It’s only a few hours before Claire and Vanessa kick off the opening session of eThink Academy’s very first course. “Make the Most of New Features” is the official launch of eThink Education’s latest major initiative, eThink Academy. An effort to add value to the open learning community that’s been years in the making. eThink Academy will provide courses on Moodle and Totara, and the new Moodle Educator Certification Program coming up, with other topics to be added throughout the year to benefit users of both solutions, regardless of LMS provider.
Joining me on such a momentous day highlights how eThink Academy is ready to start, every detail having been carefully thought out for months in advance. From the content —which went through several rounds of feedback and rewriting, often with the involvement of clients— to the expectations around educational outcomes, and the interaction between participants, the attention to detail that went into building eThink Academy reflects the years of accrued insight during the personal journeys of its leaders and a substantial amount of listening to the wants and need of current eThink customers.
The eThink Academy team, led by Director of Support Services, Claire Machia and Client Care Analyst, Vanessa Royce, is ready to energize the Moodle and Totara training space the same way eThink Education, the top Moodle Partner today, is rekindling the enthusiasm for Open Source amongst learning professionals in the Education and Corporate Learning spaces. Joined by Cheryl Patsavos, COO and Co-Founder, Machia and Royce shared some background on what inspired them to create the Academy, the unique value Moodle and Totara users will receive from the courses, and what participants can expect from the Academy moving forward. (Spoiler alert: “celebrity guests” are lined up).
Background: How eThink Academy came to be
For Machia, preparation for this offering started well before she joined eThink 4 years ago. Fresh from her time at Metropolitan College of New York, she was keen to foster a communal atmosphere in her new customer-facing role at eThink. Machia led the development of custom training offerings that expanded upon the comprehensive online learning opportunities eThink clients already enjoyed.
In a sense, eThink Academy is a natural progression of the company’s learning expertise, responding to customer needs and the team’s professional development. When Royce joined eThink 2 years later, she brought 10 years of online teaching experience that was immediately put to good use. Together, Machia and Royce were able to strengthen the quality of eThink’s trainings and work on expanded training solutions. eThink Academy was born.
Machia and Royce’s accumulated knowledge provided fertile ground for eThink Academy. They’ve spent the last few months fine-tuning the offering and incorporating feedback they’ve received from eThink’s large and long-lasting customer base. The main driver was to offer something not previously available among self-paced courses and custom training packages: A communal space, where customers could interact and learn from one another.
This makes the value proposition of eThink Academy’s first two courses, focused on Moodle, sensible and brilliant. There are 3 main features that will make them stand apart:
Time-tested topics and practice
It could be tempting to think of Moodle’s latest innovations and interface enhancements as the driver of excitement among participants. However, thanks to their close connections with customers, eThink knows better. As the team has learned over the years, scalable learner success relies on knowing how to use Moodle’s core components and standard activities, cutting-edge methods and plugins aside. In “Make the Most of New Features”, participants will learn how to use the features and functionality available in Moodle 3.3 to 3.6 to enhance their actual practice.
Case studies drawn from real clients
Over the years, eThink Education has earned the trust of a number of high-profile learning organizations. In their Academy courses, eThink will be featuring case studies based on real examples and business problems that they’ve helped their clients solve. Participants can also vouch for the success of the solutions implemented in real life, a feature few like eThink can deliver.
Guided, yet open forum
It is a paradox veterans in the industry appreciate: Educating educators can be tricky. With eThink Academy, Machia and Royce have created an atmosphere of positive interactions where perspectives can be shared and discussed, but where techniques and approaches are supported by evidence. They understand the value of participation as much as the importance of guided focus in the hopes of fostering productive conversations.
eThink Academy’s course offerings
The first course, “Make the Most of New Features,” is a back-to-basics review of Moodle’s core components and activities. Its main expected outcome is to ensure every participant is making the most out of their current Moodle setup, as efficiently as possible.
The second offering, “Build a Better Moodle Course,” opens the forum further through intensive Q&A, and introduces institutional and business contexts a more direct fashion. An analogy about building a house aligns the course contents into a cohesive structure.
Both courses, as well as upcoming offerings, are packed with up-to-date knowledge about Moodle and insights on the learning process. Each valuable on its own, the eThink Academy courses are designed to provide a higher-end result than the sum of its parts.
eThink Academy will also offer the official Moodle Educator Certification Program. Launching on June 3rd, this competency-based curriculum will allow teachers, instructors, and trainers to develop their digital competencies, advance their Moodle skills, collaborate with a community of innovative instructors, and obtain a certification that acknowledges mastery of teaching and learning goals.
Machia and Royce are working on the future offerings, which will include Totara and programs more closely aligned with Competency-Based Learning, Accessibility, and other elearning topics and issues. The Academy’s offerings will continue to evolve based on feedback from participants on subjects and approaches they’d like to see included.
The syllabus and beyond: eThink’s ‘special sauce’ available to everyone
eThink Academy aligns with eThink Education’s long-term strategy. Most immediately, it will add value to eThink’s existing customer base. Nevertheless, strong emphasis is given to the openness of the invitation, as eThink Academy is available to the general public. No matter who services your Moodle or Totara site, you are welcome to join and are guaranteed to gain valuable skills with eThink’s remarkable expertise.
Patsavos notes that the Academy is a purely educational effort focused on developing Moodle and Totara skills, a response to the need eThink has seen in the market for this type of training around both platforms. She assures participants will get a taste of the above-standard customer service eThink provides, thanks to the team’s genuine interest and excitement in solving real challenges LMS administrators or learning managers face. This is, after all, one of eThink’s most recognizable traits, in no small part thanks to Patsavos. Same goes for one that’s been emphasized since the company’s inception: A culture of “high-touch, high quality” support, or just hands-on friendliness.
All which seeps into the offering, and who you can expect to learn from at eThink Academy. The first class will be helmed by Machia and Royce themselves. On the works, there is talk about bringing in “celebrity guests,” or industry leaders in their respective fields, touching on specific topics.
Kickstarting a learning venture from scratch is always a thrilling experience. It could be a little scary too. But this team has been ready for a long time.
To learn more about eThink Academy, click here.
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This Moodle Practice related post is made possible by: eThink Education, a Certified Moodle Partner that provides a fully-managed Moodle experience including implementation, integration, cloud-hosting, and management services. To learn more about eThink, click here.