OSU Innovate Conference Reflection

Seven people at a white round table at dinnertime. There is a crowd behind them.

OSU Innovate Conference Reflection

By Dave Goodrich, Instructional Designer; Bill Heinrich, Director of Assessment; & Breana Yaklin, Instructional Designer

A couple van loads of Spartans attended the OSU Innovate conference down in Columbus, Ohio on May 16. What a conference it was! We had a lot of good reflective conversations over dinner, while traveling, and around the water cooler. 


Seven people at a white round table at dinnertime. There is a crowd behind them.

Spartans at the OSU Innovate conference

This post is a three-piece reflection from Bill Heinrich, Breana Yaklin and Dave Goodrich. Each of us distilled our own unique reflections and perspectives down into our key takeaways followed by a short narrative. This post is not intended to represent a comprehensive takeaway of the conference itself, but rather a way to share the reflective dialogue that began at The Ohio Union. We invite you to respond, comment, tweet, share, cross-post and reflect with us to keep the good conversations going.

A huge shout out to Ben Scragg and all the amazing folks at OSU who put this conference on so flawlessly. These conversations wouldn’t have been sparked without their hard work and generosity.


heinrich_bill_on-high-value-learningBill’s Thoughts

A Post-Conference Reflection by Bill Heinrich

Bill’s Key Tension: Optimize what we have or Reinvent?

The presence of competing ideas gives me a chance to sort out where I want to be, so I greatly value experiences of cognitive dissonance. In the conference keynote, I was welcomed into Kathryn Finney’s inclusive and transformative work to create a space to meet the needs of a group of black coders, rather than change the people to fit into a space. This idea resonated with me because the Hub, in trying to reinvent MSU as a learning institution, is attempting to transform our institution to meet the needs of learners who have not traditionally succeeded at MSU.

At Innovate OSU, the First Year Experience (FYE) Mentoring presentation was when I first experienced some confusion among big themes present at the conference. I heard the FYE speakers talk about the sophisticated, triangulated descriptive analytics they’re using to help change the services they offer through a campus orientation program. I was impressed with their care and thoughtfulness in reaching out to students who might not otherwise succeed in their institution. But a few ideas they presented led me to believe that they’re focused on optimizing support for “At Risk students” (their term) rather than on the ways the institution should reinvent itself to meet their needs. I worry that if MSU took that approach, we’d only end up reinforcing an idea that some students aren’t expected to succeed in our institution. Good analytics, I fear, without some self-reflective organizational changes, are simply a more efficient box of bandaids.

After just two sessions, I got the sense that not everyone at the conference was taking a deeply transformative approach to education and technology. I’m not sure that in this diversity of approaches we will find inclusion.

The juxtaposition of ideas gave me a lot to think about. Moving forward, the Hub has to decide how it will operate: I believe the Hub is steering toward a more transformative approach to learning and technology–specifically transforming our policies and practices to welcome more kinds of learners. Next, my goal is to personally commit to this vision and see it through to the best of my abilities. Finally, I’m looking forward to implementing this vision with these and other colleagues who are committed to doing this work.


Profile PictureBreana’s Thoughts : Inspiring Change

A Post-Conference Reflection by Breana Yaklin

Breana’s Key Takeaway:  To inspire change, gather necessary voices, and create opportunities for key conversations

In reflecting on my overall experience at OSU Innovate, I’ve been thinking about what we can do to inspire change at MSU. At the Hub, we’re making an effort to do that by incorporating students into our work and gathering student voices. At OSU Innovate, Caroline White and I presented our work on Student Personas, and we’ve had a lot of response from attendees that helped to validate our work. What resonated most with me was the discussion we had around sharing students’ stories, and how sharing our students’ voices is a powerful way to better understand and empathize with students. The strength in these stories stems from the fact that we interviewed our own MSU students and used their quotes in the personas; one attendee pointed out that this is much more powerful than seeing charts of quantitative data or a generic representation of any undergraduate student in America.

Tips for creating inclusive learning spaces: Create a brave space. Stories stay and lessons leave. Speak from your own experience, with honesty. Accept that there are many possibilities and truths. Look for the blind spots. Who you were, are, and will be are not necessarily the same.

Our work to gather student voices is one way we’re working to gather the necessary voices, but we still have a lot of room to grow to create opportunities for key conversations. I attended Dr. Melissa Crum’s session Self-Reflection for Culturally Inclusive Learning Spaces and walked away with a lot to reflect on. Dr. Crum shared the idea of brave spaces versus safe spaces and explained that the intention is to create a space where everyone is brave enough to openly discuss and actively listen to each other. While this has the potential to spark difficult and possibly offensive discussions, by opening the conversation we can create the opportunity to make ourselves vulnerable and better understand each other. At the Hub, we make an effort to share openly and honestly with each other. This distinction between brave spaces and safe spaces could be a useful way for us to reflect and think about how we want to move forward in our conversations and how we want to move forward as a unit. What voices do we still need to gather? What kind of conversations do we want to foster? Do we want to be a brave space or a safe space?


Dave GoodrichDave’s Thoughts : Intrinsic Motivation

A Post-Conference Reflection by Dave Goodrich

Dave’s Key Takeaway: Impact on learning and engagement happens when we move beyond extrinsic motivation and tap into intrinsic motivation.

Tweet: After #InnovateOSU, I'm still processing @amcollier's talk on complexity, @rkniemer's talk on gameful courses, and @KathyrnFinney's keynote.

I’m right there with you, Andrew. In fact, I’ll focus my reflection here specifically on Dr. Rachel Niemer‘s talk on gameful courses. I had first heard that Rachel was going to be doing this featured talk when I met her at OLC Innovate (not to be confused with OSU Innovate) in early April of this year. I was determined to experience Rachel’s talk, “Impact Student Motivation: Make School a Better Game.” Like an educator would do, she started things off by having us talk to the people around us about our understanding of what games are and then define our understanding of education. I happened to have the pleasure of sitting at a table with Tim Nunn who described his definition of games as (and I paraphrase) solving complex problems through compelling invitations for interaction, participation and collaboration. That was not my initial definition of games, but I immediately thought how much I wished that was my gut definition of our current understanding of education. Rachel went on to make a compelling and interesting case for how increasing learning engagement requires us to tap into intrinsic motivation. She helped me better understand why what the literature terms as gameful pedagogy and gameful course design are distinguished from gamification (Ryan & Deci, 2000) in that gamification often emphasizes simply extrinsic motivation factors which end up being more ephemeral engagement strategies in the short and long term. I’m looking forward to learning more about GradeCraft and the research happening at the University of Michigan on these things at the “Going Gameful: Level Up Your Teaching” conference in late July! I hope to see you there!  

So how about you? What were your key takeaways of the OSU Innovate Conference? If your experience was like ours, it was challenging and yet helpful to try and distill it down to one key thing. We would love to hear from you in the comments or on social media to keep the conversations going. 


Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68