I had the pleasure of attending the Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning from November 20-22, 2013. The Sloan Conference brings educators together to share and discuss research, growth, and best practices within online and blended learning. It is a time to learn, network, and establish relationships with other professionals in the field. It is truly an opportunity to grow within the field of online learning.
It was my first time attending a Sloan conference since beginning my career in higher education 10 years ago. With that in mind, I spent the better part of the time at the conference introducing myself to people and learning more about the professionals in attendance. I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of key decision makers and movers and shakers in the industry. Everyone in attendance was enthusiastic about being there and wanted to see the latest and greatest in online learning to take back to their schools.
The main topic of conversation centered on MOOCs and their impact within higher education. In fact, the co-founders of Coursera and edX both made a trip to the conference to share their experiences in the MOOC world. Their messages were both largely the same. They each discussed how MOOCs were slowly disrupting higher education and both praised their effectiveness and ability to reach students that would never have an opportunity to attend schools like Stanford, MIT, or Harvard. Daphne Koller, founder of Coursera, gave several student testimonials from people worldwide who found the challenges of their courses to be exciting and a catalyst to start new careers or find new passions. However, both spoke to the fact that the world is still trying to figure out MOOCs and where they largely fit in higher education. It’s a story that is still unfolding and I am anxious to hear what we all have learned from MOOCs at next year’s Sloan conference.
Each breakout session I attended was extremely educational and brought forth a lot of major points for professionals within online education. Some key facts that I found interesting were:
- A majority of faculty are still hesitant to truly accept online learning.
- Faculty who are eager about online learning typically hold less seniority and are not tenured.
- The Department of Education’s Higher Education Act is up for renewal in 2014 and educators should take note of what changes could be made to address MOOCs and online education.
- Academic integrity within online education continues to be a hot button issue. There were several schools in attendance who are still trying to find a convenient, affordable solution to deter cheating.
For those who have never attended a Sloan-C conference I would highly recommend attending either the International Conference on Online Learning in Orlando, FL next year or the Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium in Dallas, TX.