As the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Fellows Class of 2019 are announced, it is a time when we can reflect back and look forward within the field of online learning. I was humbled to receive my designation as a Fellow in 2013 after working in the field for almost 15 years. Within these years I developed my saavy in online learning as a graduate student, a professional, and a leader. As I reflect back on my own Fellows past, I hope it provides insight for a future class of Fellows. One of the areas in which Fellows must illustrate their accomplishment is in the demonstration of significant experience in online learning or a related field. Many of the Fellows have spent years and even decades in roles that advance online learning within their organization. Everyone’s path is a little different, and having a solid foundation of online learning built through experience in the field is unmistakingly valuable to the individual, their institution, and the field as a whole. As online learning can be argued a new and emerging field, continued work is critical for forward movement and growth.
Beyond gaining and being able to exhibit experience in the field, there are two additional areas that are given attention in the designation of Fellow; a record of distinguished service to OLC or the field and extraordinary contributions or leadership in the field of online learning. For me, these two were complementary.
My service to OLC opened many doors for me to excel and be able to contribute in exceptional ways beyond my institution. OLC offered opportunities to become involved in conferences and later in their professional development programming. Through conferences I was able to present and share learning effective practices that I had identified to help others and potentially scale beyond my institution. Also, I was given the opportunity to help as reviewer and session chair to learn more about what others were doing in the field to bring back to my own institution. I became more involved in conference planning serving on the conference planning team, as track, program, and conference chair. Moreover, the appreciation by the OLC community of my work and that of my colleagues at my institution led to invitations to participate in the professional development program (i.e., Institute) providing a larger audience to whom we could support and share our practices. In part, this was possible because of opportunity, networks, and hard work. I seldom turned down an opportunity to be involved in the organization.
Service to OLC was rewarding in the contribution that I was able to make to the blended and online learning community and in the opportunities that resulted from these efforts. I was able to gain a long lasting network of colleagues that led to enhanced knowledge of the field of online learning and other opportunities to further present at conferences, to publish invited chapters, and to collaborate on projects, including grant-funded projects. I was exposed to a large national community that led to invitations nationally and across the globe for keynotes, plenary addresses, consultation, professional development, and workshops. My reflection is an example of one person’s appreciative journey to become an OLC Fellow in hopes that it ignites some wonder and momentum for another’s journey. I’m repeatedly in awe of the group of colleagues in which I have found myself, and I look forward to welcoming the new class of Fellows and hearing about their experiences to come.
Tanya Joosten, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist, the Director of Digital Learning Research and Development, co-PI and co-Director of the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA), and advisor to the Provost on innovation projects at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She is nationally recognized for her work and guides strategic digital learning efforts on her campus and nationally. Dr. Joosten is a member of the Board of Directors for the Online Learning Consortium.