E-Learn day three dawned, as conference closing days generally do, with a mingled mix of sadness and excitement. The sadness comes from the idea that the event is soon to be over. The excitement comes from thinking about how I might begin integrating new ideas learned into daily life.
After a quick stop at the morning snack station, which today featured mini quiche, I headed in for the morning keynote by Pedro De Bruyckere, Urban Myths About E-Learning and Education. You can view De Bruyckere’s slides here: https://theeconomyofmeaning.com/2019/11/07/presentation-urban-myths-about-e-learning-and-education-for-elearn19/.
De Bruyckere began the keynote with a quiz show entitled “Myth, Nuanced, or We don’t know.” In the game, De Bruyckere shared an idea, and we all voted on if it was a myth or not. Some topics received a fairly universal hand raise, while others were decidedly less clear. This variance supported one of De Bruyckere’s central themes: it is exceedingly difficult to tease out truth from colloquial.
De Bruyckere then went on to focus more intentionally on myths in the e-learning world, addressing the idea of technology equating to more equity, opportunity, and ultimately personalized learning. Once again, it turns out that it is exceedingly difficult to tease out truth from speculation. Technology has opened up tremendous opportunities, but access is and continues to be tremendously uneven. A key question when statistics appear should always be “where is the evidence?”, particularly when statistics are used to drive instruction and policy.
De Bruyckere closed out the session with a reminder that things are often more complicated than they appear and encouragement to, even in light of this harsh reality, stay critical and keep searching and trying. There are no great recipes for teaching; instead, look for the “great ingredients” that can make all of the difference. The keynote recording will become available on the AACE YouTube Channel.
I left De Bruyckere’s keynote, feeling a little depressed at just how complicated education is. That said, I was grateful that he chose to be so open. These are topics that resist and instead call for candid engagement, even amidst the complexity.
After the keynote, the day continued much like the previous two days. The one important note was the conference only ran for half a day, ending when the traditional lunch break occurred. Once again, if you would like to see the full schedule of day three via the Academic Experts website, you can do so here: https://academicexperts.org/conf/elearn/2019/.
The first presentation I attended was on the Pedagogical Variation Model. This model endeavors to first identify four distinct types of e-learning students and next increase retention rates by catering to each of the needs of each student type. I teach with a fully online university; thus I am always curious when I hear the words “increase retention.” Next, I attended a session about online instructor presence, looking particularly at how instructors describe their online teacher presence and experience. Once again, given my reality, I was curious to hear how the experiences described resonated with my own experience. It turns out, we agree. Teaching online and conveying presence when geographically dispersed from students is a difficult task. This, coupled with the pressures to be available 24/7 for students, often results in high levels of stress. I left this session with a renewed dedication to keeping a close watch on my stress levels and those on my team. Harkening back to De Bruyckere, if, in this case, the “human ingredients” aren’t in a well-working order, the whole system suffers.
After a morning of sessions trending toward the “heavy” end of the content spectrum, I decided to end my conference on a slightly lighter note. The final session I attended profiled how a team of intrepid academics transformed a paper-based game for medical students into an online game using Qualtrics survey software.
I was initially drawn to the session purely because I thought we might get to play games (spoiler alert: we did. Me and my partner were awesome!). However, as the session unfolded, I became inspired to think about how I might rethink the physical delivery of some of the learning elements in my classroom. Also, inspired by the transformation of Qualtrics from traditional survey software to choose your own adventure game, I became curious about how I might rethink the platforms I use daily.
After all the sessions ended, we gathered as a conference family for one last hurrah with the annual closing reception where we (metaphorically) raised our glasses in celebration of all that happened over the past three days. It never ceases to amaze me that over such a short time, people can move from strangers to colleagues and then to friends. The exotic landscape of New Orleans was the perfect backdrop for this highly collaborative and highly inspiring event. I left E-Learn tremendously thankful to be part of the event and refreshed to go back to my university and try some new ideas so I could report back in 2020. Laissez les bon temps rouler!