Rob Abel, Ed.D. | May 2020
"Getting in tune to the straight and narrow" —The Who
As May—the month when the IMS Learning Impact Leadership Institute typically occurs—comes to a close, IMS has been busy (especially yours truly) in capturing the learnings from what our members are experiencing. We have created a free series of recorded webinars, some 1-on-1 interviews, others expert panels that you can find on the Learning Impact On-Demand site.
The primary findings so far have me feeling good about the impact of the collaborative work here in IMS.
From a recent survey of IMS institutional members across K-12 and HED, 95% indicated that their relationship with IMS has helped them prepare for the transitions that are occurring due to COVID-19. More importantly, the Learning Impact On-Demand interviews indicate that a productive edtech ecosystem fostered by IMS collaboration enables institutions to focus on serving their stakeholders better now and into whatever the future may bring. While educational institutions have generally struggled to move to remote/online learning over a period spanning anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, IMS Contributing Member institutions and suppliers are not only prepared but see this as an opportunity to help accelerate progress in their support for digital teaching and learning.
In the near term, the emphasis has been on building off of strong foundational core capabilities in both the technical and instructional domains. A robust core of highly interoperable systems and a consistent set of instructional strategies has made scaling up to unprecedented user levels much easier. Hold tight to your existing instructional strategies while adapting them to online has been a key ingredient for success. The LMS has been of central importance in HED where it was a mainstream mission-critical system already and rapidly rising in importance in K-12. IMS institutional members have also put a major emphasis on the human dimension, namely empathy for an unprecedented rate of change and meeting the faculty "where they are" across a wide range of comfort levels. IMS supplier members have played a significant role in responding to the needs for scale-up in everything from working with their cloud hosting providers to helping set up thousands of courses to help faculty get online. In K-12, there has also been a major emphasis assisting parents in adjusting to their now more substantial role in the educational process, with knowledge-based resources and call-in support.
Institutions that have had a more substantial set of online offerings or "practice" in terms of digital snow days could leverage those learnings. Understanding the need to balance screen time with other activities has turned out to be a big help in organizing remote education modalities. Finding the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous and generally moving away from live lectures—even though that has been the primary gap filler in the short term for many institutions—is another. However, equity in terms of meeting the needs of all students during this unimagined combination of scale and length of remote learning has been the biggest challenge. While this has been a bigger challenge in K-12 it has also been a challenge in HED.
The necessity for greater collaboration has led to some breakthroughs. Both HED and K-12 institutional members in IMS are reporting unprecedented levels of collaboration across boundaries within their institutions, and with supplier partners, as well as with fellow IMS members, where relationships have built up over the years.
The IMS community's most significant technical challenges have come in needing to address privacy, security, plagiarism, and identity, specifically related to those technologies that are required to fill the void associated with 100% remote education. These areas have been web video conferencing, assessment, and proctoring, but also having technology in place to communicate to all stakeholders, at an unprecedented scale and rate, to inform everyone what is going on and provide support.
Right now, IMS is working closely with our institutional members to close any gaps that might exist in their digital ecosystems. This also includes working with members to address key issues in time for fall, such as the importance of data from instructional systems and what are expected to be greater levels of innovation in the use of instructional resources and modalities—after so many are gaining experience and motivation in using the wide range of technologies at their disposal. For the more advanced institutions, there will be a greater emphasis on competency-based models.
All of which brings me back to getting in tune with the primary goal. The original theme of the 2020 Learning Impact event was Equity, Agency, and Mastery. We believe these imperatives capture the evolving definition of student success. We decided to focus the recast webinar series on the impact of the rapid scale-up of digital learning. Indeed, it is turning out that these remote education scenarios are requiring an acceleration in getting better at equity, agency, and mastery. If you've got the foundational digital ecosystem in place, then focusing in on a better way forward comes naturally—even during a pandemic it seems.
More learnings to come in future posts. Stay tuned.