DIY: Create Your Own Innovation Hub

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Learn about structures and games meant to help innovators improve, transform, and disrupt conventional approaches to education. Create your own higher education Innovation Hub.


Madara Mason has been involved in higher education for more than 15 years: teaching English, working with Department of Education TRIO programs, private consulting and training, and running the largest and most successful faculty development and innovation programs in the University of Alaska system. She also has an art studio and painting career that spans more than 20 years and has work in collections across the US and in the Museum of the North in Alaska. Madara brings a sense of creativity and play to all of her endeavors, preferring to think of the professional and creative lives of educators as partners rather than competitors.
The opportunities in eLearning are endless and Heidi enjoys the challenge of making things work for both instructors and students. She is currently focusing on working with content experts in developing eLearning courses to provide good alternatives for students. Her other interests include sharing these ideas with instructors and researching eLearning tools to help fulfill learning outcomes. Having worked in the distance education arena for over 25 years, she has a wide range of experiences in supporting students and faculty as distance courses move from Independent Learning paper-based courses to instructor-led eLearning courses and various forms of hybrid courses. Heidi is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and is an official QM reviewer. She currently teaches an online course in Desktop Publishing: Indesign.

Extended Abstract

Learning goal: Participants will learn about a series of games meant to illuminate how and where bureaucracies and calcified institutional policies often prevent necessary change from occurring as well as how to break through those barriers. In addition, they will discover approaches that can disrupt traditional thinking and generate an innovation hub that serves as a change model for higher education. Participants will leave with access to online materials and examples of game pieces presented at the lab.

The leaders of the largest and most successful Instructional Design Team and Faculty Development group in the University of Alaska system, Madara Mason and Heidi Olson, will share their method of madness: Discover how they created a faculty innovation hub, challenged faculty thinking and their approaches to teaching, and provided them with the support needed to rapidly implement change within an institution resistant to change.

Comments from faculty who have engaged in our activities range from, "This game made me feel really uncomfortable because I'm not the expert! It has put me in the position of a student and got me rethinking my original idea" to "Playing this collection of games has forced me to go outside my comfort zone and really think big. I'm jazzed about the possibilities" to "I don't know what just happened, but I'm definitely rethinking the way I teach right now."

In this Innovation Lab Madara and Heidi will share with you their team's approach to facilitating rapid innovation within a higher education institution. The approach is manifold, but two primary methods are 1) leading a week-long, intensive workshop three times each year where faculty expand their pedagogical horizons in concert with building particular kinds of information fluency; and more importantly 2) facilitating the formation of and support for a small group of faculty who have been vetted by Deans and Department Chairs for a willingness to experiment, minimal fear of failure, and a dedication to improving higher education. These faculty are given tremendous amounts of Instructional Design assistance, wide latitude to learn from both failures and successes, and opportunities to share what they've learned from their projects with other faculty, both inside their own discipline and across the entire University of Alaska Fairbanks system. Theoretically (and in our experience, in reality), these faculty will create a ripple effect over time; influencing other faculty to try more innovative approaches and to fear changes to their teaching practices less. Additionally, these faculty are provided powerful allies in the form of higher administration who act as advocates for fast-tracking small, high-risk projects when administrative processes threaten to slow progress on the project. Now in its third year, the program has launched projects such as Smart Plug-Ins for Cold Climates, multiple Narrative-Based Open Courses, a prototype Mobile Augmented Reality Game for International Students, and a Hybrid Team-Taught Distance Chemistry Lab.

Behind this project lies the observation that encouraging faculty to come up with an innovative project or even to include some creativity within an individual course lesson requires getting faculty to step outside of their comfort zone. Innovation often involves failure and failure is often very hard for faculty to accept, especially for those in tenure-track positions and for those whose departments are facing financial pressures that create an atmosphere of austerity and conservation rather than exploratory practices and untested ideas.

With CITE Fellows (the name of UAF's hub of innovative faculty), the blessing of Deans, Department heads, and most importantly the Chancellor, select a group of faculty who are given the opportunity and the Instructional Design support to innovate and experiment. Prior to project development, faculty are taken through a series of activities meant to push them into stepping out, to consider even the absurd or fantastical, because as we all know, that's where innovative ideas come from. Interesting things happen when innovators lead. Of course, truly creative individuals rock the boat sometimes too, but the support from the Instructional Design Team and Faculty Development group are prepared for that!