How COOL Saved My Summer: Reflections from our Learning Community
Updated: May 12, 2021
By OLT Facilitator, Clea Mahoney
You don’t need me to tell you that summer 2020 was a challenge for most faculty (and the staff who support them). If you work in higher education, you were right there with us as we frantically rushed to move our courses online, adapted activities for the virtual world beyond our campus-based classrooms, and struggled to reach our learners in different spaces.
Summer 2020 is behind us, but...realistically...will summer 2021 be very different? As institutions continue to monitor CDC guidance and plan for larger “return to campus” initiatives, we can all benefit from a backup plan. By spending 6 weeks in COOL with us, you’ll not only have a solid structure for your course(s) as you head into the fall term — you’ll be supported every step of the way with a lively, caring, fun community of faculty and staff learners.
So, whether you’re teaching this fall or supporting faculty in preparing their fall courses from an instructional design and/or technology perspective, COOL offers something for everyone. In this post, we highlight a few testimonials that folks shared about our summer 2020 experience.
Open to All, Regardless of Expertise
COOL participants came with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Some had never taught a higher education course, period. Some had decades of experience in the classroom but never taught online. Most were somewhere in the middle — confident classroom teachers with a bit of experience in using technology to enhance their teaching. The magic of the COOL Community is that we’ve got something for everyone, and participants learn from each other as well as from expert facilitators.
But don’t take it from me — here’s what past COOL participants have to say:
“Please make COOL a required course for all faculty members, especially those that are scared of technology...Thank you for your diligent and hands-on set of activities that you produced and helped us engage in the process of learning along the rest of the class members.”
“Really great food for thought. I will move forward becoming an ever better teacher.”
“The review of planning classes and teaching in general was great for me as a full-time professor with 12 years under my belt. The course inspired me to go back and rewrite my course outcomes, rethink my 'big picture,' and restructure the content of my classes, as well as gain confidence in my ability to shift to online modality if needed. Much of what was taught in COOL was just as applicable to [classroom-based teaching] and hybrid teaching as to online only.”
A Different Kind of Community
COOL participants commented on how the professional development experience felt so different from other opportunities they engaged with in the past. As a COOL facilitator, this is the one piece of feedback that makes my heart sing, because designing this type of community is difficult and the results often fall flat. By joining COOL, you’ll have a supportive team of facilitators here to cheer you on, push you just the right amount to help you grow your teaching practice, and likely meet some lifelong friends. Expanding your personal learning network beyond peers at your institution provides rich opportunities to learn from diverse viewpoints and perspectives.
Let’s review a few COOL participants’ community shoutouts:
“As both an adjunct and a new instructor (I've taught three semesters), I can't even begin to tell you what a positive impact you've had on me. I seriously considered giving up on teaching this spring. Without a vibrant and supportive collective, or years of experience to fall back on, I honestly wasn't sure I could keep going. I felt alone. Numb. Inept. But, our facilitators, our group of motivated and inspirational learners, wow - you helped me find my feet and my passion.”
“Thank you for the excellent model of an online course. This attention to tone is often not present from other professional learning experiences I have had. The design that sets a sense of community is not easily created. I felt welcomed every time I entered the course and encouraged and invited me to learn.”
“I am planning on joining the fall group because I have been looking for a group of people to talk ‘shop’ and who are interested in thinking about how to improve their teaching practice.”
As you prepare for the summer, take some time to plan for rest, relaxation, and reinvigorating your course design. That third “r” doesn’t have to be a tedious summer project. COOL promises a sustainable, supportive approach to preparing courses that you (or your faculty) will be excited to teach, and we’ve got the power of community to help you cross that finish line for fall with a bit more pep in your step. We hope to see you there!