Alumni profile: Lisa McLaughlin

Lisa McLaughlin

Lisa McLaughlin

Lisa McLaughlin (MSI ’08) is director of open knowledge networks at the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, where she spearheads the development and management of ISKME’s open knowledge sharing platforms for K-20 education reform, directs the IT development team, and leads the collaborative development of teaching and learning programs, tools, and services.

Lisa received dual master’s degrees in information science from UMSI and from the School of Social Work in management of human services. She also holds a bachelor of arts in English from the University of Michigan. Her background and interests include social and open innovation, social experience design, and cross-sector collaboration.

Advances in online education have made impressive gains in broadening access to high-quality educational resources in both K-12 and higher education. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) β€” such as those offered by Coursera and Udacity β€” are one example making headlines lately and represent a compelling new model for teaching and learning.

“Open educational resources (OER), freely available and openly licensed teaching and learning materials, have shown great promise in promoting collaboration and social learning,” Lisa says. “However, if I’m a user who is blind, has a slow or no Internet connection, or is an English language learner, how do I access these resources? Today I’d most likely be constrained to only ‘brick and mortar’ institutions and online learning environments that replicate the one-size-fits-all approach found in traditional classrooms. It doesn’t have to be this way, and at ISKME, we are working to change that, as information technology offers tremendous opportunities to customize resources for learners.”

Over the past two years, ISKME has partnered with the FLOE Project at the Inclusive Design Institute to build out Learner Options in OER Commons, the first personalized learner profile tool in an open educational resource environment. These profiles allow users to store information on their access preferences and needs β€” for example, whether they require text-to-speech transformations, translations into different languages, or modifications such as text magnification to enhance visibility. A resource can be recommended to users not just on the basis of its merits for teaching a particular learning objective, but on its capacity to be transformed to meet the needs of learner.

“In cases where content modifications cannot be automated,” Lisa explains, “we’ve built in tools to crowdsource them, such as support for adding video subtitles and captions through communities like Amara. By merging these profiles with the flexible curricular supports that OER provide, such as the ability to freely localize or adapt resources without restrictions, we’re creating a one-size-fits-one approach to digital learning where users are empowered to create the environment in which they learn best.”

She adds that “while we’re very excited at where we are with this work today, it’s really just a jumping off point for where we go next. Our roadmap for the future includes profiles that travel with a learner across devices and learning environments, on and off the Web. While these tools may be challenging to develop, they also have the potential to dramatically increase access to high-quality educational resources for all learners, and particularly for the many learners with access challenges today.”

To keep up with our most recent developments in building inclusive learning environments both online and in the classroom, follow OER Commons on Twitter.

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