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Online Learning Consortium Recap: Community-Facing Instruction for the Common Good

January 3, 2023
ND Learning

By Jade Liggett, Brianna Stines, and Kuangchen Hsu

Every university, college, or institute of higher education in the world has a mission, a set of values and beliefs, by which it abides and operates. Every institution has a vision for how they should go into the future, a vision of determination, compassion, and success. The University of Notre Dame’s mission states, “The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.” This statement is what drove the Learning Design (LD) Team, composed of Kuangchen Hsu, Jade Liggett, and Brianna Stines, to reflect on recent projects, as part of their work in Notre Dame Learning’s Office of Digital Learning. Questions of how our organization has made an impact on the local community and a passionate desire to put forth more good into the world inspired them to share the organization’s work with other professionals in higher education. 

The Online Learning Consortium is an organization dedicated to providing educators and those in the field of education with resources, training, and networking opportunities so as to build a community of practice across the nation and across the globe. This year’s theme centered around inclusive teaching and learning. The LD team submitted a proposal to present at OLC to provide a snapshot into the projects that the team felt embodied Notre Dame’s mission, the theme of the conference, and their shared passion for community service.

The team each featured one of the projects that they felt showcased how the University was able to stretch beyond the confines of the buildings’ walls into the suburbs and rural communities of Michiana. The presentation consisted of a short recollection of the projects and the central themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) that each embodied. After collaborating on defining what community-facing instruction meant to each person, how their projects connected to DEI initiatives, both at the University and in a broader community, and how audience members could help initiate change at their own institutions, they went their own ways to reflect on their projects and the key strategies that each utilized to help reach their target audiences.

Kuangchen was the lead designer for the ASCEND program, a summer bridge program that helped future Notre Dame students, who are coming from under-resourced secondary schools, prepare for their entrance into Notre Dame by offering them opportunities to refresh their mathematics skills all while developing connections with their peers through near-peer mentoring and becoming more familiar with the University’s rich cultural traditions. This program provided students with the opportunity to explore mathematical concepts in a way that connected to the University and applied those concepts in ways that were meaningful and relevant to students who are beginning their transition from secondary education to higher education, an important strategy for all those who practice learning design, but especially for Kuangchen.

Brianna, or Bri, was charged with leading the design of ND Elevate in conjunction with one of the highly esteemed faculty of the Mendoza College of Business. The program’s goals were to empower women to take the next step in their professional journeys and develop knowledge and skills relating to resilience, negotiation, presence, and authenticity. Bri worked with faculty to develop a mixed modality model for the program where the participants, those women-identifying individuals looking to take the next step in their careers, would work at their own pace through an asynchronous learning environment structured around authentic and relevant activities before then coming together in person for a one-day immersion event. The immersion event was structured to provide the participants with the opportunity to connect with a partner organization, a local healthcare provider, the University faculty and staff who helped develop the program, and with each other to network and enrich their experience in the program. The team behind the scenes of the program was composed entirely of women-identifying individuals as well in the hopes of providing historically marginalized groups with the opportunity to create a program designed for women by women.

The final project showcased in this presentation was led by Jade. This project was focused on developing an open educational resource (OER) on the topic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This resource was charged with spreading awareness of what AMR is, how it impacts people, and how we can help to combat the rampant spread of AMR in the environment, along with what our own researchers at Notre Dame are doing to better understand the phenomenon. Jade worked with the Environmental Engineering department to develop an interactive online course that learners can participate in at their own pace, when they are able. The project focused on creating a resource that could be used in K-12 classrooms, with a focus on 8-12, along with being available for community members at the ND-LEEF site. The project operated around a gamified theme of retro video games to better add interest for the audiences that would be interacting with the material. Jade has always had a passion for the sciences, and so being able to collaborate on this project with the Environmental Engineering department, along with the Environmental Change Initiative at Notre Dame, was serendipitous for him, and he looks forward to the next phase of the project, where the team will focus on the research being conducted at Notre Dame on AMR in 2023.

OLC’s audience is primarily instructional designers, higher education administration, and faculty professionals all eager and excited to share their own projects and insights on what they had experienced over the last year. Breakout sessions ranged from methods for increasing accessibility in courses to strategies for increasing student success and satisfaction, and a keynote session focused on the impacts of social media on learning.

On the second day of the conference, the team was to prepare for their own presentation, a Discovery Session, named so by the OLC, where the team would have a screen that displayed their presentation and would allow for passersby to see the key points of the projects and interact with the team to discover more about what they accomplished with each project. The team met a myriad of other professionals who were impressed with how the University had put a focus on helping learners outside of their immediate scope, that being the undergraduate population that many schools put a majority of their focus on. After an hour of conversations around how imperative it is to reach out beyond the institution with our educational initiatives and how others could begin these kinds of conversations at their own institutions, the team left the conference room to return to the rest of the sessions that day feeling confident, relieved, and with a new sense of revitalized energy that what they were doing was important and an integral part of providing the Notre Dame community with meaningful and vital educational opportunities and experiences.