiva University. As director of online education at the Katz School, John Vivolo oversees the school's online education efforts, from day-to-day operations to strategic planning for future programming. For over 15 years, John has dedicated his career to the growth and improvement of online learning. Prior to joining YU, he was the director of an award-winning and top-ranked online learning unit at New York University. He recently published a book on online learning leadership entitled: Managing Online Learning: The Life-Cycle of Successful Programs. He is also an Online Learning Consortium trained instructor and completed the Institute for Engaged/Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL) Certificate at Pennsylvania State University. John holds an MA in English from the City University of New York and is pursuing his doctorate in education leadership at Northeastern University.

Extended Abstract

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, many institutions from around the world were forced to make a choice: 1. Wait out the crisis (maybe it will pass) or 2. Go online immediately. It was not an easy decision for any educational institution. Many things had to be considered: how many instructors have taught online previously? How many have even used the LMS? Does the institution have access to all the educational tools needed? What are the best tools to use? What about international students? Can and should staff work from home? What if student, staff or faculty get sick? What should we talk about...and who should be involved?

The purpose of this workshop is for attendees to start the process of how best to bring together a group of remarkable people to address urgent issues facing the field of online learning (yes, I did write that to sound like a line from the Avengers). After completing this workshop, the participants in this workshop will:

  • List the key challenges facing their school rapidly going online, including bureaucratic obstacles.
  • Identify a small group of individuals who can address all the needs of faculty, staff and students in the wave of a sudden disruption of normal business operations.
  • Prepare a plan that can empower this group to make quick decisions, including funding needs.
  • Design a "living document" that will act as a charter that will adapt and update periodically to align with real-world scenarios

How will this workshop function? And who will benefit?

This workshop will open with a discussion of what each institution did when confronting and preparing for COVID-19. They will also walk away with a plan to build an online learning rapid response team in their institution. Since COVID-19 impacted whole institutions, this topic is really open to all roles and all types of institutions. This is about leadership, but not just leadership from the top, but rather from all parts of an institutions. During the crisis, everyone was called upon to support online learning efforts.

During the sessions, it's recommended that participants bring a laptop or tablet. Attendees should be prepared to put together a plan and write the first piece of documentation for the “decision makers” in their institution. Finally, this workshop will involve group work, individual reflection, real-time polling and other engagement techniques. Everyone participant will be required to add something to the workshop (and maybe they will win some fun prizes as well).

Note: I also submitted a proposal for a lightning talk on a similar topic. I can see these two things as connected (the lightning talk going first and then the workshop).