Educators from a consortium of colleges and universities in the United Kingdom visited Shoreline in late October, 2013. The group called itself the “eLearning Instructional Designer Project Trip” and came for a closer look at the Virtual College and how Shoreline is delivering online classes now and working to make the experience better for students.
“We were really learning from each other,” said Ann Garnsey-Harter, Executive Director for the Virtual College and Resource Development.
The U.K. consortium is working toward an “eLearn Design Academy” to address the skills gap in the U.K. for designers and developers of high quality online learning products. Despite the growing global popularity of online classes both in industry and education, the U.K. offers few courses or qualifications for those interested in creating online classes.
Shoreline’s Virtual College has eLearning instructional designers to work with faculty to help with transitioning to online courses.
“Today’s activity has been visiting Shoreline Community College and the place is nothing short of jaw-dropping,” one of the U.K. visitors, Andy Crissell of South Essex College, posted on his blog and then tweeted following the first of three days at Shoreline.
“Amazing campus that must keep all their students in a very serene frame of mind or just bursting to get on with their studies due to the quality of provision and resources,” Crissell wrote. “The college has a real focus on the strategy required for a successful online arm of their delivery and this is demonstrated due to the whole organisation approach and structuring that has gone into supporting the online ambitions.”
Besides a host of Shoreline staff and faculty, the U.K. visitors also met with representatives from Shoreline’s partners: Northeastern University, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and Seattle Central Community College.
The U.K. consortium’s trip was organized by Coralesce, Ltd., a U.K.-based project management and curriculum development agency. Funding came through grants by other U.K. agencies: Ascentis , Association of Colleges and the Creative Skills Sector Council.
Just days later, another contact came to the college from the U.K.
Garnsey-Harter was interviewed by Robert Farrow, a research associate with the Open University, on the use of open educational resources (OER) at Shoreline.
OER are generally free or low cost materials used for a class instead of an often expensive textbook. Shoreline faculty members participated in a State Board of Community and Technical Colleges project called the Open Course Library that created OER class materials that are available for anyone to use. A number of classes at Shoreline, both online and face-to-face, use OER materials.
Farrow and Open University, an online institution based in Milton Keynes, are participating in a project called OER Research Hub that is focusing on the impacts of OER and gathering evidence for what works and when.
“Free or low cost textbooks save money for students,” Garnsey-Harter said. “It also increases access to education. We have students who drop classes due to high textbook costs or take a class without buying the textbooks because they can’t afford them.”
Garnsey-Harter said the attention from educators at other colleges and from other countries is evidence that exploring the possibilities and impacts of technology on higher education is a global trend.
“We’re working hard here at Shoreline to not just keep up with the trends, but gaze out into the future to try to see what’s coming,” Garnsey-Harter said. “Whether it is online, on campus or some of each, a hybrid, our goal is to find ways to help students get the education and training they need to be successful.”
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