Key Takeaways from OLC Accelerate 2016

Guest blog post from Deb Meester, Senior Director of Sales and Service at Atomic Learning.

I’ve been attending higher education conferences for almost 9 years now. In that time, I’ve attended close to 100 conferences. While we all know conferences are a great place to learn and collaborate with others, at every conference I’ve attended, including OLC Accelerate this year, I heard a number of people say that one of the main reasons they come is to visit the exhibit hall.  They want to connect with their existing vendor partners, but they also want to learn about other resources that can help.  On my flight home from Orlando to Minnesota, rather than concentrating on the 6 plus inches of freshly fallen snow that I was going to be flying into, I thought about the conference and what we heard in the exhibit hall.   

One thing I’ve noticed in my years in the exhibit hall is that attendees at the booth will “tell you how it is”. It’s not uncommon for us to hear “yeah, our university doesn’t do that, but we should” or “we aren’t that efficient” or “our faculty don’t do that” and more.  And this year at OLC was no exception. There were some consistent themes or concerns I heard throughout many of our conversations:

  1. Personalized learning appears to be a key topic, both for students and for faculty.  It’s a great concept, but how do we implement?
  2. Our faculty members need professional development, but how can we engage them in that development? Both because their time is limited, but also because they don’t often recognize the need for that development. 
  3. Big data is the thing right now.  We are starting to identify those at risk, but now what do we do?

Those key takeaways were not only heard in my discussions at the booth, but they appeared to be key topics at other areas of the conference as well. I had the opportunity to take part in the Iron Chef competition in the Technology Test Kitchen.  There I had the chance to compete on team M-Power, which included myself and 3 great minds from the instructional design team from the University of Missouri Kansas City (pictured above).  While we were competing in the competition, I scoped out each of the “heats” and noticed these same key takeaways resonated throughout and were present in corresponding recipes designed as well.  For example, the question for our heat was: 

     Design an effective practice that allows faculty to overcome barriers of time, resources or support in order to better engage a meaningful professional development. 

In our solution, which ended up allowing us to advance to the final heat, we used the new Atomic Learning framework of LearnIt. DoIt. ShareIt. ProveIt. and talked about how we’d use this model in face-to-face, blended, and fully online professional development.  The empowering thing was to see how many phone cameras went up to snap shots of this model as we displayed it. It was great to see how people agreed that whether you were using an online resource like Atomic Learning or were working strictly face-to-face, the learning needed to go beyond a “sit and get” approach.

In our exhibit hall conversations, we talked with both current Atomic Learning partners and schools that don’t use Atomic Learning.  We utilized this conference to get the word out about our two sample syllabi around First Year Experience and Online Instructor Certification. Many of our conversations centered around these very topics as well.  Through our conversations, we found that many schools are just in the process of starting to build out their First Year Experience programs and the professional development for their online instructors. Therefore, we heard a lot about what has been tried and what they want to try.   We look forward to continuing these conversations beyond the conference with our current partners and others considering Atomic Learning as well.  That’s the great part of being in our roles, we hear from so many schools what has worked and what has not worked.   

So now as the skies in Minnesota once again are dumping another few inches of white powder on us, I thought it might be good to open this question up to others that may or may not have been at OLC Accelerate 2016.  What is your university or college doing to help tackle these key takeaways and concerns? 

We would be more than happy to continue the conversation with you as well. Don't hesitate to get a hold of us!


More About Deb Meester
On the lighter side: Deborah and her husband are the proud parents of twin daughters and a son, who followed 18 months behind his sisters.  In the wintertime their family is busy with swim practices, gymnastics, homework, and the conflict resolution that comes along with 3 young kids.  In the summertime, they live outdoors, spending most of the summer at the campground and the lake.

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