“Teach Anywhere” Goes Live

Hello, ol’ bloggy ol’ friend! Remember me?!

These days I find myself not stopping to reflect enough for a multitude of reasons, but today marks an occasion worth noting. So I’m back at it.

Today, we officially released a new web resource at OU titled “Teach Anywhere.” On Sunday, at 10am I received an email saying build a website. Today at 3:30pm that website was shared with the entire faculty. For those keeping score, that’s 53.5 hours.

This project comes on the heals of the Coronavirus beginning to affect universities across the country who are taking extra precaution by temporarily moving to an online only format for all classes. As of the publish time of this post, OU has not made a decision one way or another about moving to a temporary online-only format, but that didn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared. Being in Tornado Alley, I’m actually surprised we hadn’t built a contingency plan for academic continuity yet, but that’s life for you.

I had been thinking about what, if any, role the Office of Digital Learning would be playing in all of this the week before. On Monday, it started to sound like there was a real possibility of it impacting us. I hopped on a couple of webinars to get a sense of general questions including UPCEA and one hosted by Duke Learning Innovation (video here). I prepared a simple document about what questions and processes. I could have never imagined a couple of webinars would be so valuable but in hindsight they were fundamental.

I had a couple of big takeaways from the Duke call that have really framed my thinking over the past two days. The first was a comment Shawn Miller made. He mentioned that in normal circumstances we often lean towards not recommending specific technologies or workflows and focus more design knowing that all sorts of tools can meet the objective, but in these cases were there are a lot of unknowns we have to be both precise and prescriptive on what we recommend. I really appreciated that sentiment.

The second piece that stood out was the need for a collaborative approach to support. Another great point brought up was that us in academia are wonderful in that we love to pitch in when needed but often times that can lead to wires getting crossed with communication and people tripping over each other despite their best intentions. He mentioned that they have setup a Qualtrics form that generated a Zendesk ticket and that they were using Slack across departments to vet answers before responding. For OU Create, we have a similar setup with a Freskdesk-to-Slack integration. So I’ve built that out once again for this project with a beefier form to help us track a little better. If you are an OU faculty member who needs help, feel free to kick the tires and test it out. I plan to report back on how this goes, but we’ve already started to build the Slack channel that will support the efforts and, I have to say, I’m pretty excited. We currently have representatives from four departments. How fun will be to all be rowing in the same direction if even for a little bit?

Which leads to my next point. A major piece that has been a really enjoyable outcome from this is amount of collaboration taking place on ground as well as online. Two spreadsheets have been sent me over and over by colleagues.

The first Bryan Alexander‘s spreadsheet that is tracking closures. Bryan has been on a tour de force for a few weeks now and I’m really grateful to have his blog as a resource. Fun fact: Bryan’s blog was one of the first edtech blogs I ever subscribed to on Google Reader. It’s still an excellent resource. Tip Bryan on Patreon if you can.

The second spreadsheet is a list of university websites titled Remote Teaching Resource for Business Continuity. Credits go to Daniel Stanford at DePaul and the POD Network, and, boy, that’s been incredibly helpful for us. These sites anchored us into thinking how to structure the site. Even the moniker “Teach Anywhere” was inspired by Stanford’s site (Bizarre: it was actually already taken at OU but the redirect had never been activated. Who knows what project that was once upon a time). But other pieces that we leaned heavily on was the IU Keep Teaching site and Duke’s resources. Greg Siering at IU-Bloomington was kind enough to allow us to use some of the textual content as a starting point.

Beyond that though, the site went from nothing to something literally over night and several people added valuable input from folks all across the institution. It’s been worked and reworked and I imagine it will continue to be reworked over the next several weeks.

No first draft is perfect. Ask Anne Lamott. I am sure there will be several unforeseen speed bumps throughout the rest of the semester so we’ll continue to add information. It’s very possible that my stress is just expressing itself as joy out of pure exhaustion at this point and I’ll become a curmudgeon quickly., but this small window calls for a very tiny moment of celebration. As Don Draper once said, “Prepare to take a great leap forward—prepare to swim the English Channel and then drown in champagne.” The single best thing I enjoy about working in this space is that it’s riddled with hard questions that deal with equity, access, LEARNING, change management, technology, etc.etc. So there’s a resource out there that didn’t exist before. There’s a plan that’s been put together–quickly but thoughtfully–by people who genuinely care about the quality of instruction at OU. The best case scenario is that the institutional never has to enact it, right? But in the event that we do need it, we have it. It’s not perfect but it’s there and you can’t take that away these feelings away from me now. I won’t let you! I won’t!