I am enjoying my second day at the SLOAN-C International Conference on Online Learning. The program can be found here. The Twitter backchannel at #aln12 has been lively and fun. What is neat is that no one is dominating discussion, and lots of voices are being heard:
The theme this year is Online Learning at a Crossroads…and that has been appropriate. SLOAN-C has been holding this conference for 18 years, and yet never in those 18 years has online learning been so much in the news or so diverse (lots of people differentiating between “traditional online” and experiments like Udacity and other MOOCs).
The keynoter was Sebastian Thrun, who discussed his vision for Udacity. They are offering (a few) high quality courses to the masses for free, and have designed the courses to take advantage of interactive and engaging multimedia content with instant assessment and feedback. A comment worth noting – this individualized approach allows for one to view his course not as a single class with 160,000 students, but rather 160,000 courses each with one student enrolled. I thought that was interesting!
I attended some great sessions yesterday. John Vivio’s “Improving Course Interactions Through Analytics” looked at the analytics currently available in Blackboard and how one might use them for proactive interventions with students. Jeff Seaman discussed the upcoming latest version of the Babson annual survey on online learning, with the interesting comment that after 10 years, there has remained a consistent 12% of academic leaders who do not see online learning as critical for their institution. Alex Pickett and friends discussed “Best Faculty Strategies“. It was a Twitter moment, but after years of tweeting with Alex, I got the chance to meet her face-to-face!
The first day ended with a plenary panel with Jeff Young of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jose Cruz of the Education Trust, Alan Drimmer of the University of Phoenix, and Jack Wilson of the University of Massachusetts. Cruz and Wilson hit homeruns, setting a compassionate case for the use of online learning to better this country. I was disappointed in Drimmer’s remarks. He seemed to be not as prepared and as eloquent as his fellow panel members, and more apologetic than positive about online learning. Perhaps this is because Cruz had just illustrated that for-profits had taken advantage of the disenfranchised populations of this country, charging high tuition and setting up high debt without the retention and successful completion of degrees by for-profit students.
Today, in addition to Thrun’s keynote, I attended a great session by my old colleague Bill Pelz, again teaming with Alex Pickett, to discuss SUNY BLEND.
Jeff Nugent and I had good attendance at our session: From Critique to Community. It is obvious that quite a few of us are trying to figure out the best way to do faculty development for online teaching and learning. Jeff put out a call for other Centers to think about partnering with us to share best practices and processes.
Heading to EPCOT tonight, and then will finish the conference tomorrow.