Digital Education Summit #DES22 Keynote

In late September I had the opportunity to provide the keynote for the Digital Education Summit #DES22 put on by Sam Houston State University Online.

The 11th annual Digital Education Summit, a free, virtual, one-day teaching and learning event promoting best practices and methodologies for online educators in K-12 and higher education. Available on-demand until Friday, October 21.

I very much enjoyed the experience and also presented a session on the LMS market dynamics. The organizers agreed to share the session videos with me to share further. My keynote’s topic played off of and extended my fireside chat with Joe Moreau at OLC in April (credit to Joe for a great title).

Title: Let’s Not Romanticize 2019

Description: Every college and university in the country is trying to figure out how to “get back to normal.” Often this involves resuming predominantly campus-based instruction and support services. As we look back over the years since the beginning of the pandemic, it can be too easy to think fondly about the pre-pandemic “good old days” when instruction in a classroom was comfortable, easy, and effective, and optimal online course design was settled science. However, even in those good old days, we did not have everything figured out. This presentation will discuss the emerging new normal of digital education and how it compares / contrasts with pre-pandemic learning, including the role of key technologies such as the LMS and video conferencing.

Part of the setup was my usage of some AI-generated imagery (let’s admit it – a poor man’s version compared to Michael Feldstein’s work) and how I needed to move beyond past assumptions. A personal highlight was when one of the organizers used Midjourney to capture me providing the virtual keynote from my hotel room in London.

AI image of Phil Hill providing a virtual keynote from a hotel room

With that in mind, here is the keynote video, followed by a transcript.



PHIL HILL: Well, thank you. I appreciate the introduction and looking forward to speaking with you guys today.

The way I start out, one of my favorite phrases, and it comes from software product design, is eating your own dog food. And the idea, obviously, getting into — it’s good to actually try out your own product or your service for your own usage so you get an idea of what other people are doing. And with a topic like “Let’s Not Romanticize 2019”, it certainly seems appropriate for me to actually apply that to myself as well and not just talk about the concept but see where it goes.

So, with that in mind, you’re going to get a slightly different keynote than I’ve provided in different scenarios before. But I think that it’s worth doing.


Now, my business is I do consulting, I do market analysis, but I sort of don’t fit into categories. And the blog is really where most people know me, that was mentioned in the intro video. And in my head, this blog originally on e-Literate, but then more recently it’s PhilOnEdTech, it’s a website. It’s provided for free. But we always had added a newsletter option, as you see on the top right, “Add our Newsletter.” But that was really just to notify people when a blog post came out so they can go to the site and read the blog. Of course, what was much more useful for me was the RSS feed. That’s the way I felt that it would be good for people to consume this content, if you will.

And as we moved over time, I started noticing that a lot of — occasionally, I would meet people, and they’d say, “hey, it’s great to meet you. I read your newsletter.” And I was, “what are you talking about? I have a blog.” Yes, there’s a sign-up for it, but I don’t have a newsletter, per se. I hadn’t joined the Substack generation. Actually, didn’t exist back then. And of course, with RSS, that became a little bit outdated as well. Not as many people use it outside of podcasting. But it just started getting to me where I started looking at data, which I don’t do a whole lot. And in the data, I would say it got to the point where up to four to five times the number of people actually get the blog through the newsletter. So we sent out a full feed of the newsletter. So that means the entire blog post is there. And people are reading it, and then the way they share it is they just forward that email to other people for them to read. And it just got to the point that was the dominant version.

For me, some of the things I have some high resolution graphics. And I initially was thinking, well, that doesn’t fit within a newsletter that’s 600 pixels wide. You need to be able to do more than that, and they even had some interactive stuff. But I really needed to check my assumptions and look at what the feedback was telling me which is, I actually do have a newsletter. It’s not just a blog with an email notification. I actually have a newsletter. And that sort of is forcing me to rethink of how things are distributed and how people would like to be able to get the content.


Now, that’s not the only issue I would point out. I like to do graphics to tell stories as well. And that applies to keynotes. It applies some of the market analysis. So the one you’re looking at right now is one that I’ve done about the OPM market. And I was trying to point the story that you read about the OPM market growing and just going gangbusters. And I was trying to point out, it’s actually a really dangerous, messy market with a lot of challenges in the market. And this was even before this year’s tech downturn. So, I’ve created this Mad Max diagram to liken the market to people pursuing online college program revenue and all the pitfalls and dangers that are there. So, I’ve done this type of graphic.

Well, another thing I’m trying to say is, well, are there other ways to tell stories and not take– which is sort of a rule-based, very time-consuming way to come up with these graphics. So, one thing I started looking at was Midjourney. And Midjourney is this new artificial intelligence-based system to create paintings or images, digital images, just using a prompt on Discord. So, it’s a little bit hard for me to wrap my head around, but it’s a system that would allow me to more quickly generate images that tell a story and use them more often. So, for example, in this view on the left side, one of my initial prompts was –I have an Australian Shepherd, so I typed in a Blue Merle Australian Shepherd in a Picasso style.

And of course, it’s quite good looking like a Blue Merle Australian Shepherd with the exception of the system didn’t understand Blue Merle so it added blue splotches onto the dog, which wasn’t correct. And the Picasso didn’t add too much except for maybe in the background. But so, I’d like to actually apply this and try to use some of these stories. And it’s one thing I’m learning about it and how to think differently using tools that are available today that didn’t used to be available today.

Now, on the right, you can see it actually can produce some amazing imagery if you know how to do the prompts and how to apply them. So you see the prompt on the bottom — and this isn’t from me, it’s from somebody else on the system — that produced this very interesting image on the right. So it’s pretty remarkable what the AI can produce on imagery, and it opens up possibilities to do things. So I’m trying it out. I’m not 100% sure where it’s going to go, but I want to keep pushing forward and trying to learn as I move forward.

And so as I do it, like I said, I’m not quite sure how much these newsletter and this Midjourney is going to affect what I do in the future, but it is causing me to not look backwards but move forward.


Now, where are we in terms of digital education? One of the things that we shared this early on was that COVID and the response to COVID was going to come in phases. It wasn’t just going to be one big change. And the thing I’d point out, phase one — originally did this graphic April 1, 2020 — but phase one was that rapid shift to online that happened in a matter of weeks, which is remarkable. Phase two, we described it as well, most people are online that summer, but we need to readd the basics. There’s a lot that we already know how to do with quality education. We need to put it back into the system. That didn’t necessarily work — well, obviously, it didn’t work perfectly.

But there was a phase of, how do we do things around accessibility, understanding students’ needs and put them back in beyond just that initial shift to remote teaching? And then we predicted some other phases on how the transition is getting back to this emerging new normal. There’s a lot we don’t know about the emerging new normal, but we certainly know that digital education infrastructure, it’s critical. It’s mission critical as far as what you do.

So as you look at these basics, there’s a question about what that means. There was a lot of feedback that we’ve seen that says, online learning was a disaster. And in a lot of cases, what they’re really talking about is emergency remote where people just threw their classes onto Zoom or Microsoft Teams. And there was a lot of negative pushback. And this is sort of a common view that we’ve seen. Online learning was a disaster.

This is not the only place that’s doing it. And I think that’s sort of built into a story that we talk about. And it’s the assumptions. And so a lot of the view right now is, how can we go back to what we know how to do much better? But it’s interesting because if you look at some data, it challenges that assumption.


Now, this is coming from a survey from Wiley University Services. It used to be given through Learning House. And they have a very good survey where they look at online students or recent graduates of online programs to get their direct perceptions. And it’s been a valuable resource over time. Well, it turns out from their reporting that prior to the pandemic, if you said, now that you’ve done an online program, do you have a positive or negative view of it? 86%, and currently, it’s actually increased to 94% even with all the turmoil, all the remote teaching, all the things that are happening, good and bad, it turns out that people’s view, students’ view of online learning has actually increased.

And that’s interesting because it sort of challenges our assumption about this notion of, let’s go back to what we know how to do. There’s more things going on. So if we look deeper, what are some of the other implications as we look at this? Well, we saw a what I consider a remarkable movement, if you will, wherepeople are saying, hey, emergency remote learning is not online learning. And there was this mantra pointing out, hey, what you’re going through with Zoom, that’s not what online learning is. It was actually very successful. I mean, heard this phrase so many times over and over, and it’s a remarkably successful thing.


By the way, this gets back to the Midjourney usage. It’s got some interesting texture to the things. I don’t know what happened to her hands, and it’s interesting that even though I gave it a prompt of emergency remote teaching is not online learning, it couldn’t get the sign right.

Now, to me, I’m realizing that I’m very used to looking at things as a rule-based system. And AI is a different way to think about it. And so I’m learning what it can and can’t do. But in any case, you have this, pretty much a protest that’s sort of taken hold. And that’s absolutely true.

There’s a lot of things that happened that did not take advantage of what the community already knows how to do well. But there’s a risk in that view as well. There was even members of the National Council for Online Education came out and they strongly said the same phrase, emergency remote is not quality online learning.

Where the risk lays is in this, but when done correctly, which has almost a subtle implication that we already know the right way to do online learning. And it negates some of this hey, things are changing, and we need to learn from others as we move forward. So that’s where the risk is. And we have to be careful that we don’t view this as, let’s go back to prepandemic when we knew what was happening and let’s move forward.

Quite often, this got phrased in a way that was in the asynchronous versus synchronous teaching. And as people phrased it, they said, well, Zoom. We don’t want to associate teaching with a synchronous session on Zoom just lecturing, moving the classroom online, which is a great point. One other note, you’ll see here that actually, Zoom is not school.

When I tried that out, the AI was able to get that. And I think it has a much bigger database that it’s trained on that includes those words, Zoom and school. Just something interesting to note that I’m trying to understand as well.


Well, going back to that same survey, you can see that people aren’t wrong. Look at the bottom, basically, which type of program would you prefer, it’s asking online students. And if given the binary choice of asynchronous versus synchronous, 69%, a strong majority of students would prefer asynchronous over synchronous. But of course, this is worded in a way that implies the choice is purelyasynchronous versus purely synchronous Zoom. It doesn’t explicitly do it, but there’s sort of an underlying assumption that happens there.

But that’s not necessarily the choice of a pure either or. And we have a lot ofexperience with this now if we look forward. So if when asked the question, well, how often would you be willing to log in at a specific time basically to get into a synchronous session that’s a discussion or a lecture for each class, how often would you do it within a term?

Well, it’s interesting. 79% of learners would take at least one synchronous session per course. Only 21% said I don’t want anything synchronous within my course.

And that, if you think about it, challenges — it doesn’t say that it’s wrong, but it should cause us to say, there’s some nuance to this anywhere, any time approach to online learning that maybe students don’t always want purely anywhere any time asynchronous versus synchronous. There’s some nuance we need to understand by looking at their preferences.


Now, in our consulting work, we’ve worked with a statewide community college system. And we ask the question — and it’s independent of that survey — but we ask these students across the state, if you were selecting a program section, how important are the following attributes? And one of the attributes was availability of live online meetings with the instructor and/or other students.

And the results were remarkably similar — roughly 79% of students who said it was very important or important that would influence which section that they actually take. So it’s another data point saying that this is interesting, and I think we need to think about this.

Now, why is it important? It’s not just the technology, hey, we should use synchronous.

What I consider the Achilles Heel of online learning over the years has been engagement. There’s a lot of good teaching and learning, but if you look atstudent feedback, one of the biggest complaints, if not the biggest complaint, is a lack of engagement between them and the instructor or between and among students. And that’s been a weakness.

Hey, I like the fact I can do this from home, but I feel disengaged. I need more opportunities.

And one way to look at this is the choice is not necessarily, if you’re talking synchronous, do you now do all lectures on Zoom. It’s do you use what tools are available to increase the availability for engagement. It might be student-to-student group work, it might be discussions.

So the point is, as we look at this data, it’s not that people are clamoring for Zoom lectures. However, there’s permission being given by the majority of students saying, we can explore synchronous along with asynchronous in our classes. And there may be better ways to do things. And it might be a way to increase engagement and really address one of the weaknesses of online learning.


This is one of the biggest examples, in my mind, of where we need to be careful and not romanticize 2019 and the idea of when done correctly — that we know how to do this. And too often, I see people say, don’t look at synchronous. We can’t use it as a tool because students want this. With new students and new data, there are some challenges to those assumptions.

Now, one other area that I would say is important when we say let’s not romanticize 2019 really comes down to adoption, how people adopt technology. Everett Rogers was professor, Ohio State University, Iowa State, in sociology. And he had done what I consider the Bible of social adoption of technology, Diffusion of Innovations. And he looked at originally the idea of why are there certain innovations that work in some cases, they don’t work in others?

This is where you get technology adoption curves is from his work. So for example, that there are different groups of people, types, innovators, technology enthusiasts, early adopters and visionaries on the left side. And these tend to be the people who initially adopt technology. And they’re willing to put up with like 80% solutions. And we’ll fill it in, but we want to push the envelope and try things. Don’t hold us back. But then you also have a majority. And that’s where people tend to be much more conservative. OK, if I’m going to use technology, well, it better work. Don’t make it my life more difficult. I need something consistent. All the way down into what you can call laggards or skeptics. And these people have different needs at different stages of the adoption curve.


Geoffrey Moore wrote in Crossing the Chasm, he sort of augmented this model of how innovations are adopted. And he said, that’s true, but there’s a real chasm between the left side and then the majority and the right side. And this is where a lot of technology-based adoptions fail or people make bad assumptions is because there’s such a big difference between these groups. This chasm is where it’s difficult to cross over.

Now, why is that relevant here? This is a chart looking at IPEDS data. And it’s basically the green line is showing the percentage of students taking at least one fully online course in the US, higher education. And it was already increasing, 26%, 27%, 28%, moving up gradually. And over time, even before the pandemic, we had more than one third of students who were taking at least one online courses.

Well, this also implies that one more than one third of courses, and therefore, one third of faculty members, have direct involvement in online learning and in digital education even if there is a mixed mode. What the pandemic did is it threw almost everybody online. So now, even faculty members and students who had no desire for an online course, they actually did experience digital education in a much stronger way for the past two years. And this has a big impact on the adoption issue that we’re looking for.


So one of the reasons to avoid looking backwards to 2019 is because we’re in a different environment now. We’re in a world where the majority of faculty members, in particular, and staff and students, when they talk about online learning, they’re not just talking about what they read, what they assume, what they’ve seen of somebody down the hallway. In the majority cases, they’ve actually experienced it for better or worse. And that changes a lot of the dynamics.

One of the things that we’ve sort of pointed out is when you’re supporting online programs, whether you’re a vendor, whether you’re a support staff, whether you’re faculty — so you can apply this to students, to faculty different ways –but you no longer get to choose which side of the chasm that you’re going to serve. We’ve always had a digital education, these edtech enthusiasts, the people who are taking– as I said, they’re taking something. They want to move forward. They want to try things out. They want you to give enough of the solution that they can be adventurous.

But now, you have this other group that is fully involved in digital education that are much more mainstream. They want guardrails. They want safety. And so part of what we need to look at with digital education is we’ve got to fully take into account both sides of this chasm with the solutions that we provide and with the designs.


And going back to the synchronous, asynchronous, a lot of these mainstream really experienced education, if you will, by synchronous learning. And not all of it was bad. There are a lot of things that could be applied, such as we’ve talked to some schools where it’s a remote campus. And it allows people to feel connected with each other. So it might be group discussions. It might be office hours. It might be interactions with the faculty and not just, hey, we’re going to do a lecture live at the same time. And we can learn a lot from these groups and what they’ve experienced and the feedback they’re viewing us on digital education and where it can go. So there’s a lot of possibilities that we could learn from based on just purely the adoption and the involvement in this moving forward.

A lot of courses, obviously, and a lot of education is going to go back to face-to-face. We’ll have greater involvement online than we did before. But one of the impacts, most likely, in the digital world, is that I think there’s going to be a greater adoption of hybrid-type of choices. Hey, I have a classroom component, but I’m going to apply what I learned online into my face-to-face course. And so the field of people, practitioners, is really greatly increased because of the pandemic.

We need to think about that — what it means and how to move forward.


Now, this was looking at success rates at California Community Colleges. And one of the things they’ve been working on for a long time is saying –in this case, it’s course success rates, a percentage of students who or the number of students who are doing this face-to-face versus online and what the rate of success. So on the left, the 50% to 70% is how many students on average were getting beyond a D, F, or W. And there is a gap. And one thing we obviously need to acknowledge is there is a gap in performance where online success rates have not equaled face-to-face.That gets overplayed some. It doesn’t take into account the nontraditional student and part time, but there is a gap.

Now, over time, they’ve been closing that gap, not just in California. There are many areas that have done it. So this is also a good way to look at progress. But again, like with the previous things, we have to be careful about the assumptions behind here and that it causes us to look backwards. In this case, it gets into the binary choice of face-to-face versus online, which is not how people are experiencing digital education right now. And there’s a lot more variation, if you will.

And another reason to say, let’s not romanticize 2019, is we need to be honest. It’s not as if face-to-face education was really the gold standard of quality education even before this. So there’s a lot of pushback that we’re trying to replicate face-to-face and we want to equal that success. Well, there are many cases — not all, obviously –but many cases where face-to-face quality was quite questionable. How much engagement do you really get in a large lecture? You can if you really redesign it, but not always. So there’s some assumptions.

And even on the face-to-face side, we shouldn’t be looking back to the way things used to be. And there’s some real quality that we should question and move forward on.


Kevin Kelly works with me. This is from his chart. But he was showing how over time, we’re moving from ‘either or’ to a ‘both and’ situation. And in this case, we’re looking at asynchronous versus synchronous and on-campus versus online. And it’s not just a binary choice of are you face-to-face or are you online. And if you’re online, is the answer oh, that means it’s fully online and asynchronous.

We have a lot of things that are fully online, but they combine synchronous and asynchronous. We saw emergency remote, which was mostly in the top right, fully online but synchronous, but you’re seeing a lot of blending between on-campus and online programs as well that’s growing. And this is going to be one of the impacts of the pandemic is the amount of learning we can take from both sides and apply to richer educational experiences.

In the center, one thing that a lot of schools have tried is a hyflex idea, where you do in-class synchronous lectures available online synchronous, but you also have recorded to do it offline. But the point is, there’s many different options now to us, and a lot of it is based onmixing modalities together. And we need to be careful that we’re not just looking back to a face-to-face versus online binary and doing our data analysis or assumptions based on that.


Now, likewise, we need to look at the can be portion of the — quality online education can be as good or more effective than face-to-face education. I believe in that statement. But I think that we also have to be honest that there’s far too many online courses that really have not been designed well and need to improve. And so we need to expand or increase the percentage of courses that truly are well-supported, have a good pedagogical design, and support online learning.

So in this case, this is from George Washington University. There was a lawsuit based on — this is prepandemic — a graduate program that was online. And some students actually sued after the fact. And this is one of the court documents showing what was presented online. And you can see that what was done is they simply took the overhead transparencies that they would typically use in a lecture, they scanned them in, didn’t even do a good job of scanning them in, and then threw them online. Well, it lost all of the content. Messages is all it says under communication transaction.

Now, face-to-face, I assume there was a good discussion from the instructor and this just was an organizing principle. But it was a form of emergency remote for them. They just threw things online and didn’t rethink the quality design and how things were organized. But the point is that the tendency might be, we know how to do things correctly that we know how to do things quite well, but we need to acknowledge that in too many cases, things were not done well.

And if you look at feedback, there are a lot of poor quality online courses. We need to focus on how do we move forward now to get a greater percentage of these courses that have effective pedagogical designs behind them and try to move forward that way. We need to avoid this type of approach, which was too common, to be quite honest. And we’re making improvements, but we need to be much more aggressive in how we improve online learning. Same with face-to-face and combining them.


Now, what I’d like to show is this is an example of — I did some interviews. And this was a hybrid example. It was adaptive courseware at a community college. And it’s interesting to listen to what the students, how they perceived it. So let’s play this, and I’ll talk a little bit about it.


– Most of the students we talked seem to have internalized the lessons of self-regulated learning and feel empowered to learn.

– It’s really good because for example, say I’m doing a topic, and I’m slower and Vivian is faster than I am. I could work by my own pace and then it’s a professor there that I could raise my hand, excuse me. I don’t understand this. Could you help me with it, because everybody learns at their own pace.

– Yeah, we are typically just sitting down on the computer screen. But we’re sitting next to our own classmates. So if there’s a problem on it, I could ask my classmate. That’s actually the best thing about Alex is that there’s an Explain button right there. As many times as you want, you can hit it. You can ask a friend. You can call the professor. You could ask the sub professor. You could even watch a video. It’s whatever you want. If you don’t get it at that point, then it’s your fault.

– OK.

– The new approach does place new demands on the faculty.

– For me, I would say to my colleague, this is hard work. You cannot, again, sit back and think that it’s going to happen by itself. Your job is to ensure that you speak to each student every day. And when they leave, launch them for the next day or the next class. Your job is to observe that data, look at it closely, and be proactive in what’s going to happen to that student next because you can almost always tell from the data and student behavior, if you are observing students, what’s going to happen next.


PHIL HILL: And I love this video, even though it was done several years ago and it’s in a hybrid format they’re talking about, not just in terms of fully online. But I think so many of the principles apply here. I love listening to how the students react to the various help options– I have somebody over my shoulder. I can hit a Help button. I can talk to my colleagues.

He, Kalid, is describing engagement — that I could engage with my instructor. I can engage with other students. I can engage with the technology. And there are so many different ways to keep me engaged. And I’m not just sitting alone doing work very rotely and not connected to anybody. I just found that fascinating. And they applied it to the self-regulated learning. The point wasn’t the Help button. The point was, I can now manage my own education and it means so much to me.

Another one is what the faculty members were talking about — this is a lot of work. I’d like to tie this. I see a lot of comments in the chat right now that are really going along the same lines. It takes a lot of time for faculty to be involved in a different, more effective way with digital education. Part of that time is the amount of communication to be done.

So for example, the teacher was talking about, you need to be talking to them every day. So the interactions, being available, that’s time consuming. It’s also time consuming to learn a new approach, understand how your past assumptions need to change, and start to see a new way of working. With this type of adaptive learning, consistently when we interviewed faculty, they would say it’d take a full academic term.

And then the second academic term, they would start to have epiphanies. Now I get it. Now I get help my role’s changing and how I can be more effective. So a lot of the points coming in on the chat are talking about, yeah, this gets to professional development opportunities and support for faculty and the ability to really help people go through this process. And that is a very important aspect of this.


So one way to look at this fully resourced teaching and learning is really the most effective. And the modality is almost secondary. So that’s a big part of the way to look at this. I think there was another student talking about students having access.

For them, we talk a lot about the digital divide and whether students have broadband connection. That’s absolutely an issue. But just as much — and you heard this from the students in the interview — they need to think about things differently. They become, and a lot of course designs, much more accountable and responsible for their own learning success. And they need help to think through different ways of doing things. So we need to have greater support for digital education moving forward.

Part of that is ensuring that we have quality course design. Part of it is improving the ability to help faculty members experience things and get over past assumptions and move forward. Part of it’s even helping students deal with this as well. So obviously, we have constrained environments of budget, but we really need to be moving forward and looking at how to increase the effectiveness of what we do.

So one way to look at this is to say, for so long, there’s been a discussion of should we do online learning? I think that was probably one of the most common discussions in the MOOC age, but up through 2019. There was too much discussion of is online education a viable option or is it a shortcut? Is it quality? And there were this type of discussions happening right now.


One way to look at this is for people directly involved in digital education is it’s really no longer disputed that there is a significant argument for online education for a great percentage of students. Not all of them, but for so many of them. And that there’s a growing recognition that, done properly and supported properly, it can be as effective, or even more effective — and we need to get a lot more. But there are so many more people who now have had experience doing this that we’re past that argument.

We don’t need to justify a lot of the work that we do right now for those in the community. And we need to recognize, we’re at the next stage of the evolution. And we need to look forward and say, how do we improve the percentage of courses that are well-designed and successful? How do we increase the ability to support students and move forward?

And so a lot of this is where I think that we actually are at this stage. And we need to think more in terms of not how do we get past the MOOC era– I mean the Zoom era, actually, you could argue both — of education and remote, and how can we get back to what we know? We need to really shift that thinking. And there’s an opportunity.

And I think this summit is a great way of doing this, of saying, OK, how do we move forward? What assumptions have we made in the past that we need to move beyond? And how do we increase the support of students and the success moving forward?


So let me actually make sure there’s some time to ask some questions out there. So are there specific questions on this topic or points that people would like to add? And there’s some great discussions happening with chat. But any question we should pop up?

SPEAKER 2: I just wanted to surface a few questions that have been coming up in the chat for you. So there’s a few different themes in the chat that I’m following one of which is the idea, one instructor said that selecting technology amongst the plethora of choices that are out there has always been a challenge. And along that theme, there was some discussion about the difference between students being, quote unquote, “digital natives” and being familiar with things like an LMS and online learning.

But Paul had a specific question for you. He mentions about integrating new technologies, new instructional technologies in your class, that it can impact teaching evaluations. And he asked, if you integrate new technologies, it might not always work right away. And how do we account for that in faculty reward structures?


PHIL HILL: If you want me to pretend that I can improve HR applications around faculty, I want to be very careful that I know the solutions there. Actually, my main comment is to agree that this is a major issue. A lot of the interviews I’ve done for video and otherwise, this subject that was brought up is a huge thing.

Teachers, for the most part, you don’t like getting embarrassed in class by trying something out that doesn’t work. And it can affect the evaluations, whether it’s student evaluation. So it is risky. So first of all, I’d like to acknowledge, I think that’s a very valid point and a very big risk. Now, how does it get solved?

You are seeing more of a movement where there’s a tenure-track line for teaching positions. And there’s a much richer definition of what is teaching quality or instruction quality. So quite honestly, I don’t have an easy answer to that, other than acknowledging, it’s an excellent point. And I think it holds back adoption because of how evaluations are done. I’ve seen some schools and systems that have definitely improved it. And I think there’s an understanding we need to improve it, but I don’t have a quick answer on how to do it.

SPEAKER 2: Another trend in the chat early on, Phil, when you were speaking was talking about the need for adding synchronous sessions and opportunities to connect synchronously to the learning experiences. And one of the questions that came up, there was a lot of sharing, but one of the questions came up was if you have any advice for perhaps how to go about scheduling those in a way that’s accessible to most or all of your students who may have been expecting a more, perhaps, asynchronous schedule?


PHIL HILL: Well, the first thing I would do — and I tried to tie these two subjects together — keep in mind, I think that one of the greatest values or potentials for synchronous sessions is to increase engagement. And so think in terms of engagement. Don’t — yes, I’m not completely discounting lectures and the value of people hearing you talk and being able to do the chat, like we’re doing right now.

That chat is increasing engagement. It’s allowing a Q&A. So if it’s going to be a lecture, you need to have a very well-thought-out ability to have students interacting with each other and with you. But having said that, don’t limit yourself to just official times and official lectures.

Keep in mind that from the survey data, students didn’t say, hey, I’d be willing to do — 79% said I’d be willing to do this every week or multiple times a week. They said up to five times based on the way the survey question. So carefully choosing an area where there could be a lot of interaction between students and between faculty members is the key way to think about it.

And usually, that’s going to be a special lecture or not a lecture at all. It’s going to be office hours. It’s going to be group discussions, something that’s very interactive in nature. So how to schedule it?

The first thing — I would look at two areas. One is, where is it most appropriate within the course design to really get students involved and make sure they’re not just sitting back going through things by rote. Where is it most appropriate to help them with engagement? So scheduling it that way. The second is time zone and working hours.

You need to understand if you’re in a fully online program that might have international students or people, you’ve got to look at the time zone issue. And you might have to do multiple sessions at different times just to try to capture everybody. The survey data tends to say that evenings are much better than during the day because there’s a bias of online students to be working adults or students with children they have to deal with. So typically, it’s the evenings.

But it might be across multiple time zones that causes you to have to do multiple sessions. And the other thing is don’t forget the value of group discussions.

Hey, I’m going to get a group of — I’m going to enable a group of students to do a synchronous session where they’re working together and I, as an instructor, am either helping them, monitoring them, or maybe not even directly involved. And what those students grouped by time zone or the hours available, let them choose.

So I guess part of the point is time of day and time of week, you need to be flexible and provide multiple options. So if I just follow the data, don’t do it every week. Do it in select places within your course. And then really give options to try to handle the time of day and the time zone issue. And typically, for working adults, nontraditional students, you’re talking in the evening. So those are some of the pieces of advice that I might say.

SPEAKER 2: Excellent. And just in case there are any other questions that anyone wants to post into the chat. Or I’m not sure if attendees might be able to unmute their microphones now. I’m not sure. But if not, we can certainly see it in the chat.


PHIL HILL: Yeah. And there’s some great ideas getting shared as well.

SPEAKER 2: Phil, I was just going to tell you while people are typing, perhaps, a little bit. I’m also a big fan of Midjourney. And I’ve been amazed of what you can do, and see how the AI generates images. And while you were talking, I actually asked it to create one of you in your hotel room hosting this session. I’ll send it to you later because it’s pretty darn spot-on.

PHIL HILL: You don’t want to pop it up right now.

SPEAKER 2: Oh, I could.Hold on.

PHIL HILL: Hey, as long as we’re doing interactive stuff, let’s push ourselves out of our comfort zone. That might be a good–

SPEAKER 2: Now, I feel bad because I said that it was pretty spot-on. You might not agree. Let’s see. All right, here is what Midjourney–

— imagined you look like in your hotel room hosting this session. So.

PHIL HILL: I like that. I like that. I’m going to do a robe next time I do this. That’s going to–

SPEAKER 2: I think the sunglasses give it definitely like an Agent Smith.

PHIL HILL: Sunglasses in the hotel room. Yeah, that is a funny thing.


But to close it out, part of what I’ve learned — and I’m not trying to say, hey, based on what I’ve learned I know how to do this — but it’s interesting for me to go through this exercise as well. Choosing the right technology — I’m not convinced that I’m going to use Midjourney long term.

But I have thought through, what’s the purpose of it? And conveying a story and being able to do it in a quicker way that could be appropriate just for that context, such as what you just shared, that’s very valuable. And I’m learning. But when I do it, I can’t think the old way that’s very rule-based. I need to go through my assumptions and move it forward.

Likewise, hearing feedback from people, just going back to that original point that people view the PhilOnEdTech as a newsletter probably more often than they view it as a blog, that I need to react to that feedback and deal with it.

And likewise, we have a lot of opportunities — and hopefully, we’ve listed some here — where we can really not look backwards, but look forward and take advantage of the new feedback and the new people involved in digital education as a way to improve what we’re doing and improve student support moving forward.

So it’s difficult work, takes a lot of time, but I think we’re at a very exciting point of time in the edtech world and what the possibilities are. And looking forward to the rest of the conference and people to share ideas on what we could do moving forward.

So thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed this time and the discussion online. I’d like to turn it back to you.


SPEAKER 2: Excellent. Thank you guys for joining. Obviously, this was a fantastic session. Phil Hill, thank you for making that happen. Also thank you everyone for joining us.

Thank you, Patrick, for including that awesome photo, and JT for putting the video through and everything in the background. I encourage everyone to check out some of the sessions today.