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WGU Academic Engagement Webinars "How to" for Online Teaching and Learning

How to use the online space in the best and most interactive ways.

Online teaching is simultaneously challenging and rewarding. Prior to Covid-19, the majority of faculty had never before taught online, but were instead forced online by Covid-19. However, at WGU, we have focused exclusively on high-quality, online teaching for nearly 25 years. In this webinar series, WGU faculty and administrators will address specific components of high-quality online teaching and how the design, planning, delivery, assessment, administration, and continuous improvement of online teaching differ from traditional seated education models. Sessions will address, among other topics, what works well for WGU and what has worked poorly and faculty and structural models that are designed specifically for online education. Better understanding online education will help all levels of teaching professionals brave the unusual world of teaching during a pandemic and the different—"new normal" of more online education that will inevitably follow the pandemic.

Can't make it in real time? Sign up anyway! After each seminar is complete, we will send out the presentations to all registrants. Recordings and resource materials from each session will be available on this page after the event.

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Sessions will be held monthly, throughout 2021, with each session offered at 10 am, MT. Complete a brief form to register for all sessions.

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January 6: Mindset, Metacognition, and Motivation: Becoming an Effective Learner Online

Metacognition is thinking about how we learn. It is valuable to understand how metacognitive habits of mind impact our effectiveness as learners, teachers, or coaches. In this presentation, we'll examine the experiences of two learners, Maya and Josephine, to see how the application of metacognitive strategies improve motivation and learning.

View recording | Mindset PDF

Ginger Bidell is the manager of a development team in the Business College at Western Governors University. Previous roles at WGU include Curriculum Program Manager and Instructional Designer. Ginger has also worked as an Instructional Designer at the State University of New York College at Buffalo and a for profit online college. She has experience designing and developing competency-based and traditional online courses and supporting faculty in the development and design of online, blended, and face-to-face courses using the principles of Universal Design for Learning, accessibility best practices, and Open Educational Resources. Ginger holds a B.S in Elementary Education and Social Studies Education, a M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, a M.S. in Management and Leadership and an MBA. 

Erin Hugus is a curriculum and assessment development team lead for the College of Business at Western Governors University. She began her career in course development as an instructional designer for the College of Business at University of Phoenix. She has over 26 years' experience working in education, both at the elementary school and higher education levels. She is a doctoral student at Northern Arizona University focusing on improving graduate employment outcomes in higher education. She has published articles about education with Competency Works and the Journal of Competency‐Based Education. She co-authored “Reconciling assessment quality standards and ‘double assessment’ in competency-based higher education” in a recent issue of Journal of Competency-Based Education. She is a member of AALHE 

Ginger Bidell Ginger Bidell
Erin Hugus Erin Hugus

February 3: Supporting Online Learning Through Assessment

Presenters will provide a broad overview of evidence-based assessment practices and discuss special challenges and opportunities for assessment in an online learning environment. They will also discuss trends in assessment practices intended to ensure that assessments are appropriate, fair, and equitable for learners with a variety of learning needs.

View recording | "How to" PDF

Mary Tkatchov is a senior assessment developer for the Business College at Western Governors University. She has almost 20 years of experience in secondary and post-secondary education. She taught high-school and community-college English courses before specializing in assessment development. She presents at national education and assessment conferences and has published articles with Journal of Competency-Based Education, Education Week Teacher, Principal Leadership, Competency Works, and Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education (AALHE). She is co-author of the book Proactive Professional Learning: Creating Conditions for Individual and Organizational Improvement and committee co-chair for AALHE’s Emerging Dialogues publication. In her current role, she collaborates with college faculty to develop objective and authentic performance assessments as well as advocates for assessment quality standards. 

Nathan Sundt is an assessment developer for the Business College at Western Governors University. He has over 15 years of experience in curriculum and assessment development. He is a returned Peace Corps volunteer who taught and coordinated Hausa language literacy classes in rural Niger, West Africa. After returning from Africa, Nathan began developing online curriculum and assessments for Hausa language learners and serving as a Hausa language expert on a range of assessment projects. Over the past decade, he has developed high-stakes assessments in a wide range of less commonly taught languages and has served as a subject matter expert on many other assessment projects. Nathan holds a bachelor's degree from University of Washington, and a M.S. degree from the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. In his current role he collaborates with college faculty and external experts to develop objective and performance assessments.

Mary Tkatchov Mary Tkatchov
Nathan Sundt Nathan Sundt

March 3: Meeting the Moment: Bringing Forward the Best of Online and Blended Learning Innovation

To many in education, this last year feels brutal and undeserved. Many are exhausted. Others are angry. Some have suffered devastating personal impacts. But rather than viewing this time as a cruel punishment of horrible happenstance, we should challenge ourselves to engage a process in service of our higher callings in education. We should take a beat, learn more about the inspiring work of our larger education community as together we used online and blended tools in innovative ways for learning and student support. In this session we’ll dive deep into these and related topics as we (1) confront the conflation of emergency remote learning with decades of digital-learning practice; (2) explore pandemic-inspired innovations from the pros and those freshly embracing digital tools; and (3) contemplate what we want to bring forward on the road ahead. Finally, we will discuss how we better connect to the aspirations and needs of our students, and figure out how together we can meet this moment and make the road ahead far better than the one behind.

View recording"Meeting the Moment" PDF

Dr. Mark David Milliron is an award-winning leader, author, speaker, and consultant who works with universities, community colleges, K-12 schools, foundations, corporations, associations, and government agencies across the country and around the world. He serves as Senior Vice President and Executive Dean of the Teachers College at Western Governors University (WGU), a nonprofit online university founded by 19 U.S. governors more than 20 years ago. WGU has since become a beacon of innovation, access, affordability, competency-based education, and workforce connection, serving over 120,000 full-time students nationwide. The WGU Teachers College is the largest college of education in the U.S., serving close to 30,000 teachers, leaders, and other education innovators in all 50 states. 

Mark Milliron Mark Milliron

April 7: Online Learning Through Generations—The New Parental Role in K12 Education

In the age of COVID, K-12 education has taken a major turn, and multiple generations are sharing the virtual platform. Parents and caregivers have suddenly found themselves playing a vital role in their children’s education. Unlike pre-COVID, where parents and caregivers played a supporting role to the classroom, parents and caregivers have suddenly found themselves co-educating their children. This session will provide parents and educators with a variety of strategies to engage and support those in the parental role for the purpose of developing a collaborative relationship for student success.

View recording | Download PDF

Dr. Julie Hernandez is the Educational and Professional Programming manager at Western Governors University (WGU). In her role, Dr. Hernandez is responsible for managing professional programming and outreach for the United States’ largest private, nonprofit university. Dr. Hernandez is a seasoned classroom veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a STEM educator and K12 department chair. Dr. Hernandez has a doctorate in educational leadership with a specialization in Curriculum and Instruction & Virtual Education, an MBA, and is a California-credentialed teacher in cross-cultural and science education.

Julie Hernandez Julie Hernandez

May 5: Providing Meaningful Feedback

Providing feedback on students’ written work is typically an educator’s most difficult task. Students crave faculty feedback and feedback represents an educators’ greatest opportunity to accelerate students’ learning. Faculty at Western Governors University evaluate more than 150,000 items of unique student work-product per month, all of which are evaluated within 72 hours of submission. WGU’s guiding principles require that student feedback be timely, accurate, fair, and helpful. This requires students to receive feedback customized specifically to their submission very rapidly, which can be very challenging to do at scale. This presentation discusses WGU’s approach to providing students with feedback, and opportunities for incorporation of similar practices into other educational models.

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Richard Barnes is senior manager for Academic Engagement at WGU and an Associate Editor at the Journal of Competency-Based Education. Richard held several previous roles at WGU including course faculty manager and instructor. Prior to joining WGU, Richard was a faculty member at North Carolina State University and several other UNC system schools. At UNC Richard served as Assurance of Learning Director supervising continuous improvement of educational outcomes through the School of Business’s regional accreditation assessment and AACSB assurance of learning processes. Before entering academia Richard had a distinguished professional career in accounting. 

Joanna Dillman has worked at WGU since 2018 and currently serves as the Academic Manager for the Business Core evaluation team. The focus of her role is to contribute to students achieving completion by leading evaluator training, calibration, as well as cross-departmental collaborating activities to ensure accurate evaluations with helpful feedback to students. With nearly 20 years of experience in human resources with a focus on training and employee relations, Joanna has a knack for making meaningful connections with others and an insatiable appetite for helping others maximize their potential.

Prior to joining WGU, Joanna held human resource leadership roles at the professional, departmental, and college level both in the private industry as well as academia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from Southeastern Louisiana University and a Master of Arts in Communication from Queens University of Charlotte. She lives in Mississippi with her family and enjoys cooking and hanging out on the beach.

Heidi Larsen joined WGU in 2009 and currently serves as senior manager of evaluation in the College of Business. During her tenure at WGU, Heidi has held roles in student mentoring, faculty leadership, and evaluation services. Regardless of her role, Heidi’s goal has always been to serve students and help them move toward graduation.

She has significant experience in coaching and providing feedback to learners, as well as current and future leaders. Prior to her work in academia, Heidi served in nonprofit organizations devoted to supporting victims of domestic violence. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University, an MBA and MSML from Western Governors University, and was an International Coaching Federation ACC certified coach. She lives in Idaho with her family, and loves enjoying the outdoors and traveling.

Richard Barnes Richard Barnes
Joanna Dillman Joanna Dillman
Heidi Larsen Heidi Larsen

June 2: Implementing SEL Online

Learning is social and emotional. Our capacity for cognition is so inextricably linked with our capacity to care, that brain scans show activity is present in the same neural regions whether we are engaging in acts of compassion or we are learning something new. If connection is so crucial for academic success, how do we remain connected with our learners during this time of physical distancing? We will cover three, signature Social and Emotional Learning practices for engaging learners and introduce simple tips and strategies for building bridges with even the most challenging students.

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Hilary Simon joined WGU in January 2019 as the senior social and emotional learning analyst on the Student Experience team. Prior to joining WGU, Hilary gained 20 years’ experience in K–12 education, ranging from designing and delivering individualized interventions for neurodiverse students to guiding large-scale implementations of culturally responsive social and emotional learning (SEL) initiatives in urban school districts. She co-founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing SEL professional development for educators. She has also served as an SEL specialist, mindfulness for teens instructor, autism specialist, and behavior analyst, and taught in elementary grades. 

She holds two master's degrees in education. When she isn’t hatching up new ways to advocate for SEL, she’s playing with her two children in Austin, Texas. 

Hilary Simon Hilary Simon

July 7: Persuasive Technology

With the increase of online learning at all academic levels, technology is playing a larger role in the delivery of education. Educators must incorporate innovative technology in their planning in order to elicit successful student behaviors. Persuasive technology has been used, with a high degree of success, for years in social media and by Big Tech. It’s impact in driving outcomes such as engagement is highly documented and proven. These tools can be a great asset in education. This interactive presentation will discuss the concept of persuasive technology and its potential impact in an educational environment. Approaches to eliciting behavioral changes in students will be discussed within the framework of both an on-campus and online environment and tools will be presented to facilitate student success.

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Brian Iannucci Brian Iannucci

August 4: Empowering Online Learning with Highly Effective Teaching Practices

How do adults learn most effectively online? The online learning environment differs from traditional on-ground approaches and relies heavily on active collaborative techniques to help learners construct knowledge and build community. Leveraging design thinking techniques, this session will actively engage participants in an exploration of the unique needs of adult online learners. Participants will then discuss best practices in designing instruction and online facilitation, as well as methods for assuring quality in course design.

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Dr. Kim Round is Program Chair of Instructional Design and Learning Technology at Western Governors University. These graduate programs serve a variety of stakeholders to include higher education, K-12, public and private sectors. Previously, Kim led Instructional Technology and Design at Saint Anselm College and spent twenty years in various higher ed technology leadership roles. Kim is also on the faculty at Harvard University Extension School and Brandeis University. Kim's Harvard course, "Empowering Adult Online Learning: Theory and Best Practices" attracts learners from around the world. She holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, M.A. in Educational Technology Leadership, Ed.S. in Computing Technology in Education, and a Ph.D. in Computing Technology in Education. On the home front, Kim lives in rural New Hampshire and has been married to her best friend for over thirty years. Together, they two grown sons, a wonderful daughter-in-love and a very sweet golden retriever. 

Kim Round Kim Round

September 1: Practicing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Online

Conversations about race, equity, inclusion, and diversity in general can be a source of tension, especially in the online medium. It doesn’t have to be that way. This session will address implementing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion with so many employees working remotely, how to approach it and grow from the experience. Jason will also discuss how to respond to tough situations or topics and what to do when the “wrong” thing is said.

View recording

Jason R. Thompson is a thought leader in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, having spent the past 25 years building DE&I programs in sports, healthcare, technology, and education organizations. 

His programs have won several awards at the local and international level. Most recently, the D&I Scorecard Jason developed received the top honor in the 2016 International Innovations in Diversity Awards program from Profiles in Diversity Journal, which also recognized him as a Diversity Leader in 2017 and 2018. His work has been highlighted and quoted in USA Today, The Washington Post, CNN, The New York Times, and The Guardian

Jason Thompson Jason Thompson

October 6: Creating Meaningful Goals You Can Achieve

If we know setting goals can help us achieve the life we want, then why is it so hard to stick to them? Between demands at work, balancing your personal life, and everything in middle, it’s easy to make your goals wishful thinking instead of a realistic action plan. For some, setting goals can feel like one more thing for you to do instead of the one thing that can positively impact everything else you do. Learn five steps to create and achieve meaningful goals so you can thrive even in this uncertain season.

Mamie L. Pack is a Senior Faculty Instructor in the Teacher’s College at Western Governors University. An experienced DEI thought leader and strategic planner, Dr. Pack leads cultural training and provides direction on anti bias and inclusive teaching practices. As an educator, Dr. Pack has spent over 20 years amplifying diverse voices in education. From grant writing to teach African American literature in high schools to creating safe spaces for youth, Dr. Pack centers her work around guiding teachers, schools, and organizations to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Focusing her efforts on mentoring, student advocacy, and teacher development, Dr. Pack uses her Ph.D. in Education in Mentoring and a M.Ed. in Divergent Learning to serve as a clinical supervisor and mentor for new teachers entering through alternative certification programs and providing support for military spouses in education. Mamie is passionate about breaking barriers in education.

Mamie Pack

November 3: Multi-Modality Online Learning

This session will utilize a mock lesson plan to teach the "classroom" (the audience) how to incorporate all learning modalities into an interdisciplinary lesson (STEAM). Attendees will be able to craft a lesson plan that uses all learning modalities in an interdisciplinary lesson. Moreover, attendees will understand how to apply multi-modality interdisciplinary learning in an online environment.

Alton James, Ph.D. completed a Bachelor's Degree in English with minors in African American Studies and Music (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor). Following a Master's Degree in Educational Administration from the same institution, Dr. James then completed an Ed.S. and Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Leadership from Wayne State University. Additionally, James taught English, African American History, Choir, and ACT Preparation in Detroit charter schools for four years until a transition to higher education administration. James's service in higher education includes directing a Nursing retention program, managing a Graduate Student Affairs Office, and monitoring legislative and regulatory changes as a Regional Manager of Regulatory Affairs. Currently, James serves as the Senior Manager of Academic Outreach and Engagement at Western Governors University. Additionally, James serves as a policy analyst, researcher, data analyst, Title IX/VAWA/OCR Investigator, an Associate Editor for the Journal of Competency-Based Education, and a Baldrige Performance Excellence Program Reviewer [Southwest Alliance for Excellence (SWAE)]. Dr. James's research interests include (but are not limited to) interventions that improve educational outcomes for all people by dismantling social construct identifiers.

Alton James

December 1: TBD

Dr. Jennie Sanders is the director of faculty experience at Western Governors University. She is responsible for the centralized innovation, strategies, policies, and tools of more than 2,600 course and program faculty members. 

As a first-in-family college graduate, Jennie is passionate about applying data-informed strategies, technology innovations, and social emotional learning skills to make transformative educational experiences accessible to every learner. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cornell University and has over 10 years of experience in higher education serving in leadership, instructional, and curricular design roles. 

Jennie Sanders Jennie Sanders

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