Friday, March 16, 2012

MDLA Spring Conference 2012

I attended the Maryland Distance Learning Association (MDLA) Eleventh Annual Spring Conference on March 1st. This conference was broad in scope. The attendees were mainly educational institutions with a heavy concentration in online learning. The workshops focused on trends in the delivery of content; standards, design and technology applications for course development; and andragogy.

Presenters were from many backgrounds such as education (professors, researchers) instructional design, and business (publishing & technology).

The keynote speaker was Hall Davidson, Director of Global Learning Initiatives: Discovery Education. He is the author of Not Your Father’s eBook: New Kinds of Learning Tools for New Kinds of Learning. Hall spoke about the importance and trend in ebooks being interactive so that the reader can manipulate content and engage in and contribute to their own learning. He provided us with an example of what he meant by creating an interactive ebook, using augmented reality. The user was able to select the characters they wanted to use to tell their story as well as select the environment where the story was to take place. There a website with free resources that can be used to create these interactive ebooks. Hall selected participants from the audience to create their own ebooks, selecting characters, creating the audio with their own voices and choosing a topic by selecting scenery representative of the environment they preferred. It was truly interactive learning. Most of the resources were compatible to the iPad, e.g. Zooburst, Word Lens (questvisual), Voice Net and Virtual Eternity.

This method of teaching and learning gives new life to simulations and can really enhance areas like the sciences.

I attended a variety of workshops:

Teaching the Military Learners in 2012: Addressing the Real Issues focused on teaching instructors sensitivity training. The concentration was on the military population, which can be a high percentage of online learners because of the accessibility from anywhere. The attention was placed on the stressful lives that military men and women experience. Knowing what they go through in this environment and understanding their way of life and being sensitive to their needs allows them to be a more successful student and an instructor much more effective in teaching. UMUC has a faculty development training program that they highly encourage new faculty to take. I could see this type of training being effective for most institutions because of culturally diverse populations.

Building Student Success and Retention Through Open Educational Learning Tools: The Bridging to Success Project focused on a research pilot of online courses using tutorials created in math and study skills to increase student success rate in the online environment. The funding to create these Open Educational Resources is a part of the Next Generation Grants. The courses create a learning community for students online in an effort to encourage peer to peer learning and help students transition to college, successfully. Assessments are built into the program both pre and post learning. The B2S (Build to Success Projects) are being offered to colleges with an interest in piloting activities for retention and persistence (

New Accreditation Guidelines for Distance Education: What are you Doing to Prepare and Comply? focused on revised guidelines for institutions with online programs. The guidelines are more prescriptive and detailed in what is expected. The document was developed by the Council of Regional Accreditation Commissions and is endorsed by U.S. Accrediting bodies (e.g.MSCHE). If you have online courses and are developing programs online, knowledge of this document is critical. Here is a link to the document:

I attended a Roundtable session facilitated by the Quality Matters organization. This organization has created a method of determining quality assurance in online/blended courses. “Quality Matters (QM) is a faculty-centered, peer review process that is designed to certify the quality of online and blended courses.”

The roundtable was an effort to determine how the organization can conduct research in collaboration with institutions to establish the impact on student outcomes as a result of this process. Many suggestions were made on what could be measured like student satisfaction, instructional growth (instructor/faculty); organizational impact, etc. There were also conversations about what incentives could be offered to institutions to gather and share their data.

Anita Norton

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