While there were virtual options to attend, for the first time since Fall 2019, I opted to participate in Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Innovate in person, a conference centered around sharing best practices, testing new ideas, and collaborating on moving online, digital, and blended learning forward.
The sessions were varied and focused on topics from instructional design strategies, student engagement, faculty development, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and educational tools that could impact the landscape of higher education in the future.
One of my favorite sessions was focused on gamification and assessment choice: No More NPCs: How Gamification Elements Can Motivate and Engage Learners by Roger Munger and Greg Snow with Boise State University. Their presentation included several workshop resources with examples. With the required assignments only worth 60% of the grade, students are expected to create a “game plan” that maps out the types of assignments they will complete, and the grade they are trying to achieve. This allows for the students to make choices based on their strengths, interests, and learning preferences, while allowing the instructor to plan how to best provide regular feedback. For students that do not enjoy choosing their own adventure, the instructor created various personas and plans that can be used to help them succeed in the course. Through these required, optional, and incentivized elements, he has found increased student engagement. Some strategies incorporated by the instructor are badging, hidden achievements, special powers, self-selected content, and choose your own adventure lectures. As with any class or game, it is important to focus on rules, goals, action, feedback, and mechanics.
Aside from the educational workshop sessions, I benefited from the informal conversations with peer institutions, building connections with colleagues in my field, and having conversations with vendors about various tools that could support our learning ecosystem. While the world slowly adjusts to our new normal, it felt good to get back to some of our pre-pandemic experiences.
If you would like to attend OLC Innovate in the future or learn more about the organization, visit them at Online Learning Consortium.