The name of our annual conference that brings together members of the QM community from around the world — QM Connect — was chosen because it accurately reflects what happens at the conference. People connect with each other, they connect with the QM team, and they connect with new ideas to help deliver on their online promise.
Each year, nearly 200 individuals take the time to share their experiences — lessons learned, best practices discovered and research explored — in order to help members of the QM community thrive. And thrive they do! Post-conference surveys always reflect the incredible experience attendees have, with many noting how they can’t wait to implement an idea that blossomed at the conference.
Connections made at the conference are also noted in the surveys. Attendees welcome the opportunity to connect with people whose work they know and admire or with individuals from similar institutions on similar journeys. These connections create learning opportunities that significantly impact all involved.
Moving a K-12 Program to Official Reviews
Meghan Roe and Linda Ayres from Launch — Springfield, Missouri’s virtual public school — experienced an impactful connection at the 2018 QM Connect Conference in St. Louis. There, they attended “Michigan Virtual’s Journey with Quality Matters,” presented by Krista Tomaselli and Kristi Peacock. “Their description definitely hooked us,” Meghan shared. “It started, ‘Are you a member of a K-12 organization thinking about embracing Quality Matters?’ At that point, we had been a K-12 member for less than a year and we were trying to decide the best way to use our membership. We knew they were a statewide K-12 virtual school, and we thought we might have a lot of similarities with them and were curious to see what their experience had been.”
Krista and Kristi came to QM Connect to present on their experience with official QM reviews. “In 2015, when we first started to send our courses through the QM process, I was so nervous. I had no idea what to do, and, to be honest, I think I was slightly intimidated by the entire thing,” Krista explained. “Once I submitted the first handful of courses for review, I realized that I was stressing out over nothing. That’s part of why we wanted to present on this topic. We wanted others to know that there is no need to worry. We wanted to eliminate their fears, encourage them to just jump in and embrace the benefits of the QM review process.”
That’s exactly what happened. Before attending the session, Meghan and Linda knew they wanted to submit Launch’s courses for official QM review, but they weren’t sure where to start. “For a while, we said that we would do Internal Reviews using the Rubric, or focus only on alignment first,” Linda detailed. “Those were decent strategies, but Michigan Virtual’s presentation convinced us that we didn’t need to wait until we felt ‘ready’.” Not only did the presentation convince Meghan and Linda to move forward with official reviews, but it also provided them with a strategy. During their presentation, Kristi and Krista shared how their development team divided up the QM Standards and created experts for each Standard. The Launch team implemented a similar system after the conference to help their developers learn more about the QM Rubric and prepare for official reviews.
Hearing about the steps Launch took because of their presentation filled Kristi and Krista with a sense of pride and validation. “The goal of every true teacher is to make a lasting impact on his or her students, so there is nothing more rewarding than knowing that your personal experiences inspired someone to take positive action or to make a difference,” Krista commented. “That’s really what motivates us to present at conferences like QM Connect.”
“We want to thank them for sharing their journey at QM Connect,” Meghan said. “We’re pretty sure we’d be spinning our wheels and waiting until the course was ‘perfect’ before submitting it for review. That’s not the point of the Quality Matters review process! Continuous Improvement means that a course is never ‘perfect’ and there’s no time like the present to submit a course for review and make it better. Michigan Virtual reinforced that point for us.”
Paving the Higher Ed Road to Communication
Elizabeth Ledbetter from Chadron State College (CSC) in Nebraska experienced a QM Connect moment while attending a presentation by Todd Conaway, who is currently at the University of Washington Bothell, at QM’s 2016 conference. “For several years, I have followed Todd’s work and wisdom. His authentic, creative approaches to teaching and learning resonate with me as do his advocacy of reflective practice and sharing,” Elizabeth explained. “So, when I had the opportunity to attend the QM Connect Conference and saw Todd Conaway listed as a presenter, I rejoiced in my good fortune and added his presentation to my schedule.”
Todd presented on The March for Best Practice — an innovative communication tool he created to facilitate sharing among faculty. “A few years earlier we had created the 9x9x25 Challenge. It leveraged faculty sharing their teaching practices in online spaces. We were also doing these short videos called the Blackboard 57 Second Tip of the Week,” Todd said. “It was pretty easy to see that the blending of those two ideas could create a really nice place to learn on the web. So we did and The March was born.” Todd brought the idea to QM Connect because he wanted others to know that faculty sharing can take place outside of official training events and that there is a lot of value in sharing experiences outside your own institution.
Elizabeth agreed. “I loved the idea of providing both new and seasoned faculty a virtual space in which to share all the good work they do and learn from each other through showcasing their efforts to support student learning and teaching at CSC. It was also a great way to reach across multiple institutions to tell a collective story!” With a fresh dose of inspiration, Todd’s support and practical resources, Elizabeth created the Route 6 x 6 Challenge, where CSC faculty share best practices and reflections about teaching and learning. Elizabeth noted that their stories and efforts are also highlighted on CSC’s The March for Best Practice website.
Todd was thrilled to hear that his presentation led Elizabeth to embark on a similar endeavor, and Elizabeth is grateful that Todd took the time to share his work. “I want to thank Todd for his willingness to freely share his creative resources and ideas! Your open approach to teaching for learning is refreshing, inspiring, and good for the soul of higher education.” And Todd’s presentation wasn’t the only source of inspiration Elizabeth found at QM Connect. As she shared, “I came away from the conference with a collection of practical resources and ideas that I have been able to incorporate in our teaching and learning endeavors at Chadron State College.”
Have you been inspired by a presentation at a QM conference? Or have you presented and inspired others? If so, let us know! We want to share your story too.