Connecting Educators with a Loop and a Node

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

In an era of digital distraction, how can institutions leverage digital tools to facilitate meaningful peer-to-peer exchanges?  Come learn how a simple process instigates conversations that facilitate sharing of best practices, favorite resources, and what people have learned from failures and missteps on both a national and local scale.   


Tom Pantazes is an Instructional Designer with Distance Education Services at West Chester University. A licensed educator and certified faculty developer, Tom loves helping instructors integrate technology and online learning pedagogy. His research interests include virtual reality, content interactivity, simulations, and instructional video. He holds a Master of Arts in Education from the College of William and Mary and has just started work on a Doctorate in Education. If he is not building Legos with his two sons, you can catch him on Twitter @TomPantazes.
Michael Sano is the Higher Education Community Manager at EdSurge. He has worked in higher ed supporting thousands of students in reaching their academic and personal goals. Most recently as an Associate Dean of Students, Michael has also served as a director of academic support services, director of experiential education programs, and provided direct support to students with disabilities through technology initiatives. As part of institutional leadership teams he has guided strategic planning efforts to address financial crises and helped oversee an institutional merger. He has redesigned student support systems, academic programming and communications campaigns. Michael has worked at various higher ed institutions as well as with volunteer organizations in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, government programs in Panama, and language schools in Spain. Michael holds an MA in International and Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco where his research focused on identity politics and expression in the performing arts. He holds a BA in English from Boston College. Michael also writes nonfiction and fiction around issues of queer identity, disability identity, cultural exchange and the philosophy of place. Michael thinks a lot about innovation and affordability in higher education.

Extended Abstract

Now, more than ever, higher education institutions need to learn from one another’s experiments in academic innovation. There is a growing recognition within the field, and among potential students, that traditional colleges and universities need to offer new, alternative paths to learning and degree completion. Many institutions are already doing so. But what’s working? What’s not working? And what have the people driving these innovations learned from their successes and missteps? EdSurge Loop is connecting digital learning leaders, heads of academic innovation and instructional designers for meaningful one-on-one exchanges that further knowledge sharing and collaboration across institutions. These connections are making space for more collaboration, creativity and experimentation in higher ed including spin off concepts like West Chester University’s NODE.   

At the start, we will situate our conversation in the context of the session participants by asking them to share how their institutions create opportunities for faculty and staff to meet, get to know, and learn from other faculty and staff.  In the first five minutes of the presentation, this information will be collected through a digital medium and made available to all session participants.      

In the next ten minutes, we’ll share how Loop works and what our community members are learning from one another. We’ll briefly review the vision behind Loop and the mechanics of the program. We’ll then discuss insights from our community members’ conversations—we’ve assessed feedback from over 1,300 matches and 650 hours of knowledge sharing. We’ll focus on some of the biggest trends we’ve seen around academic design and delivery, new resources and tools for student success, and creating a lasting culture of institutional adaptability and experimentation. We’ll guide participants through thinking about how these finding relate to their own work and what kind of peer network would most benefit their current and future initiatives.

Then in the next ten minutes, we’ll share how LOOP inspired the development of West Chester University’s Network of Distance Educators or NODE.  We will explain what steps were taken to lay the ground work for the virtual networking program, including gaining leadership support, tool selection and testing, and pilot participant recruitment.  The focus of this portion of the presentation is on the practical elements of creating a virtual faculty networking program with the goal of providing session participants with a blueprint to go back and start their own programs if they desire.  Data from the West Chester University spring 2018 pilot with 29 participating faculty and 19 paired conversation and fall 2018 implementation will be presented.  

We will wrap up the 30-minute presentation with 5 minutes on the shared pain points and positives from both programs.   

Moving into the reflection section, session participants will have two question choices to pick from:

  1. What topics or questions would you most want to discuss with peers through a community like LOOP and why?
  2. What topics or questions would be most pertinent to the community you would want to serve with a system like NODE and why?   

After a few minutes to generate their responses, we will quickly connect those who choose question A with those who choose question B so they can share their responses to see what was similar and what was dissimilar.      

We will end with a group question and answer period in which we hope to hear from some of the A/B groups as well as general questions.