LiveTogether – LearnTogether

It’s been awhile. I last posted March 14 just as the pandemic shut down and the “pivot” to emergency remote learning was starting.  I usually use this blog space for long, tedious arguments or expansive explanations on theoretical and empirical phenomenon, both pedagogical and economic.  For some reason I’ve never found the ability to: a. write short pieces, and b. just do newsy “this is what I’ve created lately” stuff.  In honor of my return to keyboard, I’m going to try to do a short newsy post.

I want to show off some sites we built this semester to support students and faculty during the pandemic.

For those who don’t know, I’m not just a pretty face economist, I’m also the founder/creator/current  Open Learning Faculty Fellow in the Lansing Community College Center for Teaching Excellence.  I started and lead our Open Learn Lab (OLL)  What’s an OLL? It’s our name for our Domain of One’s Own project.  We were the first and, as far as I know, still the only community college doing a Domains project.  It’s all about connected open, online learning work. It’s COOL stuff.

It’s not surprising the OLL would be involved when the school suddenly “pivoted” the 2/3 of classes that weren’t already online . Although many OLL projects involve long lead times – projects like creating an OER interactive chemistry homework package for example – I think we did quite well to meet the challenge with our limited resources. Once we were advised that pivot was likely, the CTE/OLL swung into action . When the official announcement was made the next day, we had a faculty resource/support site up and running, KeepTeaching.  I won’t take all or even most of the credit for that one. Those honors belong to our CTE leaders, Megan Lin and Annescia Dillard. But I will take credit for getting those two fired up and into WordPress over the past year.

In similar fashion, when the virus put the kibosh on our contractually-required, end-of-year, two day, always-a-fun-time, faculty professional development conference, we were able to smoothly create an all-online conference, thanks to the flexibility of having our OLL.  Megan and Annescia  spun off from the January professional development day site, 2020 Vision, and built an online conference, LearningTogether. The beauty of these sites is that they’re living sites. They’re not disposable. They’re not buried inside the LMS only to disappear once finals are done. Just like OLL course sites, class and student blogs, or project showcases like the LCC poetry project, these sites are collaborations and living collections. The COOL stuff.

But I’ve saved the best for last.  Learning is about connections  and community as much as anything.  In late March as we were all making the “pivot”, a couple of faculty floated an idea: Could we use the OLL resources to help students connect and share experiences? Could we help them document this crazy time?  I pulled together a group of interested faculty to help. We did it. We created a public website called LiveTogether-LearnTogether.  It’s a site that’s open and viewable by the public. It’s designed to make it easy for any LCC student, faculty, or staff member – the community that makes up the OpenLCC scholarly commons – to post a story or an image that tells some aspect of their pandemic experience.  It was a rush, but so far we’ve got over 120 stories and images collected.  Some will make you smile. Some will make you laugh. Some will make you think. And some may even make you cry.

Learning results from making connections. But before we learn, we have to be part of a safe community. Many critics of online learning think community can only come from the in-person, “on-campus experience”. I beg to differ. Community is possible remote. We’re one community. We live together and we learn together.  That’s how connected open online learning, the COOL stuff works.

And speaking of community:
I want to thank Suzanne Bernsten, Barb Clauer, Joe Esquibel, Anne Heutsche, Jeff Janowick,  Melissa Kaplan, and  Megan Lin.  I know Suzanne is technically a librarian and Melissa is technically an admin, but they’re faculty in my book. Without them, this would not have happened. Their creativity, concern, and commitment for students is what makes working at LCC fun.

And speaking of open and connections:
I also want to say a huge thanks to Alan Levine, a.k.a. CogDog.  Alan is a working incarnation of the spirit of open learning and sharing.  He created the “splots”, TRU Writer and TRU Collector, that enabled me to cobble together a website that collects these stories and images in only a day or so (note to Alan: most of that time was my own indecision).   You say you don’t know what a “splot” is? Never fear, we’ve used another splot called Splotpoint to explain what splots are: SPLOTS? Huh?  

Ok, the post was newsy, but it wasn’t short.  Oh well.

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