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My ID: The Naturally Caffeinated Workshop

Professional Development!Petra Taylor photo

Part of my Faculty Fellowship with the Instructional Design group includes professional development and making contacts with the greater world of instructional design by attending courses, workshops and conferences. So far I have completed the OLC Mastery Series on “Blended Learning”, I am in the middle of an EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) course on “Assessment Beyond Letter Grades”, and as I write, I am currently riding the Dartmouth Coach, returning from a NERCOMP workshop “Instructional Design for Everyone”. If you have never heard of OLC, EDUCAUSE or NERCOMP, do not fear! I hadn’t either, up to about 3 months ago. But if you are interested in digging deeper into the realms of learning and teaching, then it may be worthwhile to check out what these organizations have to offer.

My experience with conferences and workshops up to this point had been limited to those in my area of research, along with some meetings on women in mathematics and a few others on open online mathematics education. Most conferences I have attended followed the well-known format of hour-long plenary lectures interspersed with shorter contributed talks, often in parallel sessions. Some conferences have poster sessions, but that’s not the norm in mathematics.

Today’s workshop had a completely different format. Rather than being lectured at all day long and leaving tired, oversaturated and unable to repeat most of what was said, I came away invigorated, with many things to think about and having made a number of new contacts.

What was this new and exciting format?

This NERCOMP session was run by one organizer and four panelists (one of these panelists being Adrienne Gauthier, one of my colleagues here in the ID group). Each panelist started out by describing a typical problem with which they are frequently presented in their work. Throughout the day, as we were discussing various aspects of instructional design, these problems would resurface and approaches to solutions would be woven into the activities.

No panelist ever spoke for more than five minutes at a time, so that I never hit that urgent need for coffee. The participants were seated at round tables of 8, and whenever the panelists had presented a new aspect of their problems, rich discussion at the tables ensued.  These conversations explored the panelists’ solutions, and discussed their applicability to some other challenges. ‘Twitter-style’ reporting after such discussions was a very valuable way to hear from the other tables.

It was great to see instructional design being practiced in the organization of the conference. The presenters' goals were clear, and as participants we were able to engage in the day's learning together.  But I shouldn’t be surprised: this was a great example of instructional designers practicing good instructional design!

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