The Connected Cohort: Redefining Mentorship and Professional Development with Innovative Cross-Institutional Collaborations

Concurrent Session 8

Brief Abstract

In this session, a group of colleagues will discuss how their initial meeting at the Online Learning Consortium’s conferences allowed them to organically form a connected cohort, engaging  in non-traditional professional development opportunities such as co-authoring blogs, recording podcasts, and holding open social media gatherings.

Presenters

Angela Gunder serves as Director of Instructional Design and Curriculum Development for the Office of Digital Learning at The University of Arizona. Angela came into instructional design rather circuitously, helming large-scale site designs as webmaster for The City College of New York, the honors college at ASU, and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).  Her over fifteen year career as a designer for higher education informs her instructional design practice, where she leverages her expertise in usability, visual communication, programming, and standards-based online learning. Angela holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Fine Art from Fordham University, and a M.Ed. in Education Technology from Arizona State University.  Prior to her position at UA, she was a member of NOVA’s instructional design team, supporting over 23,000 students in 550 unique courses.   Angela is an Associate Editor for the Teacher Education Board of MERLOT, and a Quality Matters certified peer reviewer and online facilitator.  Her research interests include technology for second language acquisition, open educational resources, and emerging technology to promote digital literacy. A voracious culinary nerd, Angela spends her free time composing, cooking and photographing original recipes for her food blog.
Dr. Jessica Knott is Assistant Vice President of Community Strategy, Experience, and Management. In this role, Jessica manages outreach activities and strategies, including environmental scanning, experience design, communications and planning, based on a deep understanding of our community and member interests. Prior to the OLC, Jessica led a team that supported faculty and academic staff in creating quality, caring and exemplary digital experiences at Michigan State University.
Ben works in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning at The Ohio State University, where he is the Program Manager for College Ready Ohio, a state-funded grant initiative aiming to bridge the worlds of K12 and higher education through teacher professional development, strategic technology implementation, and online/hybrid learning. In addition, Ben coordinates OSU’s GE Online initiative, which aims to develop beautiful online sections of high-enrollment general education courses. Ben has master’s degrees in educational philosophy and psychology and in business administration, both from The Ohio State University. A former high school educator and learning specialist with OSU’s student athletes, Ben is also an Associate Director with the non-profit iBELIEVE Foundation, which promotes leadership development in Appalachian youth.

Extended Abstract

The circuitous journey of higher education professionals into their chosen field often forms a narrative that highlights themes of mentorship, non-traditional professional development, and close collaborations with educators from a variety of institutions.  Indeed, conferences often become the nexus or hub that kicks off these connections between educators, serving as both the springboard and the backbone of future research, projects and collaborative work.  Collecting and sharing these narratives from practitioners who have found their colleagues in this manner can serve as a powerful tool for educators seeking new ways to connect with others looking to establish partnerships and mentorship opportunities.

In this session, a group of colleagues will discuss how their initial meeting at the Online Learning Consortium’s conferences allowed them to organically form a connected cohort.  They will share how they’ve engaged in non-traditional professional development opportunities such as co-authoring blogs, recording podcasts, and holding open social media gatherings.  The presenters will discuss the format of their collaborations in terms of the tools that they utilize to connect and work both synchronously and asynchronously, sharing tips for mitigating the challenges of bridging distance and managing time commitments.  The will highlight the benefits that these personal learning networks have afforded them, and closes with approaches for establishing one's own network of co-collaborators.

This informal, collegial session will serve as both an engaging conversation on how professional development and mentorship continues to evolve, particularly in a time where academic budgets are lean and educators are called to do more with less.  Participants will leave with actionable approaches for creating their own connected network of scholarship, and a call to build a circle of colleagues who will further support and mentor each other within the structure and format that best supports their professional and academic goals.