Pedagogo Podcast S4E3 with Guest John Broome

Pedagogo S4E3: Creating Spaces for a More Connected Higher Ed

Hear Dr. Divya Bheda in conversation with Dr. John Broome, creator of the Higher Ed Learning Collective, an online group designed to aid educators transitioning from face-to-face instruction to online and remote learning.

Guest Bio:

For over 23 years, Dr. John Broome has taught in the Fortune 500, public schools, and for more than a decade, as an award-winning professor, leader, and author at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. His efforts have been recommended by numerous universities and featured on NPR, LinkedIn, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as recommended to UNESCO as an example of collaboration in higher education. This fall, he joined the College of Education at Purdue University Indiana, where he teaches future educators how to be equitable, empathetic, and creative in their classrooms and communities.

When the pandemic forced universities to close and pivot to remote instruction in Spring 2020, Dr. Broome created the Higher Ed Learning Collective Facebook group. This group — formed with the collaboration of several colleagues —  provided a virtual space for faculty from all experience levels to work together to empower and educate each other. More than two years later, this community of global educators has over 42,000 members with an interest in improving higher education around the world.

Transcript:

Announcer:

Pedagogo, the podcast for anyone and everyone in higher education. In today’s episode, we’ll speak with the creator of an online collective that connects those in higher ed, across the country and around the world. Learn how the group has evolved since its creation and some considerations for creating similar collectives. Pedagogo, brought to you by ExamSoft, the digital assessment solution that gives you actionable data for improved learning outcomes. When assessment matters, ExamSoft has you covered.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

I am so happy to have here with us Dr. John Broome. Hi, John.

Dr. John Broome:

Hi, how are you doing?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Good. Thank you for being here.

Dr. John Broome:

It’s- it’s my pleasure.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

(Laughs). Uh, we are- we are gonna actually have a conversation about this amazing collective that he has, he and I think the team put together.

Dr. John Broome:

Yes.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Um, during the pandemic. It’s a Facebook group called the Higher Ed Learning Collective with over 40,000 members, John. Was that- was that right?

Dr. John Broome:

I looked it up today, I think it’s 41,000 now.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Nice. Okay. And so we’re gonna talk about how this community came to be and the purposes that it serves and what we can learn from this big interinstitutional probably intercontinental collective, and what- how we can bring that back into our institutions to create community. So again, thank you, John and welcome. Um, my first question to you is could you tell us the backstory of how this Higher Ed Learning Collective came to be and where it is today?

Dr. John Broome:

Um, so what’s interesting is, the idea for the collective came from my observations from Malaysia.

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Okay.

Dr. John Broome:

I was actually on spring break in- in Kuala Lumpur, my wife was giving a talk at a medical conference.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Uh-huh.

Dr. John Broome:

And I was watching universities close on the west coast from Asia. And-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

This was in 2020 March.

Dr. John Broome:

This is in March 2020.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Wow.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, so I was cleared, we were cleared to go to Malaysia. Um, the- the pandemic was already in Asia.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

From afar, I started watching universities on the west coast close. Um, and you could start to see this cascade happening. When I got back, I- I did this thing called quarantining or self-quarantining, which people thought was weird.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, when I got back to campus, um, I- I literally had my students, uh, put a laptop in the room, all my students came to class and I was online at home.

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and then by Thursday, the university closed.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, know- knowing that, so i- it was March 11, 2020, I’m sitting on my couch watching the news of all these universities closing. And I’m very active on social media, Facebook specifically. I’m connected with almost 5,000 people on Facebook across universities, internationally, across disciplines. And I, honestly, it was just, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a group where we all could help each other?” So it was me sitting on a couch, uh, enjoying a glass of wine.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and thinking to myself, how cool would it be to connect all of my Facebook friends in some sort of group, that we could help each other with this? Uh, and part of it was, um, I’ve never made a Facebook group before, I wasn’t even really in Facebook groups.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and so I… the original name of the group was the 2020 Online Learning Collective.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Okay.

Dr. John Broome:

And it was very specific towards let’s finish this semester and finish how to do this together. And I wanted a space, honestly, that was just pulling from all of our different expertises across higher education, but really pulling from teacher education.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

Uh, because I’ve been trained in online and hybrid pedagogies, a lot of my friends across university- other universities aren’t, people had lots of questions.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and so originally it was just, how can we get together and do this for free and help each other? And so over the years, you know, I’ve been on Facebook for, I don’t know, since it started, you know?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And I had access to it. Um, I’ve constantly added interesting people and friends of friends and different friends of friends, people who I agree with, people I disagree with often.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Of course, regardless of intent, you always create your own silos, right? Your own echo chambers.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

But there’s a lot of space in there for people to push each other’s thinking. So not everyone I’m friends with is in higher education, right? You have people who are, you know, servers in restaurants or work at McDonald’s or are social workers, people across industries and classes and identities I just find really interesting. And so what’s always interesting for me is how some of my friends became friends who would never talk to each other in different circumstances or the like. One of the big things about that for me is understanding how we built similarities through our differences. Um, which is really the way I teach.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Yeah, that’s beautiful. Yeah. Si- similarities through differences. That was the question that I was gonna ask you right there, but we’ll- we’ll get to it. Okay.

Dr. John Broome:

(Laughs).

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And so then you started the group.

Dr. John Broome:

Like on my phone, I learned how to do this through their app.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh, mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

And, um, part of it is, and, you know, there had been more pushing because Zuckerberg has been pushing Facebook groups and Facebook has been pushing making groups.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

(Laughs).

Dr. John Broome:

And that just happened to be happenstance, right? Um, and so I made a group and then I just posted on my wall. And then so people started adding it, oh, that’s pretty cool. And then people started sharing it and I was like, “Uh, I did not think this would happen.” Um-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. You had not set it to be a private group, you had just set it to be a public group.

Dr. John Broome:

I- I set it to be a public group, which is incredibly controversial.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

And I still believe it should be a public group.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Okay.

Dr. John Broome:

And part of that is, nothing is private, right? And so, if nothing is private and anything could be shared or screenshot, maybe you shouldn’t say it or post it, right?

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Maybe those are private conversations and this space should be a professional space to talk about things.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

It’s not a ranting space. This is not YouTube comments, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

This is a space for us across higher education and those outside of, and those who believe in supporting higher education, how do we have professional conversations together?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh. Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Right? That are productive.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

So let me actually go back, now that we’re forward.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Yeah, yes (laughs).

Dr. John Broome:

So by day three, there was already 3000-some people who had signed up for the Facebook group. I was like, “Whoa, this is getting outta control.” And so I literally made a post for Zoom, and I had used Zoom for research before so I was comfortable with it. I was like, “Anyone who wants to come, who wants to help me with this? I need help. I don’t know where this is going, or what we’re doing.” All I know is I wanted to make a space for us to work together on making the transition to online virtual or some forms hybrid learning.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and so a number of people came. They were primary people because this is a collective, it is- it is not my group, it is a group that was made by other people. I wanna say some of their names because they deserve space or recognition for all the hard work they put into this.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Absolutely.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, so, uh, Lydia Kitts, Drew Kemp, Ian O’Bryne, Corrine Hyde, Erika Biga Lee, Kiersten Greene, Crystal Howell, Joaquin Munoz, Freddy Hunter, and Stevie Johnson.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Awesome.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, were a large part of the creation of this entity, this thing,

Dr. Divya Bheda:

A big shout out to all of you. Thank you (laughs). I have benefited from this collective, so personally, yeah.

Dr. John Broome:

That’s wonderful. That’s- that- that is wonderful to hear.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

(Laughs).

Dr. John Broome:

Um, well, because, and we’ll talk about it, there are good things about this and there’re bad things about this.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

 

Dr. John Broome:

And there are things that are helpful about this and things that are not helpful about this. And I’ve seen the roller coaster that it’s been two years since it started. What really sparked my, I guess, aha of like, this is something different than I thought it was gonna be was, there were a number of Australians who were posting about the name of the group. Because of course we know geography, it’s not spring 2020, it’s autumn 2020 in Australia.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And so they’re saying, “Well, your name isn’t equitable across the globe.”

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And that’s fair, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Which I totally thought this would be small and mostly US-based, and some maybe European friends of mine and it started reaching out to be something much bigger.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so that’s actually the first time- the names changed three times.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Okay.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, so the first time it started as the Spring 2020 Online Learning Collective.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

 

Dr. John Broome:

And then as the semester started to wane out, it just became the Online Learning Collective or the OLC.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Okay.

Dr. John Broome:

Which was great, except OLC is the name of a very popular organization. (Laughs).

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Yes, the Online Learning Consortium, yes.

Dr. John Broome:

Who is a wonderful organization and actually during the pandemic supported our collective.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

That’s wonderful to hear.

Dr. John Broome:

And so which we were very happy with, but then it became, well, if we’re really gonna be long term, if this really is for sustainability of our conversations across higher education-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

We probably need to change our name again.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, which was a thing because people liked OLC, we made a logo, people loved the logo, they wanted like pins for their- their bags or conferences and stuff, which is super like, it’s kind of cool and flattering.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Yes. (Laughs).

Dr. John Broome:

And so the last time we changed the name, which is the name is still is, and part of it is just for brevity is the Higher Ed Learning Collective.

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And there was a lot of discussion about changing the name and what it should be inclusive of.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, some people wanted the Faculty Learning Collective. While I understood that, and I understand that perspective, what actually happened was this collective was used by librarians.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And staff and provosts and presidents.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And all people outside of just the faculty perspective or experience, but really across higher ed. And so, and- and be mindful, there were a number of other, they’re not rival groups or competitive groups, other groups starting at the same time, and they’re often led by one person.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm, mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

And for many of them, they burned out really fast, um, in terms of organization and communication and focus.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and I worried ours would too, which is why I really pushed for help in terms of people having roles and being supportive of this. And like, one thing I wanted this to be is focused on the experiences of those in higher education.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

We had discussions, do we allow in K-12 educators?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

I am a teacher education professor.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And my answer was, yes, they do not have a space, they should come too. And so part of that was, folks need to understand that this is the- the focus is higher education. We’re gonna have higher education conversations. We’re not gonna sidebar on other conversations for which there are organizations working on these issues outside of higher ed in K-12 or the like. Um, but higher ed needed a space for this. Um, ’cause as you know, higher ed doesn’t talk to each other a lot. We have-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Within an institution and interinstitutionally too.

Dr. John Broome:

Yes.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right? Yeah.

Dr. John Broome:

It- it’s a huge problem.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

 

Dr. John Broome:

That we have the organization of administration and faculty and staff and libraries and teaching centers and all these entities.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Even within the same school and you never talk to each other. And oftentimes you talk at each other, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And there is like a caste system of the pedigree of people and where their degrees are from or their stature. There’s the inner war faculty between, you know, between tenure track and adjunct and visitor and visiting and all these different disparities.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Well, now why don’t we all just start talking with each other instead of at each other? And part of this really was how about we build a little bit of empathy in the process, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

To start learning the experiences of the challenges of like, funding with our libraries and our support staff, start understanding the experience of the increasing pool of adjuncts and instructors.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And how they were treated and how they’re funded and how they’re scheduled and not rescheduled, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so really it was a space of, yes, let’s talk about how to use Zoom. How do- how do we teach with podcasts, how to use all these different applications right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, right.

Dr. John Broome:

But the one rule I had from the beginning that, and we debated and talked about this and everyone who started the collective was on board with, it was no one can sell anything on the site, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And so other groups like, you know, Canvas can come in, other groups can come in, cool. You can’t sell stuff. You can help us for free, but this needs to be a process by which there is an equity across access within the group, not pitching stuff. But what if you had a space that is someone like Ask Jeeves, for some of us in the older crowd, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Where you literally can come in and ask about instructional questions, assignment questions, assessment questions. How do I do this on my Canvas site?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

You know, how do I do this on Blackboard? And have people respond who have the time to respond and hopefully create a productive, safe space to do it. That is not challenging or ad hominem or attacking and the like, and all this, all sorts of that stuff happens too that you have to deal with.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. I think what I appreciated about the group over time, I’ve- I’ve been in the group I think for a year or so now. But what I’ve appreciated again is that it- it exposes like people are willing or able to be vulnerable, right?

 

Dr. John Broome:

Sure.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And in terms of, we did a research study about a year ago in 2021 one year into the pandemic about how has the pandemic impacted learning, right?

Dr. John Broome:

Sure.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And what we constantly found was people said, “Oh, we’ve had a lot of training. We feel like we’ve had a lot of training, but we don’t know how to use it still. We feel like we still don’t know where to go when we have questions, we still don’t feel ready to use technology the way it should be used, um, from a scope perspective, as well as from a depth, you know, comprehensive application perspective.”

Dr. John Broome:

Sure.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And so it was nice to come into this space where people would do a step-by-step, they would share, these are my tricks and tips and wait, like, I don’t know how- how to do this. Can you all guide me? And then you’d have 20 different ways of doing that, right?

Dr. John Broome:

Yeah.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And so in the higher ed space where we often worry about coming across or not wanting to share that we may be imposters, like we don’t know everything that we should know.

Dr. John Broome:

Sure. Sure.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

We’re scared to be a little vulnerable. I found that this space was a space where you could ask and people were actually helpful, not judgmental, mostly, um, but- but helpful, right.

Dr. John Broome:

Yeah.

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Um, so was- that was wonderful to see. That has been wonderful to see. Yeah.

Dr. John Broome:

So there’s- there’s obviously always judgment in- in some ways.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

(Laughs). Yes.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and to the degree that we’ve had several moderators over the years.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And so to the degree that we can either reign in conversations or address things. I moderate a lot and, um-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, it’s typically when someone makes a comment that you’re just like, “Whoa.”

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

I- I go back and I look up when they join the group, and often it’s within the last few days.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And before a few hundred people jump on board their comments (laughs). I or others try to make a very polite reminder of the kind of space this is, and this is not one of your other Facebook groups, or this is not the comment sections, um, that we- we have these kind of conversations here.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

And you’re welcome to have them and- and challenge folks with evidence or experience, right? Um, but it is- it is not the kind of space where we’re just gonna go after people.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. And framing it, so written communication, right? Framing it in a way that is receivable.

Dr. John Broome:

Yeah.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And framing it in a way that conveys empathy, the empathy that you are talking about, right? So whether something triggers you, how can you respond to it or guide someone’s thinking or challenge someone’s thinking in a way that- that can be respectful still, right?

Dr. John Broome:

Right.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Yes.

Dr. John Broome:

Right. Which is hard for some people who may not, who’ve never been, let’s say someone is a tenured faculty member at a prestigious university.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And they’ve never been talked to like that before. Someone probably wouldn’t respond to one of their, maybe more direct comments at a conference or something.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Well, in this- this space, no someone is gonna speak up and they could be a grad student. They could be a-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

They could be another staff member. And so that’s where what’s interesting with this as kind of interstructural, intrastructural.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

That some of these conversations never really existed before.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

That I- I hope people can glean parts of this from to make sense of in their own experiences in higher education, maybe what the other person across the table or the person who was never invited to the table.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Uh, their experiences are. But also then challenge their own thinking or how they work within the higher education sphere, um, to make it more inclusive for other people.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. So, as I was listening to you, what came up for me is this idea that the power that is there is kind of dissipated, it’s removed, the power differentials in the equation are removed. And so then people are actually able to converse and bring in different points of view to say, you have this perspective and I have this perspective and we can agree to disagree, or we can agree, or we can learn from each other and grow and come to a mutual understanding. And that I think is a powerful space, which goes back to your intention when you started this group, right?

Dr. John Broome:

Yeah. It really is. And you know, how do we work with and learn from each other as opposed to talk at each other? There are so many people who contribute so many wonderful posts and comments who were- never been asked at their own universities who have never been seen as an expert who know the ins-and-outs of pedagogy and they’re not a teacher education professor, right? Who know all these sorts of experiences with teaching through like art integrative instruction and they’re not an art professor, right?

 

Dr. John Broome:

But also like this is a space where they to which the degree they wanna participate and most people just watch and don’t comment or don’t react. Um, ’cause we can look at the analytics on that site too, kind of see like how many people actually use the site, um, is- you have so many people who have so many good ideas and good intentions and there’s no space for them to help anyone. And it- it could be at two o’clock in the morning and you can’t sleep ’cause you’re working on a paper and you go on- on the group and you’re like, “Oh I know the answer to that, let me help them out real quick, um, with that.”

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And- and so that’s- that’s kind of the cool side of part of it, is- is you have so many people without the alphabet soup behind their name who do incredible work, who are not PhDs or EdDs or MFAs.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And they don’t need to be. They have great ideas and great experiences and across and within higher education at their university and other universities, people should listen to them and learn from them. They just haven’t been asked yet because they’re not on stage and they’re not getting paid an honorarium to give a talk.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

So what you said is so amazing again, for people to share their expertise, their innovative ideas, and come in a space together where they can learn together, which is what I think we are talking about today, right? The whole idea of community and learning together. You’ve already shared the importance of having this community where folks can learn from each other where- where there is no power differential necessarily where people can challenge, question, share best practices. Um, what are some challenges to building and sustaining this community given your experience? And how do you build and sustain it when there’s so much difference as well? You said similarities across difference, right? Um, how do you manage that?

Dr. John Broome:

So, I think part of it to understand how to build and maintain communities like this goes a little bit into the timeline of how it began and then how it changed.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

 

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and the challenges with that. So for those folks who joined the group, um, towards the end of summer 2020 saw a very different group than it was previously.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Uh, what was really interesting about the way it started, it was kind of like a Sims world, um, by which we had, we had all these conversations, but we also would webcast out talks, uh, we also would, um, create small spaces for like, you know, people finishing their dissertations, who needs help with practice for their defenses? Who wants people to come to the defenses virtually? Who needs help with, you know, finishing out their semester and getting through all their grading?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and so there’s- there are all sorts of levels of supportive spaces.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Of- of trying to figure out how can we kind of recreate ’cause to the degree we would share each other’s commencement videos or, you know, ’cause no one’s coming to my commencement. And so commencements were virtual, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Wow. Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And so, you know, you had students who’d worked so hard for their graduate degrees or doctorate degrees.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

But no one was coming to their Zoom commencement. We tried to as best as we could kind of create space for people to like help each other and just like be there for each other. It was kind of like a circus (laughs).

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

(Laughs).

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and there was- there was a lot of moving parts. I was too well into it as like a circus leader or like a ringleader in all of this. Um-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

(Laughs).

Dr. John Broome:

And, um, I- I, in the beginning, I- I probably had way too much fun with it, but no, it slowly changed, um, in good ways and in bad ways.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, the- the closer we got out of the semester or towards the end of the semester in 2020-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

You could see the growing frustration of posts and comments. You could see, um, how stressful people were. You can see how tired people were. And there was a lot of push towards negativity.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and one of the things that came up was something that I am not about, is I don’t believe i- I do not believe in shaming students.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so there was a lot of counter discussions about, you know, it’s on the syllabus comments or memes and stuff, in like student shaming and everything. Like that is so old, like that is so tired, to the degree I would make jokes like, that’s so 2019, like we cannot just keep doing this ’cause it’s not beneficial to have shame or fear in instruction, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

It’s- it’s not beneficial. But you could see towards the end of the semester people were like, done.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

So number- numbers did drop, you know, kind of after, ’cause some people just use this and it, and it’s, you know, the point of it, as a I need help getting through my instruction in this semester and the semester’s over.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

You’re not teaching summer school. Cool, I am turning this off, everyone is quarantined, we’re all stuck at home. I don’t need this anymore. Because I mean, we have to be mindful that the collective has not always been a safe space for everyone, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Absolutely. Any space, right?

Dr. John Broome:

Right. And so there are all sorts of challenges with that. And that really kind of shown itself, um, as we got towards the protest of the summer, um, with George Floyd. And so, um, there was a lot of tension within the group. And part of it is, not everyone wants to talk about equity.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

Not everyone wants to talk about social justice issues.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

All of us who were helping leading the collective, that is our background and that is our core.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so when conversations started veering different ways, a number of people in the group don’t wanna talk about that ’cause they’re not comfortable with it, and that’s not the purpose of the group, which I understand. But maybe that should be part of the discussion in higher education as to why some faculty members of color and the like are on so many committees and so overburdened and so overtaxed by their institutions and the requirements for accreditation.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Absolutely.

Dr. John Broome:

Why- why don’t we talk about some of these barriers we have in this space as we’re witnessing the disparity and inequities of those in the protests and the streets.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Right? And so there were evolving conversations that would happen. And as part of this, some peop- some people needed to leave or wanted to leave. So a lot of people didn’t want to have these conversations, and for many of the moderators, and myself included, as the one responsible for this, we were not ready to have the conversations and be able to protect everyone.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so that is a challenge of moderation of any space let alone-

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

At that time it was 20-some thousand, now it’s 41,000.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Is equity isn’t an officer in a building, equity is the protection and the experience of the most vulnerable human in a space.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, yes.

Dr. John Broome:

Right? And so-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

That was so beautifully put (laughs).

Dr. John Broome:

(Laughs).

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Um, that’s part… That was- that was so beautifully put because in any space, right?

Dr. John Broome:

Right.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

It is about the most vulnerable person in that space.

Dr. John Broome:

A challenge within this space is, as someone with the highest algorithm.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

 

Dr. John Broome:

I’m still centered as a white male as my identity.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh, right.

Dr. John Broome:

Right? In terms of power and structure and a like, and for many of those working within the collective, within our structured leadership circle.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Many of us are also white, though of other genders, other identities, and other orientations. There is this burden that’s really hard to make sense of and- and push through. And I- I blame myself for a lot of this. And I- and- and I take ownership of it, which is, it’s the same burden as the faculty member who is overtaxed on the committee as a black female.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Which is yes, we need moderation and moderators.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

We need people to be able to identify, understand the nuances of racism and sexism and ableism. We need to understand how to capture spaces of gaslighting, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And the identity of moderators matters in that space.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

And we would have calls for people across identities to help be moderators.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

And a lot don’t wanna do it. And I don’t blame ’em, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so there’s this- there’s this challenge of, it is a we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t, but those- those as moderators and those myself included, I’m not the victim.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

The person who was attacked on the Facebook wall is the victim, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so as part of this is, there is always an appearance thing. And so, for as much as many of us across the collective who help build it or maintain it would reach out to other spaces to find other people to help moderate, that’s something they gotta deal with every day at work, through microaggressions.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, absolutely.

Dr. John Broome:

Through- through not being awarded institutional grants, to being forgotten to be part of- of committees or task forces, or really purposeful, important things in and outside institutions, but also in their own national organizations.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

Why would they wanna do it here too? Right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

In- in a different way. I don’t want them to be on the front line of this.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Yes.

Dr. John Broome:

Where- where they’re on the front line of all those other things, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Absolutely. Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And so I do take ownership of that and honestly, that was very taxing for me, but I’m not the victim, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so, I would get all sorts of direct messages by people who are upset who are leaving the group and some people of color rightfully leading the group.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

If I don’t feel safe here, I need to go. And I- and I apologize.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And if that’s what you wanna do, we’re trying to do the best we can. And I understand why you’re leaving and I’m sorry you were victimized. And I will do the best I can to make this better.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Okay.

Dr. John Broome:

But there’s only so much that people can do to try to make it better, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so, and that’s actually something in terms of where this group is going.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

So after- after that time, and it wasn’t, I don’t think it was a bad thing after that summer, it became more natural. The conversations people naturally wanted to have as part of the academic calendar of starting the year, changing their syllabus, new software, new modalities, as opposed to, you know, we’re gonna webcast a- a talk on this and we’re going to push this, you know, kind of stuff. Or we wanna do things like, you know, um, that people don’t necessarily wanna do, and I understand.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. Right.

Dr. John Broome:

But as part of that, even now, I am reconsidering. And you know, there has not been a lot of discussion amongst the creators of this in a long time.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Because we- left it naturally to moderation. We have considered, uh, turning off the group more than once.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

 

Dr. John Broome:

Um, just because if there’s not the, um, human power to moderate and protect and guide and delete, uh, there’s so many things on there, all sorts of- of entities trying to get in. And we had to create, we had to change and nuance along the way, is now, you know, we’re- we’re hitting summer 2022.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And you know, part of it is, the group has changed. It’s not just online learning. And one of the reasons we also had to change the name from Online Learning Collective to the Higher Ed Online Learning Collective is because people thought we were for online learning.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

I’m not for online learning. I’m for hybrid pedagogies. I-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

You need to know face-to-face, hybrid, in-person, virtual, remote, hip-hop pedagogy, whatever those pedagogies are.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

Right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And so this is not an organization or group who is pushing the agenda for online solutions to online education. That’s not what this is at all.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, right.

Dr. John Broome:

It would’ve been different if I called it the Virtual Learning Collective.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Because then people probably would’ve understand, oh, we’re just talking about this virtually.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

But as- as the organization has kind of changed, then maybe we need to talk about certain things and push other things. Maybe we do need to have, you know, book clubs, maybe we do need to have, um, featured speakers. Maybe we do need to have… There was talk a long time ago on the backside of this of we should start a journal about liberation in higher education.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

We should start our own forms of publication that we can house, and peer reviewed, and it would look different than the traditional model and timeline of a journal.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Uh, and so, and we started looking towards that. Um, and we started making stuff in the beginning and then we paused and said so many other people are already making like amazing things.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Why don’t we just- why don’t we just push their podcasts? So why don’t we just support what they’re doing? Right?

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Because we can’t center ourselves in all of this. I was actually talking to a fairly prestigious author about would they be interested in an idea like this, like a more of an international book club with their new book and their pedagogy they’re presenting?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, that we have more of an international scale. Now, you know, obviously I want things to be free, but also there is amazing people and people should be paid for their time and their work, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh. Right.

Dr. John Broome:

One of the problems in higher education is how much we do for free as part of our job. And we gotta pay to go to our conferences and the registrations like-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

So but how, and this is something I wanted to do more democratically, as opposed to the way it was originally structured is, what if we had a supportive group? What if we had another committee, um, who- who worked together to figure out what should we be sharing of research and authors that’s focused within higher education that still focuses on instructional pedagogy? Right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

How can we still learn from each other across this, but learn across, you know, the avenues and the directions of more equitable practices, more- more student-focused practices, more, not alternative practices but like, what could be more mainstream or how you can do stuff differently when you teach?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

And so that’s kind of the direction, I’m considering talking to others, those who worked with us in the past, those who haven’t, of what if we use this a little bit more educationally as we should as we’re going into more “normalized” times and still in the pandemic-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Of- of how we improve our practices. It could be our institutional teaching. It could be our research. It could be our epistemologies and ways of thinking differently, but there are all sorts of things we could still do from the president to the staff member, from the librarian to the faculty member, that we could still learn from each other across countries and across disciplines.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, right. It sounds like there’s one unifying goal is to just create the space where people can learn and share. It sounds like the challenges that you’ve faced basically had to do with folks coming in with differences, with different points of view and differences in terms of their ability to feel safe, as well as their ability to interact in a respectful way. So, you talked about some of the challenges that you face as you all are running this group.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

One is differences, different experiences of the same situation that people may sometimes feel attacked or feel silenced, and especially if it’s an equity issue where folks of color, uh, or folks already oppressed by other -isms are already, you know, experiencing this in real life. They don’t need to come to a group and again experience it. And they shouldn’t be the bearers of the mantle of having to educate and correct and everything, right? And so you take that on.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

So you talked about how important moderation is and how important that foundation of equity and equitable way of being is to create and sustain a group, right? You said all of you in the group who lead this group together as a collective have that value of equity. So that- that’s a huge, huge, huge, like that makes me feel better as a person of color. You know, when I think about participating in this group, I say, okay, there’s someone who is committed to this kind of thinking and work. I don’t have to be the one to always educate or to always correct, or I don’t have to engage in that way. There’s someone else who will take that lead and- and do what needs to be done.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Um, the second thing that you talked about, so one was moderation, and then how do we sustain a common goal? And it sounds like over here what’s nice is this naturally evolving common goal of learning, right? Whatever learning that may be, however, wherever that learning phenomenon may be. It may be in how do you calendar your activities or how do you do this online or how do you… What are you hearing about these policies that are coming up?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

But it’s a way, again, for people to have these conversations that in traditional higher ed, you really couldn’t. Like you would have like the hallway conversation of tell me what you do and then you’d maybe get like one example versus over here, you have 15 different examples. So if you could speak to the makeup of the group and what it represents or what the representation is in the group.

Dr. John Broome:

Sure. So I actually ran some numbers today over the past 60 days ’cause.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Unfortunately with, um, Facebook data, you can only go back that far.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Uh-huh.

Dr. John Broome:

Uh, so I can- I can actually speak to the general makeup of the group, which is interesting.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, so of the 41,000, um, the top two countries are United States and Canada. And of that 41,000, they make up around 34,000 of it.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Okay.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and so you have mostly English-speaking first countries, um, followed by United Kingdom and Australia. Um, then what’s interesting is we have the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Cambodia and Mexico. You’ll see countries across Northern Africa and Asia, um, as part of this. And when we think about age and gender-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

What is very interesting for this, and I wish I had the data going back to years ’cause I would wanna see the trends of change over time with maybe age and gender, um, is this is primarily used by folks ages between 24 and 54 who are white females.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh, wow.

Dr. John Broome:

And so that’s the majority user. And so the male-identified user, and this data is pulled from how you’ve identified yourself with Facebook.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

So whether you identify as a woman or as a man, and obviously if you do not, um, if you don’t believe in the- the bifurcation of gender, you might customize your own gender.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, you can do that too. Um, and there’s a small percentage with customized gender.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, but it’s mostly an organization currently used by English-speaking white people.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Across English-speaking countries.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

That’s been a common thing since the beginning.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, one thing that’s interesting with the populations or the cities, they’re mostly major cities that are used. Um, but what’s fascinating is it’ll be like New York and like LA.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

But then it’s Bloomington, Indiana. What’s there?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Indiana University.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Right? And so you’ll see the spaces of like, a major city and then like college towns, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, absolutely.

Dr. John Broome:

And so like who’s actively using it. And the fun thing about Bloomington is they’ve always been top five for using the site, um, since the beginning. And so you’ll have a s- you’ll have a spattering of theirs. And then within the rankings, like number eight in terms of cities is in Cambodia. It’s really interesting our… So and that’s part of what’s interesting with how this kind of spread. Because immediately after it started, other people started picking it up.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

 

Dr. John Broome:

And we were recommended by university libraries and librarians, we were recommended by UNESCO in like week two as an example of how to collaborate in education.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Nice, nice.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, we were… um, so as part of this, you had all sorts of formal recommendations. You would just like Google like our first two names and we’d be on university sites, library sites. Um, and then it was, which was kind of weird, um, it was a few of us were asked to be on, it was a small TV station in Georgia who wanted to do a story on how professors are trying to make sense of what to do. We were in LinkedIn, we were discussed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, but it’s something that was interesting that it just kept spreading. And what we learned was it was university newsletters.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

It was university LISTSERVs.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And it was shared within departmental meetings in universities.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. Yeah.

Dr. John Broome:

And so that’s how it kind of spread a little bit.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. And what it sounds basically from all the recognition that you’ve been receiving, I think what it sounds to me like is there is this need, right? In higher ed for folks to be able to talk across disciplines, across roles, and across institutions, and even within institutions to some extent where they can be vulnerable and ask questions and learn together. And there hasn’t been a space like that in the past.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

There are additional spaces now that have come up with COVID, but there aren’t spaces where you could say, I am trying to do this and can you help me and get like 50 different responses from people saying, “Here’s one option to try, I would do this, and I would do this.” Right? Um, and do it in a way that’s constructive and do it in a way that’s even timely, right?

Dr. John Broome:

Right.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And so it sounds when I think about traditional pre-pandemic ways of being for higher ed, you may or may not in your discipline have a LISTSERV, um, you may or may not be able to pose a question that would get an immediate response on a LISTSERV. There will be a lot of silence possibly, right? Where it’s not immediate, right? The- the response rate over here is immediate.

Dr. John Broome:

Right.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Someone will like, someone will not like, you know, you’ll have a reaction immediately pretty much. And then you would go to conferences to have these kinds of conversations that you’re having now. You’d find that one off, once a year event and you’d go there and you’d try to soak it all in versus over here, you can go in and search any topic in that group and find all the posts related to that topic and then learn from those posts. So-

Dr. John Broome:

That’s all condensed in three days, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

You’re doing all- all that, and then as we know from professional development studies, we use like 3% of it.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, exactly. Where we go to all these conferences, absolutely. So, do you have any other thoughts or messages to share for higher ed folks in terms of, should they be taking this looking to this model to be transferring it or scaling it down or replicating it within their own institutions in some ways?

Dr. John Broome:

Sure. So I think of it as a theoretical model more than a software model.

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Okay. Oh, that’s very interesting.

Dr. John Broome:

Uh, so my background in teacher education really is social learning.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

I am fascinated by communities of practice theory.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And how people work together with a common goal without a timeline to solve, resolve and improve situations, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so I’m also interested within that within, um, I believe it’s called situated peripheral learning.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Uh, which is all the little things you learn in the process of the conversations in the group work, in the comments and the chats, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so under that frame, I think anyone can make whatever they wanna make. You just have to figure out what the purpose is. Is this something you wanna do within your department in Slack?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

 

Dr. John Broome:

Or in Discord? What platform works for you? I mean, the one limitation of a Facebook group is you have to be on Facebook and a lot of people are not on Facebook.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Some people that I’m- I’m real-life friends with joined Facebook to join the collective ’cause they’re working on stuff.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so, you know, part of it, I think is one, what is your purpose and goal? And then two, what is your medium? What space do you need to do this? And part of it is, it could be physical space. We meet in the conference room on Fridays during lunch to talk about this once a month. It could be virtual space, you know? And so… Or it could be other software platforms. And so, um, and then here’s the thing you have to think about is you’re creating boundaries and bounds of what this is and does it have an end date?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Some things need to start and some things need to end. And you know, the- the one thing with this collective is, regardless of my involvement or other people’s involvement, it just keeps going, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

People- people have questions, people want help with assignments, people have challenges with student situations who dunno what to do.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And one of the things that you spoke to, which was really interesting is, let’s be honest. Our grind when we do work often is at like three in the morning or like four in the morning when we’re working on assignments or things, and we have questions and no one is gonna respond to our emails. But you could have a space like this where someone in Cambodia, you know, it’s the middle of their day.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, right.

Dr. John Broome:

And they’re like, “I have an idea for this.” And so that’s kind of the neat thing is it’s this- this has not only removed the boundaries of- of the class system within higher ed and across different entities in higher ed, it also is over time zones, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Yes.

Dr. John Broome:

So, and its purpose is not like this is an instant guarantee. If you have a question, here’s an answer. But oftentimes someone is on it who’s awake, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And may have an idea or an answer, oh, you know what? I don’t know how to do this, but this group has great websites. Here’s a good resource. If you go here, you may be able to find it. And if anything, that could be all you need to get what you need done.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

So whatever your task force or your college or committee wants to do, you have to figure out where it is and what the purpose could be.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

‘Cause the replication of this may not be the best for you, may not be best idea for what you wanna do.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

But it could be on another software platform or another meeting space or whatever.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. And I think what comes up again for me when you are talking about this is also so you- we talked about time not being a barrier, we talked about power differentials not being a barrier, we talked about, um, um, the idea that you could get immediate feedback. But it’s also that everyone doesn’t have to be in the same place at the same time. But you could join in the conversation that’s five days old and still be engaged in it. And you could go back to a five-day old or a 10-day old conversation and still engage with it depending on the post, depending on what you’re seeing and what people have responded.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

So there’s a way in which it is not linear in terms, the interaction doesn’t have to be linear. It is, you dip in and you dip out, which I think is again, it’s so interesting now that as I’m talking to you, as I’m thinking about it, if we can create those kind of spaces where people can dip in and dip out and they are not bound by, you have to be here at this time or you miss out, but you can engage with this material or with this idea or with this conversation in the future. I think that also creates a lot of flexibility and a lot of connections with people, because I go read a comment that someone has written five days ago and I say, “Oh, here is a like-minded person.” And I can network and connect with them.

Dr. John Broome:

Right.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And probably work on an idea with them that I hadn’t thought of before, right?

Dr. John Broome:

That’s- and in- and that s- that space of networking collaboration is fascinating about this.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Because as opposed to the fixed conference, which is in three weeks and three days, and I have four talks and no time to talk to people and I have to go to receptions or whatever it may be, if I can’t afford to go this year, if I don’t have the money, and for most of us, we lost our travel funds

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Yeah.

 

Dr. John Broome:

We’re paying for more of this out of our pocket. We did not get raises or promotions.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And if we did, they were nominal. If-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And that’s the equity piece to a lot of this, which is a lot of people can’t go to that conference every year, or they can’t go to two conferences or they can’t go to the one now in this part of the country and, or they physically can’t go because of the restrictions either a COVID or their own personal health.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And now that is not their fault. One of the interesting things I heard from people in African countries was, in other countries, was Facebook is banned in some places. And how do we replicate this in other platforms, naturally, which is impossible to do.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Well, so in terms- in terms of access and to be inclusive and equitable for this, a person has to have technology.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

They have that access to Facebook, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

And all those things are- are, you know, if Facebook may be free, but the technology is not, the- the internet is not, your phone or computer is not.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And what’s interesting is-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And there is a cost to privacy, too. So, you know-

Dr. John Broome:

Yeah, there is. And- and- and for as- for some people, they do all this on their phone. They don’t even own a computer, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Whatever way they can join or contribute, they do. And some people, and that’s the majority, never post, never react, never comment. They’re just there to observe and learn, or not.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Dip in, learn something, dip out. Some people spend entire days on it, um, doing stuff. And that’s fine. As long as it is not to be profitable, as long as they’re not taking up too much space from other people speaking or talking about issues, as long as they’re not talking over people, that’s fine.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, but some people use it as a place to tell jokes, some people use it as a place to vent, some people use it a place to ask a tech question, and that’s all fine. As long as it benefits the group, then like that’s okay. And when it doesn’t, sometimes we have private offline conversations about comments or the like the moderators don’t have public, that, you know, maybe you are pushing this too hard, or you are talking about this too much. There are a lot of people presenting really good opinions and experiences on this that you may have not have experienced. And we encourage you to listen and to read those posts and maybe not respond to these kind of ways, ’cause it’s not productive, right? And so there is the visual side of all this, and there’s also the behind the scenes side of a lot of this too.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. And everything that you’re saying again, for me speaks to that moderation, the ability to facilitate conversations and facilitate conversation across differences to build similarities, to build learning. I think that it comes back down to that in terms of sustaining a community like this and building it.

Dr. John Broome:

But you know what- you know what a challenge with that is?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Is that most people and I don’t fault them ’cause I’m the same way.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Don’t know how to use Facebook. Just like they know 1% of how to use Microsoft Word.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so they- they don’t understand, and I had to teach myself, they don’t understand how to, for instance, if they see something, how to report something, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so one of the hardest things with moderation is moderators never see it. So I can tell you over the past couple years, there have been hundreds of thousands of posts.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And comments and millions of reactions. Unless someone literally selects the- the report function as a general function or they- they report it based on a rule, moderators never see it. And so there’re all sorts of things that folks don’t report ’cause they don’t know how to, but I don’t fault them.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And they’re all our sorts of conversations that could be productive, but that then go sideways and not be productive that people don’t see.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

So they’re all sort of… Here’s the thing I- here’s… I know what I know, I know what I don’t know, and within this space, I don’t know what I don’t know.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Yes.

Dr. John Broome:

Because of quantity over a potentially quality of comments and posts and reactions.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so I may never know some things that made people leave the site unless they told me, unless they emailed me, unless they DMed me or one of the other moderators or one of the leaders of the group.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

And so there’s all sorts of things. People are like, “Well, why didn’t you do anything?” We never saw it, right? We had… We- we literally had to go search for it and we find it and you’re like, “What do you mean you’ve been talking about this for two days and-”

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Exactly.

Dr. John Broome:

No- no one reported this, but everyone was rightfully upset about it. I don’t wanna put the blame on- on anyone. But part of it is it’s one of those, see something, say something, you know, conversations.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

That’s one thing that’s actually, I- I think that’s one of the things that actually has hurt the collective over time, was there are all sorts of things that moderators weren’t aware of that we should have been aware of, that we could have helped earlier on in ways that are more productive and it could have helped the group benefit of it.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

But it- it’s volunteering, right? You’re doing this on your extra time on your own time. Um, you’re not getting paid for it.

Dr. John Broome:

Yeah.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And I think it goes back to, you have the rules when you join the group, be respectful. This is, you know, you lay out the space, the expectations for the space. But then there’s also the expectations for technology, right?

Dr. John Broome:

Yes.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And a lot of times we- we miss that in terms of, this is what you do when X thing happens, this is what you do when Y thing happens, which is again the same issue in higher ed too. What do you do when? And then we come this group, what do you do when? And so I think it’s just mimicking the same issues and we just need to, you know, lay that out more explicitly somewhere easily accessible somewhere. Um-

 

Dr. John Broome:

That is an amazing parallel because you are a hundred percent right.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

(Laughs).

Dr. John Broome:

And- and that’s one of the things I’ve thought about this summer, is how do we reeducate the group? Do we need to change the rules?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Do we need to be more inclusive to the degree we can across, you know, those who could be identified as leaders within it, those who are moderators within it and more expansive in our way of making sure people are heard and people can have productive conversations in those ways, but it’s the same thing, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Should there be a part of the, join the group, of not just answer these questions and here are the rules, of here’s how the group works.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

And here’s what to do. Like when you see something, here’s what you do. Here’s how you say something.

Dr. John Broome:

Sure.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Um, you know, having that also be part of it. So I wanna just circle back really quickly to one last thing when you talked about students and this is a space for, primarily for faculty staff, like for higher ed for the whole higher ed community. Um, and you talked earlier about how there are some folks who talk about students in the group and then how the moderators have had to intervene and say, we, this is not a space for venting or shaming and blaming. Um, this is a space for learning.

Dr. John Broome:

Yeah.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

When you have felt othered in a community, whether you’re a student, whether you’re a faculty member, whatever, when you have felt that, what would you say to people who wanna leave? What reasons would you offer them to stay in community with each other?

Dr. John Broome:

So that’s a really interesting and challenging question.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And it’s the same reason people leave their academic associations.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And make new ones.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Or splinter off and have other ones, is-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Is where does the burden fall?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And who’s responsible for either improving a group-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

The community, yep.

Dr. John Broome:

Right. Or itself, or s- or starting your own.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And there have been a lot of people over the time, more in the beginning, who have posted why they’re leaving. And that’s fine. And a lot of people would attack them of like, you can go, whatever reason, yada, yada, that’s fine, so it’s your choice, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and I’m not mad at anyone who wants to leave or participate, but it’s your choice. This is all a choice. This is all optional, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And in terms of people’s time, this is all volunteerism, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

In terms of, it’s another way for higher education, we do something for free.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, which is a- a common theme in all this.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

(Laughs)

 

Dr. John Broome:

Um, but people need to make the choice that’s best for them.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And I think it comes back to that, and sometimes what’s best for you is to leave a community. And sometimes what’s best for you, or others who may be like you or not like you, is sustain a community. And it’s- it’s to the degree that, you know, in a person’s choice like that, how much energy do you have and how long do you wanna do this?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And what impact do you think you’ll have? Um, and the impact-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, some great questions there to be asking of yourself.

Dr. John Broome:

Right. And so- and- and here’s the thing with that. Sometimes the biggest impact is you leaving and people know you’ve left, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And you’d say why you left, and maybe other people should go with you, and that’s okay, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. Yeah.

Dr. John Broome:

And so within this space, there’ve been people who left the group but as part of leaving the group, they wanted to start their own group.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

And I’ve supported them. You can post the link, you can post the group, whatever you… We just wanna talk about this small thing right here. Perfect. I hope your group’s successful. This group does this, your group does that. You can be an either group, you can just go to that group, anyone wants to go, that’s fine. But I think a lot of this, it goes back to just the general experiences within higher education is, what is the best thing for you to do?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Right? Where is your energy, your sustainability, where is your wellness in this? Is it better for you to go? Is it better for you to stay and- and to lean in and improve things or change things or encourage others to think differently? And then as with anything, is at what cost, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

For you- you professionally, for you personally. We always have to keep that in mind, right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Which is- which is part of the reason why a lot of people wanted this private and have those conversations start a private group, have those conversations.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Pick up a phone, have those phone calls. That’s fine. But to lean into the fact that nothing with data and software and the internet is ever private.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Anything could be taken as a screenshot and sent to your dean. It could be sent to the professor you are- you are anonymously talking about, right?

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

It could be anything. So you need to reconsider how you have those conversations publicly or privately. And- and then again, that is your choice as a professional.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for those points. Because I think those questions, a lot of times we- we just jump in or make an emotional decision without intellectually thinking through what do I get out of this? How much can I offer? And so- so I love that you’re centering, think through those things before making a decision or make a decision and then think through those things and reconsider your decision. So that’s a great point. Thank you. I just have two more really quick questions.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

So one is, if you’re in a group, a- at least with- with this group, have people wanted to study — when you’ve talked about your interest in communities of practice and that’s your research area and social learning and stuff like that — have people wanted to study when a group works really well or something’s working and you wanna replicate it or you wanna study its efficacy or study like what’s working really well that I can take and, you know, bring best practices or whatever? Have people wanted to study it? Or what would you say to people who wanna learn from the group dynamics or build similar group dynamics or models for ways of being?

Dr. John Broome:

For those who wanna study, um, whether it’s virtual learning spaces and communities or- or personal, um, jokingly, but truthfully I’d say first get an IRB.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and second is- is do it. There have been a lot of graduate students who’ve approached us about studying the group.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And we have let everyone do it who’s wanted to do it.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

It’s about- it’s about the flip side of those in a group wanting to participate within the studies. And so, um, but no, I encourage the studying of social learning spaces like this. I personally have not done it because I haven’t had time to. I’ve always been curious about, um, facets of it. But part of that is I’ve encouraged other people to study it who’ve wanted to. That’s kind of one thing I think we should do more moving forward, is- is what offerings or allowances do we have for people who do wanna study groups like this, or do wanna talk about, or have talks about stuff like this, is, um, to what degree us as researchers are willing to participate in those things.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, that we should. But to my… I- I have not seen any outcomes of any IRB calls or proposals, uh, for participants, um, from this group specifically yet.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

There could be, but I- I have not seen those. Um, I can say that over the two years, there’ve probably been four or five who’ve wanted to.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, and those, and- and as we know how long a research takes and how many studies we work on at the same time.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Yes.

Dr. John Broome:

There could be great data out there. Um, there could be good presentations at conferences already out there.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

 

Dr. John Broome:

Um, I- I just, I personally am not aware of those yet.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

My last question to you is what types of leadership does a community need to sustain itself? What advice would you give people in terms of setting a group like this, or any other group? Like what advice would you give them in terms of how it should be facilitated, directed?

Dr. John Broome:

I think that’s a great question. Um, because I think the way that I originally set it up and how it’s changed over time needs to be considered.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, I think that leadership should be potentially elected or chosen.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm, mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, I think it should be representative of, uh, a variety of identities across race, gender, um, orientation, ability, and the like.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, in consideration.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

I think the structure of it needs to make sense for whatever the mission or the goal of it is to what degree there is governance and organization, to what degree there are those who have particular roles or functions within it, as opposed to which may be more, you know, as a restaurant example, front of the house versus back of the house kind of stuff.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right, right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, because there’s all sorts of stuff in terms of what goes on. And oftentimes in a group like this, you only see moderation.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

As opposed to, um, there could be leadership around the offerings of, you know, talks or seminars or free webinars or professional development. And- and then, but to whom is that for and for what purpose? And does it meet the needs of the organization? Right?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And so, and that’s something that- that should be explored, and that’s something I personally wanna explore more with this group this summer of-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-mmh.

Dr. John Broome:

So it’s been two years and where do we wanna be? And to what degree you wanna participate, where should we go, um, with this?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

And do you wanna have, you know, book clubs? Do you wanna have registrar’s retreats and like registrars talk about issues together? Do you wanna have, um, more just like lecture-bases series or panels on things around what topics and for what needs and-

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. So it’s almost like building beyond Facebook group professional community almost, which has multiple learning professional development opportunities, so to speak.

Dr. John Broome:

Yeah. I think there are several things to consider about leadership of organizations. One is what structure and what purpose best meets the needs of that organization.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

How many people should be involved, at what level should they be involved and for what purposes? Um, do they need to be experts or do they need to be able to, or have willingness to learn in the position?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Broome:

And also for how long? Because there is time in this, there is energy in this, and one has to consider all those things for their own personal and professional growth and wellness.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right.

Dr. John Broome:

Um, so all- I think really all those things need to be considered. Um, but also, is the group of leaders in whatever structure is created, is there diversity among the people? Um, is there… Are there different voices and experiences and stories and counter stories for which are representative for a powerful, but also, um, equitable and- and empathetic purpose of leadership? Um, I think all those things really matter for the health of an organization for themselves currently, but also where they wanna be in the future. Um, so I think- I think there’s a lot of stuff to consider. I would go back to some of those indicators first.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

Right. And I- I- I wanna go back to what you said, someone still has to carry the mantle, right? So if there is a purpose and if there is a goal, the load may be with someone for certain amounts of time, and we need to be willing to take on that and move the group forward towards the goal, move the needle, and then maybe pass on the baton while we recuperate, or we rebuild, re-energize our batteries, recharge our batteries and then come back in.

Dr. Divya Bheda:

So there is an ebb and flow in terms of how we engage group community-building process, so long as we’re able to sustain it. Sometimes we are volun-told, sometimes we take it on, but keeping in mind again, the point that you made around equity around who usually has to carry this burden and how can we lighten the load and how can we do what our part is to make sure that we can move things forward. So I really appreciate your time, John. I appreciate the insights that you’ve shared.

 

Dr. Divya Bheda:

I think what stood out, if I were to pick out a few things that stood out for me in this conversation, one is the importance of communication, the importance of privacy, or the lack thereof, private communication, the responsibility that brings for everyone to communicate in a respectful, empathetic way, uh, the importance of moderation, uh, the importance of knowing how to use a tool or a technology well so that people know what to do in the event of, in the rare occasions, because we’re never necessarily prepared for that, uh, having common ground rules and expectations that people follow, having a common understanding of the purpose of the group, allowing the group to evolve and always checking in whether this group needs to be in existence, or do we need to rethink its purpose?

Dr. Divya Bheda:

You brought up the big, important point about power, right? And how spaces like social media or spaces like this, whether you use Facebook or mighty networks or some other platform or tool, Slack, whatever it may be, but how you can have communication with each other irrespective of power, position, pedigree and learn from differences so that we can build on our similarities. So I wanna end on that wonderful point that you made. Thank you again for your commitment to equity and for commitment to building community.

Dr. John Broome:

Thank you. I really appreciate you inviting me. Um, but also I- I am representing a very large organization for which I am just one small part. Um, but thank you. Thank you for having me today.

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Pedagogo, brought to you by ExamSoft, the digital assessment solution that gives you actionable data for improved learning outcomes. When assessment matters, ExamSoft has you covered. This podcast was produced by Divya Bheda and the ExamSoft team. Audio engineering and editing by Adam Karsten and the A2K productions crew. This podcast is intended as a public service for entertainment and educational purposes only, and is not a legal interpretation nor statement of ExamSoft policy, products or services.

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The views and opinions expressed by the hosts or guests of this show are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of ExamSoft or any of its officials, nor does any appearance on this program imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Additionally, reference to any specific product, service or entity does not constitute an endorsement or a recommendation by ExamSoft. This podcast is the property of ExamSoft Worldwide, LLC, and it’s protected under US and international copyright and trademark laws. No other use including without limitation, reproduction, remission or editing of this podcast may be made without the prior written permission of ExamSoft.

 

Published: May 31, 2022

Updated: October 4, 2022

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