Remote Learner is pleased to announce the winners of our inaugural Idea-A-Thon. The Idea-A-Thon, a contest to spark innovation in online learning, received submissions from learners, educators, and eLearning professionals from across the United States and Canada. The ideas were insightful and diverse and we at Remote Learner enjoyed the opportunity to review all of them. We appreciate how hard the entrants made it for us to select our winners.
Contestants were asked to think about an obstacle or problem they had faced in their eLearning experience and to devise a way to overcome it. Each submitted a brief abstract describing the issue they wanted to address, along with description of their solution and an explanation of its value. Once the submission deadline passed, our team members reviewed each entry and voted on their innovative ideas. Based on those votes, we narrowed the field to five semi-finalist entries. Each semi-finalist participated in a 30 minute Q&A with members of our product and development teams to further review and develop each idea. A second vote followed and we are pleased to share the three winners and their ideas with you now.
Gold Medal: Erin Courville
Erin Courville is an instructional designer at Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire. She works regularly with adjunct instructors at the school and has seen first hand the challenges they face in finding time to both teach and grade. Courville noticed that although the school’s Moodle-based LMS included a lot of time-saving features, Discussion Forums regularly caused headaches for the school’s adjunct faculty.
“Discussion Forums have less functionality for easy grading than other types of activities, such as Assignments. I find that our faculty members create faux assignments to go along with their discussion forums so that they can have a robust grading and feedback environment. This creates a lot of extra time, extra clicking, and extra confusion for everyone,” said Courville.
Courville’s entry offered a number of practical ways to make forum grading significantly easier. She suggested adding the ability to include forum activities in the gradebook, complete with all the grading options of a normal Moodle activity.
“The impact of an update to forums would be immense. This functionality would allow instructors to spend more time interacting in the discussion forum, and make grading less tedious and confusing,” she noted.
Silver Medal: Elyse Crichton
Elyse Crichton is an Instructional Design Technologist at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon. One of her primary objectives is working with the school’s Moodle-based LMS to encourage student retention as a way to encourage student success. She believes a couple of factors were hindering that goal. One of them was a lack of communication between instructors.
“In a university setting there is no teacher lounge to discuss students who may be struggling in multiple areas. There are some safeguards in place – like participation reports – which often help identify at-risk students, but can be too late to intervene and get the student back on track,” she said.
Crichton’s solution was to institute a “stoplight” feature associated with student profiles. Instructors could assign a student a yellow or red alert if the student was falling behind in assignments or attendance. If a given student receives multiple alerts it could trigger an email to their academic advisor or student life representative.
Bronze Medal: Ryan Lahti
Ryan Lahti is an instructor for the Pathway to Adult Secondary School (PASS) at Nunavut Arctic College in Northern Canada. He’s a passionate advocate for improving literacy amongst the indigenous Inuit peoples in Nunavut and is the past recipient of a $55,000 grant from the Love of Reading Foundation to improve literacy initiatives at Aqsarniit Middle School. It’s not surprising, then, that Lahti’s entry focused on ways to make online education more accessible to his students.
“The amount of text on a course page can be overwhelming to students with a low reading ability and/or with a visual impairment. My idea is to integrate a Text-to-Speech (TTS) button into all online courses. Clicking the TTS icon is an insightful, creative and unique tool that improves the learning experience for the end user,” Lahti explained.
Lahti noted that while text reader functions already exist, it needs to be a feature directly integrated into an LMS with zero extra cost.
Remote Learner extends congratulations to our three winners and thanks everyone who entered. We will be working with each of our three winners to explore the best way to bring their ideas to life, whether that be through the our development process or through introductions to partners and collaborators to incorporate these ideas into existing solutions in the marketplace. We are excited to undertake the next phase of this exciting event: turning these ideas into realities.