Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sloan/Merlot -2011 Emerging Technologies Online Learning Conference

Proceedings from the Sloan/Merlot -2011 Emerging Technologies Online Learning Conference

July 11-14 (San Jose, CA)

The conference was full of ways to take technology to the next level in online courses! The workshops and information sessions topics ranged from perspectives such as recognizing that technology has already “immerged” to how can all academic institutions both for-profit and not-for-profit, traditional and non-traditional concentrate on reaching out to each other to educate an even broader population of students who still are not able to attend college or graduate because of financial reasons of rising cost in education. Could online learning be the answer for them?

This conference addressed how different technological innovations and application of these technologies impact teaching, learning, research and best practices in their use. Effectiveness of these technologies was also highlighted. The sponsors of the conference were Sloan C, which is a consortium of institutional and professional organizations committed to improving online learning in education.

Merlot who partnered with Sloan-C is an online community of open resources of learning materials contributed by many different individuals in a variety of professions. The focus of Merlot is to increase the online resources in both qualities by most of the resources being peer reviewed and in quantity. It provides a place where resources are shared and used throughout the online community.

One very lively conversation took place with the Keynote Speaker, Brian Alexander who spoke about how he feels technology is no longer emerging but it has changed the landscape of America. He said that “social is the new default” and that mobile technology is considered a “device ecology” that is allows us to feed information back and forth through the use of laptops, netbooks, smartphones and the likes. Many colleges and universities are using building their courses around social media. Social media brings about a constant interactivity among students and faculty.

His suggestions are to perform environmental scans based around social networking and try to anticipate what will happen next through scenarios. He envisions scenarios will be played out in gaming and augmented reality. Through these scenarios we will be able to predict how education will be impacted.

One Plenary panel shared their thoughts and potential initiatives on how to improve technologies (in screen sizes) through making them more interoperable allowing for greater access to content using many different technologies. This was a key area of concern or publishers and educators. This conversation was very thought provoking.

There were many engaging information sessions highlighting the use of interactive technologies throughout all discipline areas. These technologies are thought to enrich the learning experience of the online learner. Visit the conference website to see some of the creativity in technological use.

For more information about the topics covered go to the Sloan C conference proceedings.

This conference was a great way to gage where and how technology fits comfortably into the learning experiences of online students. It also helped to anticipate which direction technology will be taking in higher education in the future.