Attendees at the recent Blended Learning Conference in Denver, or those following its very active Twitter feed (#Blend14) were greeted with a new face and name for what has for 22 years been the Sloan Consortium.
Faculty, staff and administrators working in online higher education in the last decade or two have likely referenced the Sloan Consortium at some point in their work. Established by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, “Sloan-C” has developed into a robust source for facts, important annual survey findings and continuing education for the higher ed practitioner. Their popular annual conferences gather impressive crowds from the U.S. and beyond. At their recent Blended Learning conference in Denver, the Sloan Consortium introduced the world to its new name: the Online Learning Consortium, and its new, non-profit model.
Professional Development for Faculty, Staff and Administrators
“We felt the new name better identified with the work we’re focusing on in education, “ said Sandra Coswatte, director of the Consortium’s Institute for Learning. The Online Learning Consortium has completed its funding reliance on the Sloan Foundation and now operates as a community-driven self-sufficient non-profit.
Central to Coswatte’s work with the Institute for Learning are an array of opportunities for faculty, staff and administrators to perfect their practice in the realm of online education though robust learning opportunities and professional development.
“People who didn’t know us were often confused by the name Sloan Consortium, which didn’t speak clearly to our work. We’ll be unveiling a new website in keeping with the name change,” said Coswatte, “and the Institute offerings can be found under the LEARN tab.”
The offerings are impressive with online teaching certificates, webinars, a mastery series, workshops, programs, and advisory services. “While the Institute serves more than 4,000 people a year, many folks still aren’t aware of the opportunities for “just-in-time” professional development,” said Coswatte.
Online Teacher Certificate Programs
The Online Teaching and Advanced Teaching certificate programs are designed to help faculty, instructional designers, and increasingly, administrators embrace best practices in online course design, development, and delivery. Expert facilitators lead the asynchronous coursework. Additionally, all students in the Online Teaching Certificate are assigned professional mentors to guide them through the learning journey. “One of OLC’s jobs is to match students to their mentor. They get to choose their mentor from among a group of recognized professionals,” said Coswatte. “We’ve been able to match at 95 percent to their first choice,”. “Examples include Kay Shelton who authored the Quality Scorecard, and John Bourne who was the first Executive Director of Sloan-C. “Our mentors are established experts, published authors, and leaders with a desire to share what they’ve learned over the course of their careers.” The course includes approximately 9 weeks of facilitator-led instruction; three workshops selected between candidate and mentor, followed by 5-12 months to complete a course redesign project; and three electives. Students can complete the redesign process in as little as four months or take the full year, all for less than a $2,000 enrollment fee. “It’s an amazing networking and learning opportunity,” said Coswatte. Students can learn from their facilitator, mentor, and peer network week after week, bringing whatever questions are relevant to their work and world as challenges arise. “In addition to meeting other professionals with shared interests, they get to build a professional relationship with their mentor who works with them for the entire duration of the certificate program,” said Coswatte.
“People come to us with various levels of mastery and skill sets,” said Coswatte. For those brand new to online education we recommend the Essentials Workshop. The week-long course helps them get a basic understanding of online education.
The 2014 Mastery Series choices include five topics: mobile learning, blended learning, online nursing, spatial thinking and web mapping, and online science lab mastery series. Three additional series will be added for the 2015 schedule to be released at the annual conference in October.
“The online science lab has been the most popular, but the up-and-coming series gaining significant interest is the mastery series for nurse educators,” said Coswatte. “These cohorts include 30-40 people, all of whom are educators teaching online, so there are rich opportunities to share what’s working, and what’s not, while networking on a deep level,” said Coswatte. One of the Nursing Mastery Series features is a dive into social media practices in the online classroom. “That has really resonated with our teaching faculty. Many know there are opportunities to use social networks for learning and community building, and this series shows them how,” said Coswatte. “We have a phenomenal facilitator for this course – Dr. Karyn Holt, Director of Faculty Development and Online Quality within the College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University. Students retain access to an array of resources for the year following the course completion. “We see faculty coming back for additional resources throughout the year as their skills expand following their course completion,” said Coswatte.
Workshops & Webinars
Other learning opportunities are offered in increments of one week, three weeks, three days and now even full day or half-day courses. More than 50 workshops are offered in this academic year including:
Exploring Interactive Video Tools
Introduction to Copyright and Fair Use
Leadership: Financials and Economics
Introduction to the Quality Scorecard
New to Online: Converting Your Course
To view the 2014 workshop schedule visit this page. The 2015 schedule will be released at the end of October to allow people to plan their professional development needs.
For colleges and universities expanding their online presence there exists an opportunity to buy a College Pass. The OLC has numerous colleges purchasing College Pass seats for workshops allowing them to give access to their faculty and administrators to hone their skills in whatever manner best supports their strategic plan, initiatives and faculty expertise, choosing from among any workshops.
Connecting via Annual Conferences
In addition, the OLC hosts three conferences annually: the Emerging Technology in Education conference, the Blended Learning Conference, and the Online Learning conference. In keeping with their goal to engage and inform their community of practice they have begun hosting Google hangouts with keynote and plenary speakers. “It’s turned out to be a beneficial way to help conference participants learn more about the content we’re discussing in advance of the conference,” said Coswatte. Civitas Learning’s Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer Mark David Milliron, who recently provided the keynote at the Blended Learning conference in Denver participated in this Google Hangout.
“The name change has been a big rollout, with a year’s worth of meetings, focus groups and strategy sessions to help inform our future direction, “ said Coswatte. “One of the big pieces in all this goes back to the community-driven non-profit status We are committed to offer what the community wants and needs.
Sandra Coswatte is the Director of the Learning Institute at the Online Learning Consortium. She has a broad higher education background working in Online Education, Faculty Development, and Student Services. Sandra also serves as a faculty member at APUS and Faculty Specialist at Clemson University.