2020: A Year Redefined

It’s hard to believe we’re wrapping up our fourth year of blogging on Model eLearning. Most years, we take time to reflect on what we’ve written, review our discoveries and research, and celebrate our accomplishments for the year. These reflections resonate even deeper as we look at a year shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our early 2020 posts seem a world away from masks, social distancing, and the remote work environment. In January, Ann looked back at the 2019 Accessible Learning Conference (ALC) and its theme of storytelling—a reminder that student’s untold stories should shape how we remove barriers to learning. Accessibility become even more relevant with the move to remote teaching and learning, and we’re glad we had solid foundations in place.

Days before the first lockdown in Michigan, Dave explored how to define your values and use your resources and talent as an asset to focus on meaningful learning rather than following every new trend. Indeed, in the following days, weeks, and months, the pandemic brought widespread and rapid changes to our everyday lives, and it proved that meaningful learning should continue to be valued.

In these uncertain times, transformational leaders work with flexible teams willing to lean forward into innovation. Like many in L&D, our team experienced a flurry of requests when the pandemic started. Thankfully, we collaborated with the White Library to support the needs of our university’s students, instructors, and programs. We hope to deepen these collaborations long after life returns to normal.

Remote instruction and learning during the pandemic

When face-to-face instruction moved to remote teaching and learning, many instructors became concerned about non-verbal communication in a virtual learning environment. Jess explored the nuances found in non-verbal communication and how to understand it in the digital realm.

Gary taught during the shift to remote teaching and learning, and he acknowledged this unprecedented challenge in our teaching journeys. He encouraged us to come together as we’re all (as educators, support staff, instructional designers, etc.) stronger when we share our experiences and resources. Indeed, when we focus on perceived limitations in modality, we miss the opportunities afforded by constraint.

After the spring semester ended, Gwen inspired us to pause and digest what happened. Even in adversity, we can find opportunity and ways to grow in such times if we purposefully look for it.

Ann found such an opportunity for insight through a faculty book discussion. She shared with us how the metaphors of pilgrimage, garden, and cathedral can help instructional designers and faculty reimagine course design for fall and beyond.

Saying our goodbyes

For nearly eight years, Gary shaped what our team looks like today. He encouraged each one of us to develop our talents, and he never shied away from backing us when we needed it. We will miss Gary’s love of black coffee as well as his innovative spirit and push for a brighter future.

Dave also left the team to pursue an opportunity to establish instructional design at a nearby community college. Dave changed our team for the better, and we’ll miss his measured insight into design solutions (and sarcasm) immensely [Editor’s note: And I’ll miss Dave’s additions to my blog posts—at least the ones I kept in the final drafts.].

Looking forward to a new year

As we reach the end of 2020, I’m reminded of Ann’s post about the importance of slowing down and giving ourselves (and others) grace. Working remotely blurs the boundaries between work and life, and as designers we need to be diligent to prioritize self-care.

COVID-19 shaped the year, but our team always looks for opportunities to improve our design despite tight budgets, busy schedules, and now, a global pandemic. Whether you’re a seasoned instructional designer or looking for ways to get started with instructional design, it’s likely COVID changed your plans for 2020—it certainly changed ours.

But 2021 is a new year. What projects will you start? What will you learn? How will you choose to grow?

Finally, from the team at Model eLearning, we wish you a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!

Author: Jessica Bishop, Instructional Designer

Jessica designs learning content and writes useful, relevant, and meaningful stories to inform the learner’s experience. A Michigan native, she likes crafting, reading, walking, and spending way too much time in the distant corners of the internet.

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