Summer Learning

By Rhonda Gregory, Director of Distributed Education

In late June, TBR academics from across the state convened in Nashville for back-to-back faculty development and networking events.

3D: Dynamic Digital Development

The week started with 3D: Dynamic Digital Development, a conference focused on professional training and support of faculty who develop online courses for TN eCampus. We had two days packed with inspiring keynote speakers, practical breakout sessions centered on instructional strategies for engaging students, and relevant technology tool training workshops.

Summer Academy

This year’s Summer Academy for everyone involved in the Regents Online Campus Collaborative rounded out the week with another day and half of development opportunities. Guests included campus contacts, librarians, distance education directors, instructors, course developers, and the TN eCampus staff. Topics ranged from student engagement and support to accessibility and D2L.

Themes & Takeaways

The week was packed with information! Some of it is too much for one simple blog post, so I’ll hit the major highlights that I took away from the week to pique your interest. Then in later posts, I’ll follow up with some more details on a few key areas that I believe will help us improve the way we teach distance education at Vol State.


Thanks to Dr. Fair Josey and Leonia Houston from the University of Memphis, I learned that Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a holistic approach to learning. Note that this is different than UDI (design for instruction). What’s the difference? It’s our focus. UDL offers us a framework for thinking about how best to help our students learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone. UDL allows for individual variability of our students.


Dr. Thomas J. Tobin from Northeastern Illinois University, keynote speaker at 3D, intrigued the crowd with his suggestion to approach UDL with a “+1” perspective. Why? This approach is incremental and manageable for everyone. Where do you start? Tobin said to begin in one of three places: where students get stuck, where students mess up or fail, or where students ask the most questions. Then, just do “+1” thinking. Add one more way that you are putting information out there or one more way that students can give information back to you.


In the closing keynote at Summer Academy, David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer at Lumen Learning, posited that education equals sharing. Technology has made sharing content more affordable than ever.  Replacing required materials (including the copyrighted textbook) with Open Educational Resources (OER) improves affordability for our students, improves student success, and invigorates pedagogy.

Learn Lab Community

In addition to many other strategic and procedural changes happening at TN eCampus, there is a new approach to professional development and organizational communication that I’m excited to share with everyone. Under the leadership of Tess Beebe Olten, TN eCampus training specialist, the system is transitioning from one-time, one-day training to a performance support model where course developers, instructors, and support personnel can engage in an ongoing process of development. One key aspect of the new model is a new online community, the Learn Lab. The Learn Lab is an inclusive, public-facing e-learning community where members can communicate, network, and problem-solve instructional issues related to online learning. Sign up is easy and free! I encourage everyone who is involved in online education to join.