From Ideas to Action: Tools for Implementing Learning Innovation

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On 4/18/18 at 8:30am, I attended the Online Learning Conference Session From Ideas to Action: Tools for Implementing Learning Innovation. This was co-presented by Stacy Southerland of the University of Central Oklahoma and Bucky Dodd of the University of Central Oklahoma Institute for Learning Environment Design.

From Ideas to Action: Tools for Implementing Learning Innovation

Brief Abstract

Innovation is a hot topic in education, but how do we make it happen on a practical level? This hands-on, interactive workshop introduces approaches to identifying personal and organizational drivers of innovation and visual mapping techniques for planning and developing successful and sustainable results.

Attendees interested in this session are invited to complete the Learning Environment Innovation Inventory prior to the conference. Of course, you don’t have to complete it to participate in the workshop, and don’t have to attend the workshop if you do complete it; we know plans change! The Inventory can be accessed here until April 11, 2018.


Lead Presenter: Stacy Southerland, University of Central Oklahoma

Stacy Southerland, PhD, is a Professor of Spanish and Faculty Liaison for the Center for eLearning and Connected Environments at the University of Central Oklahoma where she also designs and coordinates UCO’s online Spanish courses. Her research focuses on learning innovation and learner success. She has received international recognition for iniatives in these areas and for her online teaching practices. Dr. Southerland completed her PhD and MA in Spanish literature from Indiana University-Bloomington and her BA in Music and Spanish at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Leveraging The Learning Environment

Innovation is a hot topic in education, but many who aspire to reimagine, renew, even revolutionize  learning, projects, and processes at the personal, team, or organizational level find it challenging to make innovation happen on a practical level. This is due not only to the many components in the innovation landscape that need to be understood, but also to the need for an effective, strategic approach for communicating one’s vision and for decision-making for mapping, planning, and implementing new ideas.

This interactive workshop used many visuals and hands-on demonstrations to guide us through the process of profiling Learning Environment Innovation (LEI) landscapes in order to identify drivers of innovation, promote abundant ideation, and manage promising concepts and move them through the innovation cycle from ideas to action.

We will begin this session by completing a Learning Environment Innovation Inventory (LEii), so I think that’ll be kind of fun..

Our presenter guided us through an exploration of how LEi2 findings inform and influence the innovation cycle of generating and identifying promising ideas and moving them through experimental and development phases that culminate in successful and sustainable operations.

LEI2 Assessment

Here’s a quick screenshot of one assessment screen. I was a little busy, and managing the normal screens, the online presentaition screens viewing, the snipping tools, etc. became very tedious.


The Learning Environment Innovation Inventory (LEI2) is used to help teams and organizations better understand their capacity for innovation specifically related to creating and adopting new ways of learning.

The inventory includes an online assessment used to measure capacity for learning and innovation within a team or organization.

The LEI2 helps to manage the innovation process by measuring the mindset, values, and activities for learning and innovation. It also provides insights into how new approaches to learning move through an innovation lifecycle. The inventory can be administered to teams or across entire organizations.

Here is an example of the data, and how it can be reviewed from a large pool of data (say 10-20 individuals).

The Landscape Report

Breaking down this landscape, we see that there are 3 major items being noted here, the Mindset, and the Values of the organization, and the cycle which can then be used implement the change and innovation which will be most conducive and effective for the group.

The results of the Learning Environment Innovation Inventory are reported in the Learning Environment Innovation Landscape report (example above). This visual report displays the aggregate results of the inventory in three major categories: Mindset, Values, and Cycle.

This report is used exclusively during a live, facilitated design sessions to make decisions about the future of learning environments. It is important to note that while this is available AFTER the initial meeting, the results are discussed directly with clients. Without the human interactions and understanding on the part of  the UCO team, there is a great possibility for distraction, misinterpretation, and incorrect assumptions. Personalized meetings are a MUST.

The results are displayed using color indicators to draw attention to areas that may require planning or discussion.


Interpreting Results

In addition to displaying results of the inventory, the Landscape provides a visual way of interpreting and managing learning innovation.

The example report above shows how insight and potential actions can be developed through interpreting and using the document.

Hovering over these items individually, we see interpretations are revealed transparently. Specifically, in the data organization above, from a mindset perspective, we see that the Efficiency section is very highly noted, and so, Efficiency is a major driver of change and innovation. In this way, organizational change which is communicated as making the organization more efficient will likely be the most acceptable way to see change occur. Similarly, from an organizational and individual values perspective, Information tends to be valued over other learning functions, so clearly presenting the information in a way which is accessible to all will be most effective for this group. In this case, perhaps a central repository of knowledge would be helpful in generating buy-in for change and innovation. Classroom and Online-Asynchronus values were highly associated with this group. Blended learning environments with discussions, year-long journals, and reflective metacognition or performance would likely be an area in which employees would find themselves open to direction.

Looking at Organizational Mindset

Mindset in the Learning Environment Innovation Inventory addresses philosophies of learning, drivers of innovation, and general attitudes towards risk.

The following four elements make up the innovation “DNA” for a learning environment, specifically the strength that cognitive, behavioral, affective, and social aspects of learning bring to the table with your organization, we can learn your organization’s:

  • Assumptions about Learning
  • Innovation Drivers
  • Risk Tolerance
  • Readiness


Looking at Organizational Values

The Values section measures what people naturally value about a learning environment.

This insight can be useful when determining the likelihood a new idea about learning will be accepted or rejected within a particular setting.

There are 2 areas in the Values section: One for looking at values in action and communication, another in learning styles.

Action and Communication

  • Information
  • Dialogue
  • Practice
  • Feedback
  • Evidence

Learning Styles

  • Classroom Learning
  • Online-Asynchronous Learning
  • Online-Synchronus Learning
  • Experimental Learning

The Learning and Implementation Cycle

The Cycle section of the Learning Environment Innovation Inventory measures capacity for growing and advancing learning innovations.

Every learning innovation follows a predictable, four-phased lifecycle. A successful innovation flows through the cycle as it evolves through the idea, experiment, development, and operation stages.

Successful innovations not only complete the cycle, but constantly move around it as they develop and grow.

In the example shown above, we find that experimentation is highly valued, with the control being in the hands of educators. Similarly, moving from a developed solution to operation will be an open and exciting proposition for your team. Unfortunately, moving from a working organizational model to new ideation may be a difficult move for your organization. You should anticipate challenges when implementing a continuous improvement model. It would seem that values are high for items which work and are comfortable. It would likely be highly recommended that this organization implement a greater use and understanding of professional development in an effort to quickly generate new innovative ideas which have worked and can identify pifalls to mitigate risk and find useful experimentation in the business or classroom settings.


What Can We Learn?

By showing us how to leverage their innovation landscape profile to maximize capacity for innovation, and bridge potential barriers identified in the LE2,  I think we gathered some good information on how to plan effective implementation strategies for new ideas.

The Learning Environment Innovation Inventory provides a unique window into understanding and managing innovation within learning environments. This tool offers the most benefit when applied strategically during innovative learning projects.

Generally, it can be used early in a project to help teams and organizations identify their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to advancing new ways of helping people learn. This might occur before implementing a new learning technology or before making major investments in developing a new program.

LEM is a revolutionary visual technique for reimagining and innovating learning environment design. It offers a unique approach that provides education & business organizations with a tool to innovate and energize learning in any environment—online, traditional, or blended, academic or corporate. LEM is engaging, enjoyable, and easy to learn from, but its a proprietary system, so it cannot be learned.

This system uses visualization methods to communicate key components in learning environment models, in the way architectural blueprints communicate building plans. It presents us with a solution to the everyday challenge of communicating effectively about learning design. But, is it an effective technique for envisioning, creating, innovating, or even implementing successful learning experiences?

LEM offers a solution like no other to these challenges. It disrupts the flow of inefficient miscommunication and opens the door to effective idea sharing by way of a simplified language—LEML, a visual, interactive, and engaging process for design.

This design approach serves as a catalyst for effective communication, decision making, and collaboration and fosters innovation. LEM is immensely effective for capturing the essence of instructional designs, bridging communication gaps, and eliminating innovation barriers. It allows designers to present thoughts on an idea canvas and welcome others to engage in the design experience by rearranging and adding to the model to capture ideas as they evolve, all the while inspiring creativity and innovation.

This inclusivity and diversity in collaboration invites valuable insights that might otherwise be missed and enriches the design innovation experience and outcomes. It also enables efficient recording of learning environments and logical, clear presentation of an environment’s context and story. Once a learning environment is modeled, its LEM can be stored and shared, adapted, customized, and enhanced over time. Intentional, strategic, coordinated implementation of LEM can assist educators in advancing the overarching design goal of creating engaging learning experiences and improving learner success. This can only advance growth and innovation in learning environment design.

During this workshop participants I learned how to view and somewhat interpret LEML, a visual toolkit used in LEM. It consisted of four primary features that can be assembled in different configurations to represent learning environments:

  1. Building Blocks: describe the what and how of elements in a learning environment–information, dialogue, feedback, practice, and evidence
  2. Contexts: identify the time, space, and formality of learning spaces—physical, online asynchronous or synchronous, and experiential
  3. Actions: depict three types of connective relationships and flow between building blocks and indicate learner, instructor, or system initiation of actions
  4. Notations: specify supplemental information as needed, such as learning objectives and prerequisites


LEM is iscalable. Its concepts can be easily understood and its use is again, proprietary. New users have a firm grasp of LEM within a few minutes and understand the impact and importance of the innovation just as quickly, because it is presented on a personal level with interpretation. The system’s flexibility allows for adding, removing, or rearranging building blocks with ease, bringing an interactive element to the system that engages and energizes all participants in the design collaboration.


This was a nice show-and-tell, and had some open areas for learning, but it seems an expensive process for some institutions. It was a bit infomercial, a bit informative, but I felt it was a nice product. I don’t think it would work at our institution, but if everyone could participate and then find the results broken down by school-wide, divisional, departmental, staff area, and administration, it could be good. We’re looking at 800 faculty and many more staff, and 74,000 students, so it would probably be too expensive to work with.

Active workshop components gave us an opportunity to:

  • Complete a Learning Environment Innovation Inventory
  • Learn a fun, easy-to-learn and easy-to-use international award-winning visual design technique for clarifying and communicating a vision for and planning innovative learning environments
  • See examples of proven models for innovation
  • Apply LEM and LEML to develop an idea for innovation
  • Obtain feedback on their ideas and LEMs from workshop participants and facilitators
  • Exchange ideas with fellow workshop participants and facilitators

In addition, we obtained access to Learning Environment Modeling Language materials and instructional videos via the presenter websites.


Did it fall short? One of the goals here was to:

This workshop will empower participants to:

  • Determine personal, team, and organization capacities for learning innovation
  • Identify drivers of and barriers to innovation in learning environments
  • Use Learning Environment Modeling to map, plan, and develop innovation initiatives
  • Assess learning innovation operations and outcomes

This was not actually done. I think the problem here comes from the words “Empowered To”. If you are “Empowered To” do something, it does not mean that you can do so, just that you have the power to do it. For instance, I am “Empowered To” fly to Hawaii, I just cannot afford to do so. We were “Empowered To” purchase this system and use it, and I think that this is fair.

All in all, I felt this was a nice presentation and a good use of time.

League of Innovation Learning Summit – My thoughts of Arrival

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The 2016 Learning Summit is being held at the Omni Montelucia in Paradise Valley, Arizona, June 12-15 and is hosted by the Maricopa County Community College District. I arrived this morning with my fellow Wake Technical Community College faculty members, Carla Osborne, Instructor of Advertising and Graphic Design, and Angela Becquette, Dean of Computer Technologies.

The Learning Summit is a working retreat for college teams to connect with colleagues and to share experiences, discuss issues, and explore strategies for overcoming obstacles and meeting challenges related to learning. The 2016 Learning Summit theme is Student Success and Completion. 

I hope to examine effective practices in the five topic areas that are the focus of the program, Specifically:

  • Student Learning Outcomes
  • Student Engagement
  • Faculty and Staff Engagement
  • Organizational Culture
  • Quality, Inquiry, and Accountability

By the way, if you’re interested, download a copy of the Learning Summit draft program.


After an opening plenary session on the first evening, the summit will devote a half-day to each topic over the course of the conference. An interactive Symposium will kick off each half-day session, and be followed by a set of concurrent Forums and Roundtables led by community college educators and scholars. Summit participants such as myself will be engaged as full partners in the Summit since plenary and concurrent sessions are designed to be interactive. That will be fairly exciting.

Each half-day session should end with Conversations about Learning, time designated for college teams to meet and discuss what they have learned and how it may apply to their institutions. Since I’m here with a small team, this will really be a fantastic opportunity to look at how we’re running with models of student success and engagement, but to take a good, long, look at what we can do to improve.

This is going to be fun.