The recent 20th annual Online Learning Consortium International Conference, Driving Innovation with Online Learning (#aln14), provided a great opportunity to learn and network with colleagues. I had the privilege of serving as conference chair this year. The key takeaways are that while online learning is 20 years old, the field is continuing to drive innovation throughout campuses whether they serve online, blended or face-to-face students. The keynotes and featured sessions were compelling in promoting the versatility of online learning to support student success in ways that face-to-face alone can’t do. The first keynote “How Brains Learn With Technology” from John Medina, author of Brain Rules, made it clear that online learning is much better positioned to enact what cognitive scientists are finding is needed to positively impact learning.
Our own USM Chancellor, Dr. Brit Kirwan, delivered a detailed and passionate challenge in his remarks during “Looking at the Academic Innovation Landscape: Lessons Learned and Future Possibilities.” He said that higher education leaders, policy makers, and regulators must understand that growth of online is critical to reaching the nation’s college completion goals and improving the success of low-income students. The final keynote speaker, Dave Cormier, addressed “Rhizomatic Learning- The Community is the Curriculum” where a course is set up as a series of challenges and due to its open nature, it engages not only the students but experts in the field and therefore the learning comes from the expertise of the community. This model is dynamic and engaging but it probably won’t work for many courses.
The field of online learning is at a new frontier because of recent research from learning science, the application of analytics to learning and improved technologies, and processes that promise to transform higher education. This transformation requires hard work, experimentation, and the combined expertise of faculty, instructional designers, technologists, and researchers to make it a reality. While there are barriers to realizing large systemic change, and as with any emerging field there are disagreements on how to move forward, UMUC is strategically poised to contribute to meaningful transformational change in higher education. Under the leadership of Dr. Marie Cini, who was named as an OLC Fellow at the conference for her “visionary contributions that have significantly advanced the field of online learning and enabled thousands of people to transform their lives and careers,” and through the work of the Center for Innovation in Learning and Student Success, UMUC is committed to collaborating with colleagues to eliminate those barriers. What do you think will be the biggest challenges we face in online learning? #innovatelearning