The History Leadership Institute Seminar is back this year, going virtual after postponing last year due to the pandemic. Rather than trying to duplicate the residential format online, John Marks, Alex Collins, and I considered the online applications available to AASLH as well as best practices for online learning. For example, effective learning doesn’t occur by passively watching presentations continuously for six hours a day. It has to be broken up to keep participants engaged. As a result, we added considerably more time for participants to work on their own through readings and exercises, building on what is presented and discussed in live online sessions. The new format for each topic is:
- 2 hours in a facilitated live session to explore a topic through presentations, discussions, and small breakout groups.
- 2-3 hours on your own to apply the ideas and techniques to your organization or career.
- 1 hour in a facilitated live session to discuss the results, assess what worked (and what didn’t), ask questions, and determine next steps.
We also have time to add readings to provoke discussions, expand perspectives, and add more detail. This week’s session on “You as the Instrument of Change,” Julie Johnson is suggesting the following:
- Dutton, J. E. “Build High-Quality Connections.” In How to be a Positive Leader edited by Jane E. Dutton & Gretchen M. Spreitzer, 11-21. Berrett-Koehler, 2014.
- Freidman, E. H. “The Role of a Leader.” In The Leadership Paradox: Influencing Others by Defining Yourself edited by Gregg Robinson and Mark Rose, 2-6. AuthorHouse, 2006.
- Wasserman, I. “Inclusive Leadership in Complex Times: Leading with Vulnerability and Integrity.” In Inclusive Leadership: Transforming Diverse Lives, Workplaces, and Societies edited by Bernardo M. Ferdman, Jeannie Prime, and Ronald E. Riggio, 83-93. Routledge, 2021.
We’ve also introduced a book to read for the Seminar—that’s a big commitment! After exploring lots of possibilities, I chose Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (2015) by Hermina Ibarra because it focuses on the challenges and opportunities facing mid-career professionals. The big idea is that the typical process of learning—theory, then practice—is actually more effective when reversed. By acting like a leader, you increase your knowledge and understanding, which then affects your thinking. Ibarra argues that, “the paradox of change is that the only way to alter the way we think is by doing the very things our habitual thinking keeps us from doing.” So far, we’ve read two chapters and already had discussions on the importance of shared vision, if our roles at work act more like hubs or bridges, the importance of slack time, the value of expanding your network, and the danger of the competency trap.
The residential Seminar usually doesn’t have time for much reading and thinking on your own. To take advantage of the limited time we have together, we pack the days with sessions. It’s like a marathon where you cover a lot of miles with little time to rest, but in the virtual seminar, it’s more like a moderate hike with a few hills and plenty of benches to enjoy the view. Both have their advantages, but the unanswered question is if the virtual Seminar is a temporary program or if it becomes permanent. We’ll consider this later on in the year.
Finally, we’ve used the Communities feature at AASLH.org to create a sophisticated discussion board (aka Forum) for the Seminar. We’ve shifted from Basecamp and Facebook to a Forum that not only allows posting of discussions, but also sharing documents and planning events. Each cohort has its own Forum to build and maintain its network and we’ll continue to provide it as long as there is interest.
This post is a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening at HLI that will mostly interest HLI/SHA alumni, but if you are wondering about online learning theories and practices, the most helpful sources I’ve found (and that includes my shift to teaching online at George Washington University) are:
- Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes by Flower Darby and James Lang. “Paying attention to the small, everyday decisions we make in teaching represents the best route to successful learning for our students, in almost any learning environment we can imagine.”
- The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips by Judith Boettcher and Rita-Marie Conrad. “Some research suggests that the preferred and most effective model, if possible, is a course that is a blend of asynchronous, synchronous, and face-to-face gatherings.”