How My Role with the Open Course Benefits You

How My Role with the Open Course Benefits You


Eight years ago, in 2015, SAAL put out a call for volunteers to compile topical resources to aid student affairs assessment pros. Content was sorted into seven topics: assessment culture, assessment planning, consulting and critique, success criteria and targets, critical approaches and ethics, data to decisions, and theory-to-practice application. Each topic contained a brief overview, sticking points (common issues), tips for practice, and resources for further learning. Once compiled, SAAL wondered the best way to package and distribute this content. Thankfully, I was able to use my connections with Colorado State University to initiate the process of converting this content into a massive open online course (MOOC). 


Beyond the initial volunteers who compiled the topical content, SAAL was able to recruit other people to help convert PDF content to course-related text, activities, and assessments. This work took place through 2016. We collaborated with Colorado State to hire the initial instructors and launch the first iteration of the course in spring term of 2017. Six course runs and nearly 10,000 course participants later, we have had nearly 30 people from as many institutions who have directly contributed to the course in some way over the years. That number does not reflect the SAAL board and committee members who help shape or endorse course strategy, nor the bright and talented folks who created or contributed literature, templates, or resources to the field which are highlighted as content within PDFs and course modules.


As someone who helped create the initial PDFs, work to translate material to the course, and get hired as one of the initial instructors - and a member of SAAL’s Professional Development Committee (PDC) - I was the defacto leader/SAAL rep for the course. When I became chair for the PDC, this course leadership role solidified and - after serving my term as chair and passing the PDC torch - I assumed the position of Open Course Manager. But what does that mean and what do I do?



Since the creation of the course with Colorado State, a variety of new strategies, competing interests, and resource constraints have required us to seek and manage relationships with different partners over the years. While the course has always been housed and supported by Canvas as the learning environment, I have helped seek out and navigate partnerships with multiple higher education institutions, non-profit organizations, and educational technology providers. This has required negotiating contracts and agreeing to participate or contribute to collaborative webinars, publications, and PD-related strategies to ensure a mutually-beneficial partnership. 


Given my dual role of being an instructor and leading PD efforts within SAAL, I was a liaison and informal leader with the other instructors. I helped project manage our course changes and enhancements year over year to meet deadlines for Canvas, our course partners, and SAAL. In addition to collaboratively enhancing the course materials and instructional techniques over the years, I have also led efforts to hire and onboard new instructors. Thankfully, I work and collaborate with stellar folks who can hold their own and bring amazing experience and diverse perspectives to the course.


As Open Course Manager, I’m the default person to ask questions, make requests, or inquire about strategy regarding the course. I have historically done the majority of marketing, as well as data analysis and reporting work. I’m thankful to have had people offer consistent support for data analysis and reporting (looking at you and the people you’ve been attracting, Vince Nix!), and am hopeful to benefit from SAAL’s new reorganization and board members - not to mention our partners - to elevate and support marketing efforts going forward. 



While I could say more about other hats I might wear for the course, it’s safe to say: I’m your person for all course-related things! Whether you reach out to me directly or to the SAAL email address, I’ll engage to directly respond or help coordinate a response from SAAL. I share all of this background information so folks appreciate the collective effort of many people and organizations who help make the course possible. I also want people to realize we continuously care to tweak, refine, and enhance the course each year in order to make it a better, more current, and more useful experience for all who enroll. 


I’ll close this post by reminding folks this year’s course runs from February 6 - April 2. As the seventh section of the course, we’re excited to maintain a free and self-paced course featuring some re-tooled videos, new personal takes/videos from past course participants, a newly-created small group discussion option by functional area, and a pilot for more regular office-hour type live sessions with instructors. The open course page on SAAL’s website has just about everything you might need: syllabus, instructor info, past course data, course endorsements, resources for taking the course, and - most importantly - registration information


And just in case you look at the course dates and worry your term is too busy or you just don’t have the bandwidth to engage in a course right now - but you’re interested - I encourage you to sign up anyway! From its beginning, the open course was intended to be a resource for people. Enrollment is only open for a certain amount of time each year for the one course run, but you can access the course indefinitely once you are registered. Case in point: participants from our first course in 2017 still have access to that course shell! While I encourage past folks to always sign up for the most recent version to get the latest content, know that enrollment ensures your ability to access the course and its resources at your leisure. 



I hope you benefit from our collective hard work here - whether that’s by engaging while the course runs or whenever it works for you. Register here and, if you have any questions about the course, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Blog written by Joe Levy, Open Course Manager


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