The Value of Becoming an LTAC Speaker

January 12, 2017

LTAC Speaker Spotlight: Southern Arkansas University

The value of becoming a Conference speaker and how sharing your story can lead to more opportunity.

In 2015 and 2016, Dr. Denise Moseley, Assistant Professor of Education and Director of Institutional Effectiveness at Southern Arkansas University, submitted an abstract for the LiveText Assessment Conference. The title of her proposal was What a Journey: The Road to Systematically Assessing Academic Programs. Her proposal was accepted. Her session at the conference focused on how her institution worked toward building a campus-wide system to assess student learning outcomes within academic programs. During her presentation, she shared the following challenges and how they addressed them: 1) Some programs may not consider general education to be part of the curriculum past the sophomore year. 2) Some programs may not have aligned their program goals with the university student learning outcomes. 3) All programs may not have a systematic timeline for collecting and studying assessment data. Faced with these challenges, the University tackled a comprehensive review and revision of the assessment process.

By popular demand, Dr. Moseley shared a follow up of her institution’s story and progress in a LiveText-hosted assessment webinar the following year. With over 200 attendees, this webinar gave the institution even wider exposure – not to mention the tremendous value of hearing and using the feedback of those to whom she presented.

This could be your story too! Learn more about submitting a 2017 conference proposal:

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Call for Proposals: LiveText’s 16th Annual Assessment Conference

January 3, 2017

downloadCall for Proposals: LiveText’s 16th Annual Assessment Conference

Deadline to submit: March 3, 2017

Each year, our Annual Conference provides a broad national framework and setting for approximately 300 higher education attendees — including presidents, provosts, accreditation and assessment directors, faculty, and policy leaders — to gain a deeper understanding of current research, trends, and innovative approaches in assessment.

High-quality assessment is essential to improving student learning. Through the use of both direct and indirect sources of evidence, assessments guide collective actions for improvements in teaching, academic supports, curricula, and student affairs programming. We believe an effective culture of assessment is built on a cooperative approach that focuses on student-centered learning. Within a culture of trust and shared responsibility, administrators and faculty — with participation from students, alumni and other stakeholders — develop and implement ongoing and systematic assessment strategies to understand what, how much, and how students learn in order to continuously improve learning outcomes. Our Conference focuses on the best, most successful ways, as well as lessons learned throughout the process of building such a culture.

Contribute to a deeper understanding of current research, trends, and innovative approaches in assessment at the LiveText 16th Annual Assessment & Collaboration Conference, July 10-12, 2017. To get started, review the guidelines and submission form today. The deadline to submit your proposal is March 3, 2017.

Proposal topics should fall into one of the following tracks/topics:

  • e-Portfolio Reflections: Developing Academic Identity & Self Image: How do you use reflection to encourage the development of academic and self-identity in your students? How have you implemented e-Portfolios in ways that have positively affected students and tracked their learning journeys, as well as encouraged the cultivation of learning communities? How are e-Portfolios helping students and institutions clarify, advance, and demonstrate outcomes?
  • Planning for Assessment: Defining learning outcomes specific to a discipline, preparing and evaluating the quality of those assessment plans, and using results to guide improvements
  • Best-practice examples of instructional/assessment practice to provide usable feedback, as well as measure core competencies and learning objectives
  • Strategies for using the results of program-based assessment of outcomes: How are you collecting data on field experiences and outcomes-based learning? How are you using data to improve assessment plans and promote institutional advances in learning? What positive changes have you experienced to promote institutional advances toward continuous improvement?
  • Innovative Practices for Student Learning and Student Success: How are campuses developing and implementing guided pathways to support student success from the first to the final year and for transfer students? What proof do we have that these programs are working? What practices are helping us understand student learning in ways that improve the educational experience of students? How do integrative learning experiences empower students? How does transparency in instruction lead to greater student learning?
  • Technology, Digital Learning, and Student Success: How are digital learning practices transforming learning and contributing to improved student outcomes? How is technology promoting access to higher education? What is working and how do we know? How are digital learning opportunities being integrated across the majors?

More info on Proposals

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What’s the problem with our college graduates?

December 12, 2016

soft-skills-training-make-elearning-work-enhancing-soft-skillsAccording to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over 1.8M students earned bachelor’s degrees in 2014. This kind of stat gets me thinking…with over one million new entrants into the job market, that’s some pretty stiff competition. Of course, some may apply and go directly to graduate school and some may forge alternate paths, but largely most will want and need to begin careers. So I started thinking about what some have called the unemployability of recent graduates.

Aside from the competition and downturn in the job market over the last several years (not to minimize these issues, but simply meaning they fall outside the scope of this post), why has it been so hard for graduates to find positions that match their skill sets and interests? Is it because they can’t do math, don’t know science, or are afraid of technology – probably not. Ask them though to show up somewhere at a certain time, prepare a presentation on a topic that might require some research, or organize and articulate a set of solutions to a potential problem, and I have found that many (of course, not all, I don’t mean to generalize too broadly) lack the ‘soft’ skills – the term used to describe the kinds of skills needed for navigating a workplace effectively.

Maybe then we should stop calling them soft and consider them equal to if not part of the ‘hard’ or ‘true’ skills. They are some of the very things that will set candidates apart from one another or that can make a student a superstar in his/her first position. These skills are hard to teach and take time to develop, but that doesn’t mean they are not important. In fact, that probably means it is more important than ever to focus more diligently on effectively developing our students’ ‘soft’ skills  – as opposed to focusing only on preparing them to be content experts in certain subjects or fields.

The impetus is clear. Even employers’ calls for graduates’ organizational and interpersonal proficiency are becoming louder. A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College found that more than 60% of employers said that applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. In another survey, a wide margin of managers also said today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems, or write well and cited such soft skills as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration as the areas with the biggest gap.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers confirms such findings and found in its Job Outlook survey that the top five personal qualities/skills employers seek include:

  • Ability to work in a team
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Ability to make decisions and problem solve
  • Ability to obtain and process information
  • Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work

A lack of technical knowledge does not seem to be a main pain point. So what’s the result? Nearly 1 in 5 employers worldwide can’t fill positions because they can’t find people with the ‘soft’ skills.

So when someone talks about the unemployability of our graduates, I want to turn the focus inward and look to the opportunity we have as members of the higher education community. Let’s start helping our students seize the opportunities that are clearly out there for them. Doing so may require that we spend less time on content and more time on core competency development. To do so, we must systematize core competency and high impact assessment practices – that is, the systematic assessment of analytical, critical and creative thinking, written and oral communication, quantitative and information literacy, teamwork, and problem solving skills (just to name a few) through more active learning experiences in internships, service or community-based learning, writing or first year seminars, collaborative group projects, e-Portfolios, or capstone projects.

This work is hard. This work takes time. Yet, ultimately, we will be better equipping our students for the road that lies ahead. And, in my opinion, that is the kind of work worth doing.

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#ChoosetoLearn with our 2017 Best Practices in Assessment Webinar Series

November 29, 2016

Webinar-ScheduleIntroducing our 2017 Assessment Webinar Series

LiveText is happy to release its 2017 Best Practices Assessment Webinar Series schedule for the first quarter of next year. Presented by experts and leaders in higher education assessment and student learning, our series focuses on important topics in assessment, student success, and continuous improvement.  We invite you to plan your professional development calendar with us by registering for the webinars that best suit your interests. #ChoosetoLearn

Introduction to Rubric Norming

Presented by: University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

January 24 from 12:00pm to 1:00pm CT

Embedding analytic rubrics in our courses can be a great way to measure progress toward intended learning outcomes, and to furnish direct evidence of learning. But how do we know that our raters have a shared understanding of the rubric criteria? And how can we be sure that our raters will apply the criteria consistently in scoring work? During this webinar, participants will be introduced to techniques for rubric norming that they can apply at their own institutions. A step-by-step process for calibrating rubrics and approaching inter-rater reliability will be shared. Strategies and tips will be provided to facilitate workshops effectively, keep things fun, and build interdepartmental partnerships.

Register Now

Making Meaning from Chaos: Moving Toward Intentional Learning through Curricular Alignment

Presented by: National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

February 7 from 12:00pm to 1:00pm CT

This webinar explores the use of curriculum mapping as a means to increase coherence and intentionality for learners. Pulling from lessons learned in the field and the work of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), participants will be presented with various approaches to help make sense of the different pieces that come together to enhance student learning across learning experiences. Together we will explore the relationship between general education and the major, the curriculum and the co-curriculum, and the field of employment and our course learning outcomes. Institutional examples will be shared on various ways to consider mapping our learning to enhance alignment.

Register Now

Faculty Involvement – Still the Key to Successful Assessment of Student Learning

Presented by: Dr. Barbara Wright, Independent Consultant and former V.P. of WASC

March 14 from 12:00pm to 1:00pm CT

This webinar focuses on the importance of faculty involvement if assessment efforts are going to have any traction and lead to real improvement in student learning. Yet a couple of decades into the assessment movement, winning faculty commitment remains a challenge at many institutions. Fortunately, assessment practice is evolving in ways that speak to faculty values and respect faculty expertise. In this webinar, we’ll consider what those changes are, how they connect with instructors’ priorities and passions, and how to design assessment to make optimal use of instructors’ time, energy, and talents.

Register Now

Key Dimensions of Assessment in Higher Education

Presented by: Dr. Lance Tomei, Independent Consultant

April 11 from 12:00pm to 1:00pm CT

This webinar will discuss the various aspects of assessing student learning in higher education including assessment of classroom, program, and institutional-level learning outcomes as well as assessment in support of continuous quality improvement. Similarities and differences among these different categories of assessment will be presented along with implications for faculty, for programs, and for the institution.

Register Now

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T’is the Season for Miscommunication

November 28, 2016

Nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood. — Freeman Teague, Jr.

familyThe holidays are here! That means family and friend gatherings will begin to fill your calendars. And if your family is anything like my loud, large, no-topic-off-limits kind of family, then this also means that there will be a lot of talking, opinion sharing, commenting, and of course, misunderstanding. With this in mind, I shall begin my personal prep for the season with a review of some basic communications training.

Communication is the exchange and flow of information and ideas from one person to another; it involves a sender transmitting an idea, information, or feeling to a receiver (U.S. Army, 1983). Effective communication occurs only if the receiver understands the exact information or idea that the sender intended to transmit. Many of the problems that occur in an organization are the direct result of: 1) people failing to communicate and 2) processes that lead to confusion and can cause good plans to fail.

Studying the communication process is important because you coach, coordinate, counsel, evaluate, and supervise throughout this process. It is the chain of understanding that integrates the members of an organization from top to bottom, bottom to top, and side-to-side.

The Communication Process

Communicating with others involves three primary steps:

Thought: First, information exists in the mind of the sender, such as a concept, idea, information, or feelings.

Encoding: Next, a message is sent to a receiver in words or other symbols.

Decoding: Lastly, the receiver translates the words or symbols into a concept or information that he or she can understand.

During the transmitting of the message, two elements will be received: content and context. Content is the actual words or symbols of the message that is known as language — the spoken and written words combined into phrases that make grammatical and semantic sense.

We all use and interpret the meanings of words differently, so even simple messages can be misunderstood. And many words have different meanings to confuse the issue even more.

Context is the way the message is delivered and is known as paralanguage — it is the nonverbal elements in speech such as the tone of voice, the look in the sender’s eyes, body language, hand gestures, and state of emotions (anger, fear, uncertainty, confidence, etc.) that can be detected. Although paralanguage or context often cause messages to be misunderstood as we believe what we see more than what we hear; they are powerful communicators that help us to understand each other. Indeed, we often trust the accuracy of nonverbal behaviors more than verbal behaviors.

Some leaders think they have communicated once they told someone to do something, “I don’t know why it did not get done. I told Jim to do it.” More than likely, Jim misunderstood the message. A message has NOT been communicated unless it is understood by the receiver (decoded). How do you know it has been properly received? By two-way communication or feedback. This feedback tells the sender that the receiver understood the message, its level of importance, and what must be done with it. Communication is an exchange, not a give, as all parties must participate to complete the information exchange. 

Barriers to Communication

Anything that prevents understanding of the message is a barrier to communication. Many physical and psychological barriers exist:

Culture, background, and bias — We allow our experiences to change the meaning of the message. Our culture, background, and bias can be good as they allow us to use our past experiences to understand something new. It is when they change the meaning of the message that they interfere with the communication process.

Noise — Equipment or environmental noise impedes clear communication. The sender and the receiver must both be able to concentrate on the messages being sent to each other.

Ourselves — Focusing on ourselves, rather than the other person can lead to confusion and conflict. Some of the factors that cause this are defensiveness (we feel someone is attacking us), superiority (we feel we know more that the other), and ego (we feel we are the center of the activity).

Perception — If we feel the person is talking too fast, not fluently, does not articulate clearly, etc., we may dismiss the person. Also, our preconceived attitudes affect our ability to listen. We may listen uncritically to persons of high status and dismiss those of low status.

Message — Distractions happen when we focus on the facts, rather than the idea being communicated. Our educational institutions reinforce this with tests and questions. Semantic distractions occur when a word is used differently than you prefer. For example, the word chairman instead of chairperson, may cause you to focus on the word rather than the message.

Environmental — Bright lights, an attractive person, unusual sights, or any other stimulus provides a potential distraction.

Smothering — We take it for granted that the impulse to send useful information is automatic. Not true! Too often we believe that certain information has no value to others, or they are already aware of the facts.

Stress — People do not see things the same way when under stress. What we see and believe at a given moment is influenced by our psychological frames of references, such as our beliefs, values, knowledge, experiences, or goals.

These barriers can be thought of as filters, that is, the message leaves the sender, goes through the above filters, and is then heard by the receiver. These filters may muffle the message. So how do we overcome the filters? … Active listening and feedback.

Active Listening

Hearing and listening are not the same thing. Hearing is the act of perceiving sound. It is involuntary and simply refers to the reception of aural stimuli. Listening is a selective activity that involves the reception and the interpretation of aural stimuli. It involves decoding the sound into meaning.

Listening is divided into two main categories: passive and active. Passive listening is little more that hearing. It occurs when the receiver of the message has little motivation to listen carefully, such as we often do when listening to music, television, or when being polite.

People speak at 100 to 175 words per minute (WPM), but they can listen intelligently at 600 to 800 WPM. Since only a part of our mind is paying attention, it is easy to go into mind drift—thinking about other things while listening to someone.

The cure for this is active listening—which involves listening with a purpose. It may be to gain information, obtain directions, understand others, solve problems, share interest, see how another person feels, or show support. It requires that the listener attends to the words and the feelings of the sender for understanding. It requires the receiver to hear the various messages, understand the meaning, and then verify the meaning by offering feedback. It takes the same amount or more energy than speaking. The following are some of the traits of active listeners:

  • Spends more time listening than talking.
  • Does not finish the sentences of others.
  • Does not answer questions with questions.
  • They are aware of biases. We all have them. We need to control them.
  • Never daydreams or become preoccupied with their own thoughts when others talk.
  • Lets the other speakers speak and does not dominate the conversation.
  • Plans responses after others have finished speaking, NOT while they are speaking.
  • Provides feedback, but does not interrupt incessantly.
  • Analyzes the conversation by looking at all the relevant factors and asking open-ended questions. Walks others through by summarizing.
  • Keeps the conversation on tract by focusing on what others say, NOT on what interests them.
  • Take brief notes as needed to help them concentrate on what is being said.


When you know something, say what you know. When you don’t know something, say that you don’t know. That is knowledge. — Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius)

The purpose of feedback is to alter messages so the intention of the original communicator is understood by the second communicator. It includes verbal and nonverbal responses to another person’s message.

Providing feedback may be accomplished by paraphrasing the words of the sender. Restate the sender’s feelings or ideas in your own words, rather than repeating their words. Your words should be saying, “This is what I understand your feelings and thoughts to be; am I correct?”

It not only includes verbal responses, but also nonverbal ones. Nodding your head or squeezing their hand to show agreement, dipping your eyebrows to show you don’t quite understand the meaning of their last phrase, or sucking air in deeply and blowing it hard shows that you are also exasperated with the situation.

Carl Rogers (1951) listed five main categories of feedback. They are listed in the order in which they occur most frequently in daily conversations. Notice that we make judgments more often than we try to understand:

Evaluative: Making a judgment about the worth, goodness, or appropriateness of the other person’s statement.

Interpretive: Paraphrasing — attempting to explain what the other person’s statement means.

Supportive: Attempting to assist or bolster the other communicator.

Probing: Attempting to gain additional information, continue the discussion, or clarify a point.

Understanding: Attempting to discover completely what the other communicator means by her statements.

Imagine how much better daily communications would be if listeners tried to understand first, before they tried to evaluate what someone is saying.

Nonverbal Behaviors of Communication

To deliver the full impact of a message, use nonverbal behaviors to raise the channel of interpersonal communication:

Eye contact: This helps to regulate the flow of communication. It signals interest in others and increases the speaker’s credibility. People who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth, and credibility.

Facial Expressions: Smiling is a powerful cue that transmits happiness, friendliness, warmth, and liking. So, if you smile frequently you will be perceived as more likable, friendly, warm and approachable. Smiling is often contagious and people will react favorably. They will be more comfortable around you and will want to listen more.

Gestures: If you fail to gesture while speaking you may be perceived as boring and stiff. A lively speaking style captures the listener’s attention, makes the conversation more interesting, and facilitates understanding.

Posture and body orientation: You communicate numerous messages by the way you talk and move. Standing erect and leaning forward communicates to listeners that you are approachable, receptive and friendly. Interpersonal closeness results when you and the listener face each other. Speaking with your back turned or looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided as it communicates disinterest.

Proximity: Cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with others. You should look for signals of discomfort caused by invading the other person’s space. Some of these are: rocking, leg swinging, tapping, and gaze aversion.

Vocal: Speaking can signal nonverbal communication when you include such vocal elements as: tone, pitch, rhythm, timbre, loudness, and inflection. For maximum teaching effectiveness, learn to vary these six elements of your voice. One of the major criticisms of many speakers is that they speak in a monotone voice. Listeners perceive this type of speaker as boring and dull.

Speaking Tips

Speak comfortable words! — William Shakespeare

  • When speaking or trying to explain something, ask the listeners if they are following you.
  • Ensure the receiver has a chance to comment or ask questions.
  • Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes — consider the feelings of the receiver.
  • Be clear and concrete in what you say.
  • Look at the receiver.
  • Make sure your words match your tone and body language (nonverbal behaviors).
  • Vary your tone and pace.
  • Do not be vague, but on the other hand, do not complicate what you are saying with too much detail.
  • Do not ignore signs of confusion.

On Communication — a few random thoughts

Three thoughts on communication: Mehrabian, Ekman, and emotions.

Mehrabian and the 7%-38%-55% Myth

We often hear that the content of a message is composed of:

  • 55% from the visual component
  • 38% from the auditory component
  • 7% from language

However, the above percentages only apply in a very narrow context. A researcher named Mehrabian was interested in how listeners get their information about a speaker’s general attitude in situations where the facial expression, tone, and/or words are sending conflicting signals.

Thus, he designed a couple of experiments. In one, Mehrabian and Ferris (1967) researched the interaction of speech, facial expressions, and tone. Three different speakers were instructed to say “maybe” with three different attitudes towards their listener (positive, neutral, or negative). Next, photographs of the faces of three female models were taken as they attempted to convey the emotions of like, neutrality, and dislike.

Test groups were then instructed to listen to the various renditions of the word “maybe,” with the pictures of the models, and were asked to rate the attitude of the speaker. Note that the emotion and tone were often mixed, such as a facial expression showing dislike, with the word “maybe” spoken in a positive tone.

Significant effects of facial expression and tone were found in that the study suggested that the combined effect of simultaneous verbal, vocal and facial attitude communications is a weighted sum of their independent effects with the coefficients of .07, .38, and .55, respectively.

Mehrabian and Ferris caution their readers about the limitation to their research,

“These findings regarding the relative contribution of the tonal component of a verbal message can be safely extended only to communication situations in which no additional information about the communicator/addressee relationship is available.”

Takeaway…what can be concluded is that when people communicate, listeners derive information about the speaker’s attitudes towards the listener from visual, tonal, and verbal cues; yet the percentage derived can vary greatly depending on a number of other factors, such as actions, context of the communication, and how well the communicators know each other.

Paul Ekman

In the mid 1960s, Paul Ekman studied emotions and discovered six facial expressions that almost everyone recognizes world-wide: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise. Although they were controversial at first (he was booed off the stage when he first presented it to a group of anthropologists), they are now widely accepted.

One of the controversies still lingering is the amount of context needed to interpret them. For example, if someone reports to me that they have this great idea that they would like to implement, and I say that would be great, but I look on them with a frown, is it possible that I could be thinking about something else? The trouble with these extra signals is that we do not always have the full context. What if the person emailed me and I replied great (while frowning). Would it evoke the same response?


Trust your instincts. Most emotions are difficult to imitate. For example, when you are truly happy, the muscles used for smiling are controlled by the limbic system and other parts of the brain, which are not under voluntary control. When you force a smile, a different part of the brain is used — the cerebral cortex (under voluntary control), hence different muscles are used. This is why a clerk, who might not have any real interest in you, has a fake look when he forces a smile.

Of course, some actors learn to control all of their facial muscles, while others draw on a past emotional experience to produce the emotional state they want. However, this is not an easy trick to pull off all the time. There is a good reason for this—part of our emotions evolved to deal with other people and our empathic nature. If these emotions could easily be faked, they would do more harm than good (Pinker, 1997).

So our emotions not only guide our decisions, they can also be communicated to others to help them in their decisions… of course, their emotions will be the ultimate guide, but the emotions they discover in others become part of their knowledge base.

When all else fails, remember this one simple communication rule: think first, speak later.

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Not your Grandmother’s Assessment System…

November 21, 2016

7 Reasons to Reassess your Assessment System

The complexities of delivering education is increasing. From traditional brick and mortar and distance education, to competency-based education, prior-learning, micro credentialing, badging, and co-curricular assessment, to ERG initiatives, LiveText understands that telling your institution’s story goes beyond assessment for compliance.

With nearly 20 years of experience, LiveText has purposefully designed its solutions so that you can better create, engage, track, and measure all types of academic as well as non-academic learning experiences. From traditional academic SLO assessment to student life and community engagement, LiveText’s highly configurable platform allows you to look at learning holistically in real time and make real changes to impact at-risk students. If you can demonstrate doing this, then you can meet compliance needs too.

So I challenge you to take a look at your current assessment system…If you can’t do all of the following with your technology, it might be high time to reassess your assessment system!

Can you:

  1. Organize learners flexibly by creating assessments outside the confines of traditional courses
  2. Offer instructors powerful template design tools to create interactive and customizable assignments
  3. Connect outcomes to any learning activities or assessment measures within an activity
  4. Support your institution’s philosophy for assessment and use existing processes because your assessment technology is adaptable and includes multiple assessment workflows, such as peer, coordinated and observational assessments within the same group of learners
  5. Aggregate evidence from rubrics, tests, and quizzes into a single report to show learners who are/are not meeting a particular learning outcomes
  6. Provide your learners with the ability to design Showcases that can be curated on the fly from an active Timeline, which shows in real time a learner’s past work, current work, and plans for the future
  7. Simplify and reduce the number of clicks for your faculty and students so that they can access your assessment system with the same login they use for other campus systems

If you’re still only able to align learning outcomes and standards to rubrics, contact us and we’ll show you how to take your use of assessment technology to a whole new level by capturing evidence of learning at every level. Request your personal demonstration today and learn what’s possible.

Introducing Via from LiveTextedu on Vimeo.

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Our Philosophy on Building a Learning Culture with Collaboration

November 14, 2016

Excelling in an industry that lives and breathes learning day in and day out also means understanding the intrinsic value attached to effectively collaborating company-wide. In fact, our team takes it one step further to ensure full collaboration with the client each step of the way as well.

While some team members may believe collaboration can actually slow down a project, when managed effectively, a project that includes the efforts of many can be completed more efficiently and with a higher success rate than those that are completed solo. Why?…

Creates Personal Challenge

When working solo there’s little need to articulate or rationalize competencies. When working with even as little as one other person, there is an unsaid challenge to do this and also forces each person to take a look at their personal strengths and weaknesses when putting forth ideas, feedback and overall efforts to the project.

Two Heads are Better Than One

When a variety of knowledge and skills are combined, it creates a talent pool that is vast and more competent, able and experienced. Taking it one step further and enlisting virtual collaboration helps reduce costs for teams working in different offices or remotely.

It Makes You Look at the Bigger Picture

No two people are the same, and when you have several people from different backgrounds working for you, you will need to know how to leverage those differences and identify how they can complement each other. You also need to understand that even if the project does not shape up the way you wanted it to in the end, the partnership could still achieve a great deal.

Keep Learning

When one team member shares insight, they are essentially teaching each other something new. This, in turn, enforces the learning culture within the organization as a whole and fosters further employee development and ongoing corporate learning. Whenever team members collaborate, they enhance their capacity to go and grow beyond their comfort zones and take your business to new heights.

In addition to collaboration in day to day operations, larger scale collaboration on an industry level is just as important. One of the best ways to do this is with in-person events. While it’s not the coming together of companies to complete a project, it is the coming together of individuals that deal with a specific industry to talk about the latest trends, best practices and success stories in one place.

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What drives academic innovation?

November 7, 2016

how-to-be-an-intrapreneurThere is the motivational challenge of convincing stakeholders that there is a pressing problem – whether it’s student completion, student engagement, learning outcomes, workforce preparation, affordability, or tapping new markets – that needs to be solved, without diluting the quality of an education. I, myself, as a communications professional experienced the complex intersection of these problems when I worked at a local institution.

Then there is the bystander challenge which is whenever responsibility for solving a problem is diffuse, no one is likely to take charge.

Then, too, there is the complexity of the challenge before an institution: How to institute educational transformations that disrupt long-standing practices, incumbent processes and procedures, established roles, and legacy technologies.

Initiative fatigue, inertia, the need for buy-in from multiple participants and for resources – these too make hinder academic innovation.

Yet given the right circumstances and incentives, academic innovation is certainly possible.

Incentives are, of course, a key. We generally think about incentives in terms of money and release time. These are essential, but rarely sufficient. Equally important is the desire to emulate pacesetters or assume a leadership role or cultivate a reputation as an innovator.

A successful innovation strategy must, in short, address issues of motivation, leadership, strategic vision, institutional practice, organizational culture, project management, and sustainability. And it must do so across multiple domains all at once.

Ironically, one of the chief obstacles to academic innovation can be the lone innovator himself who sees the innovation as a personal pet project. Such boutique projects are rarely scalable or replicable. The fact is that innovations with enduring impact demand collective action.

Another major obstacle resides in a lack of strategic focus. At any institution, ideas for innovation abound. Dispersing resources can make many individuals happy, but many of these proposals hold out no prospect for broad impact.

In our experience, we have found that participation in the entire program design process, from ideation, market research, and concepting through blueprinting, development, implementation, testing, and improvement, is essential in producing this sense of ownership. A key is to convince stakeholders of the value of design thinking and to engage them in this process in partnership with a skilled and knowledgeable learning architect. This very process is crucial in contributing to a shift in mindset about the nature of teaching and learning.

Especially important is active involvement of faculty in constructing the knowledge grid or scaffold that disaggregates existing degree pathways into discrete concepts, skills, and assessable learning outcomes. The graph, which sketches out hundreds of outcomes across multiple levels of competency, serves as a master blueprint that can support multiple pathways, including stand-alone modules, micro-certificates, and degrees. There is nothing quite like participation in the design process to produce a sense of camaraderie, mission, and intellectual engagement.

That is not to say that individual faculty members must take full responsibility for the nuts and bolts of drawing the knowledge grid themselves. That is the responsibility of curriculum architects, who translate the subject matter experts’ insights into compelling visualizations and roadmaps. Ditto for curating and creating content, which is the responsibility of instructional designers, media developers, and assessment specialists.

At the same time, campus faculty and student and academic affairs leaders plan all aspects of the new pathways from the optimal delivery modality to academic operations and supporting technologies. Any innovation that will have genuine impact must take place across multiple dimensions of transformation. It requires the reengineering of institutional practices, processes, policies, and infrastructure, as well as shifts in organizational culture and mindsets. All participating stakeholders must buy into the change agenda and feel confident in their ability to implement the necessary changes in systems, processes, and behavior.

Regular communication and consultation are essential to insure a continuing commitment to the innovation process. But the most important element involves embracing design thinking and serving as a learning architect oneself.

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Let us ask you a question…

October 31, 2016

How is your institution engaging learners inside and outside of the classroom?

Whether it’s through fulfilling institutional assessment needs or student e-Portfolio development, LiveText’s new learning engagement solution – Via™ – is helping institutions instill a professional voice in students and provide them with a greater sense of ownership over their learning.

Watch this short video to learn how one institution is using Via™. Then register for our complimentary webinar, so you can see firsthand how Via™ can support your institution. Via™ is designed to engage all users in a deeper process of academic and self discovery. When you join this webinar, you’ll see how Via™ allows users to:

  • Create more engaging learning experiences
  • Curate, showcase and share achievements
  • Measure progress across courses, programs, colleges, time, and demographics
  • Evaluate student engagement in non-academic experiences
  • Gain deeper insights into learning trends at your institution

Point Loma Nazarene Talks about Via™ by LiveText from LiveTextedu on Vimeo.

Join us on Thursday, November 3 from 12:00 to 1:00pm CT to see how Via can benefit you.
Register Now

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Feedback and Technology for Learning

October 24, 2016

general-ict-cloud2One of the most valuable contributions anyone can make to another person’s learning is constructive feedback. Feedback on performance, when effective, is widely considered to be integral to learning. People learn faster and more deeply when they know the strengths and weaknesses of their performances and, most importantly, actions to take to improve future performances.

We all learn from feedback…sometimes the feedback is self-generated from the feelings of success or failure at what was attempted, sometimes from the environment around us, and sometimes from another person or a group. From wherever the feedback originates, we use it to modify our future actions to either reinforce our previous behavior or to change it for the future – using the D-A-R strategy, that is Direct, Assess, Redirect. This is true of all learning, from motor skills, to self-reflection, to cognition of the world around us. This concept of feedback through a Direct, Assess, Redirect process is especially important for students.

This potential to influence future performance is what is known as feed-forward. This strategy aims to ‘increase the value of feedback to the students by focusing comments not only on the past and present, but also on the future – what the student might aim to do, or how to do it differently in the next assignment or assessment if they are to continue to better’ (Hounsell, 2008, p. 5).

In order to generate feed-forward, feedback must not only identify the learner gap between actual and desired performance (by indicating the standard achieved on any given criterion for example) but also provide information needed to close that gap. When specific guidance is provided to close the gap, the feed-forward effect is even greater, and the focus becomes true learning rather than just grades – grades by themselves telling us very little about how we performed and how we could perform better.

This, in my opinion, is academic assessment, and it’s an ongoing – not episodic – process that requires continuous re-evaluation to determine whether teaching and learning processes achieve the goals and objectives defined by faculty and administrators at an institution. When students do not achieve those goals and objectives, changes should be made. And when students succeed in achieving those goals and objectives, perhaps we can conclude that those changes in the teaching and learning process are working. The question is, how do we know what’s working and what’s not?

Part of the answer rests in better understanding assessment and moving beyond the idea that assessment is simply tests or exams. Once we can do that, collaborative technologies can play a vital role in developing a more robust assessment practice – helping to systematize student-learning assessment and offer new ways to conduct assessments that will allow educators to offer richer learning experiences and gather feedback on student performance on a more frequent basis.

The kind of technology I’m talking about is learning assessment technology. This kind of technology that captures the student-teacher interaction, that facilitates the feedback and feed-forward processes, and that can at any given point report out data trends on this process so we can see how effective our teaching and curriculum delivery actually are.

The kind of technology I’m talking about is the kind that puts students at the center. Such technology supports evidence-based learning through outcomes-based learning portfolios, as well as the ability for instructors to communicate more easily with students on the progress of their work; for students to receive that feedback immediately; and for administrators to collect data on this process for purposes of assessing program effectiveness and improving program quality.

With students at the center, assessment should be viewed as a self-reflective learning tool for students and an opportunity for faculty to present concrete advice/guidance/evidence for learning improvement. When collaborative technology is engaged for these purposes, we are able to more easily see a fuller picture of student learning at all levels – for individual students, within and across courses, within and across programs, and, of course, across an entire institution. The technology is built into the teaching process, and the data that comes out of this is a natural byproduct of a more systematized, automated process – allowing for the following benefits:

  • Clarity of Expectations: Assessment technology allows instructors to present assessment criteria clearly within the system, ensuring assignment, course and program expectations are clearly communicated and accessible to all students.
  • Deepened Student Engagement: Assessment technology can also be a boost to student engagement by enabling diverse assessment methods, supporting active learning, and allowing more frequent formative assessment and a wider range of skills to be assessed.
  • Comprehensive Reflection: In addition to learner self reflection, assessment technology provides opportunities for the academic community to self reflect on its learning goals, to determine the degree to which these goals align with student and marketplace needs, and to evaluate if students’ overall performances coincide with the institution’s expectations;
  • Convenience & Transparency: Assessment technology increases flexibility for learners as students can access online assessments at any time and at any place where a connection is available, even on their mobile devices. Plus, administrators have readily available statistics on student performance, and this evidence of student achievement can be used by academic programs to understand the dimensions of student learning when seeking to improve the teaching and learning process.

According to Thomas A. Angelo in “Doing Assessment As If Learning Matters Most,” most of us think assessment should be first and foremost about improving student learning and secondarily about determining accountability for the quality of learning produced. I would agree that putting students’ learning at the center is of prime importance. So while accountability matters, learning matters most and, ultimately, a focus on that should in effect drive quality.

That said, we should more closely consider the value and role of technology in systematizing the process of providing feedback. When we find better ways of doing this, we’ll see that what follows is increased learning and improved student performance, and hence a truly student-centered higher education experience.

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