Billie and I visited the Willmar Regional Office back in March, and here's our report from the field!



Destination: Willmar Regional Office
 Miles Traveled: 200 mi, round-trip
 Time on road: 4 hours, round-trip
 Tech Team Members: Amy and Billie
Vehicle: Toyota Prius from Fleet Services
Number of times GPS led us astray: at least 3


This was my first trip to Willmar, a facility I had heard so much about! And then when we got there, so many friendly and familiar faces. It just felt like home!
 We did a tech training based on some topics they had identified, including looking at some ed inspiration and video use, plus a technology Q/A, and an informal listening session on what the tech team could do better. This was a fun and engaged group, I'm telling you, Willmar knows what's what!
Things you may not know about Willmar Regional Office: they used to be a full-out asylum I KID YOU NOT, they have a killer patio for picnics/grilling/tanning (weather permitting or approx 2 weeks per year), their offices are ah-mazing and large and sunny etc etc , and they have top secret turkey research on the third floor. (I got to go up there but was not allowed to see any actual turkey research).
 Watch the 6-minute video above to catch up on all our antics and adventures as we report from the field!
What
Last fall I took a class here at the U, Designing Online Learning Environments. One of our final assignments was to create a "recipe" for an online course. Here it is.

[click to enlarge image] 
[text is below also so that Alison doesn't bust me for inaccessibility]



Text version:

Simple Extension E-Learning

INGREDIENTS
An inspiring & optimistic educator
Institutional support
Thoughtful aesthetics
Course goals
Content, cut into chunks
Syllabus
Welcome message
Discussion forum
Assessments
Course evaluation

The simplest of online courses does not take months and $20,000 to create.

With iterative design and the use of institutional tools, the ingredients listed can be combined in a matter of weeks and a first draft course can be launched that meets basic quality standards.

The rapid development and launch allows for integration of learner feedback before too much has been invested in time-consuming media development and interactivity.

Caution: Will get stale if left for more than 1-2 offerings. See "Advanced E-Learning" recipe for added freshness.



This is the kind of assignment where I roll my eyes and make gagging noises when I first read it. A RECIPE? That is so cheezy. I have a B.S. you know. With real Science and stuff. We didn't write RECIPES we did science. Well maybe we wrote Science Recipes but we called them FORMULAS and it was totally different.

But I have been a student here for a long time and I know how to play the game. Do the assignment. Stop making gagging noises. And guess what? It turned out to be totally worthwhile! It was a very thoughtful format for expressing my thoughts on what goes into an online course. I even got so into it that I put "From the Kitchen of: Quick Bytes." HA!

As a bonus, because I am just THAT KIND OF STUDENT, I did two recipes (that is 100% more than was required, just sayin). My second recipe is for Advanced E-Learning. 
recipes2.jpg

Advanced Extension E-Learning

INGREDIENTS
One recipe "Simple E-learning" 
Feedback from learners
Educator introduction video
Welcome video
Recorded seminars/workshops
Synchronous live classes/events
Learner-educator interaction

The recipe for "Simple E-Learning" lays out the most basic ingredients for what will be a quality, successful online experience for learners. 

This recipe adds advanced quality standards, such as multimedia and a wider variety of content delivery channels. Learner-educator is also essential in this recipe, done either in a learning environment, or simply over email or social media.

Must be fine-tuned based on the feedback from the simple recipe.
Caution: Preparation time will be greater for this recipe.

Why
Online Courses have, until relatively recent history, been a massive and expensive undertaking for educators. My purpose here is to encourage us all to Keep it simple. Start small. Don't get paralyzed into doing nothing with your curriculum online by the pursuit of perfection. You can always add to it and make improvements as you go. Think what is the simplest thing you could put online to reach your learners that would jive with the 'simple recipe' above. And do it.
Do what you can
Where you are
With what you have.
--Theodore Roosevelt

How to
The key to this philosophy is that of iterative design. The product you release is never your final ideal product. Constant feedback is informing small enhancements and additions. You involve the learner in the design, through feedback, and that is huge. This is a flexible, inexpensive, forgiving, and efficient way to produce online learning objects. 

Share it!
What is your recipe for Extension online learning? 
What do you agree/disagree with in these recipes? What did I not take into account? (I promise not to make gagging noises.)