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Highlights from The Distance Teaching & Learning (DT&L) conference and Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable (SOLA+R)

The Distance Teaching & Learning (DT&L) conference and Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable (SOLA+R) held July 25-27, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin was a great success, with more than 400 onsite attendees and nearly 200 virtual attendees.

In case you missed it, we wanted to share some of the highlights from the conference:

On Tuesday, July 25th, we began our time in Madison with the Chief Online Learning Officer (COLO) Roundtable convening. COLOs from institutions around the country came together to discuss the latest trends in online learning and leadership. Each UPCEA institution has the opportunity to designate a COLO. COLOs have the added benefit of additional convenings and engagements throughout the year. Contact [email protected] to inquire about the COLO designation on your institutional roster. 

Michelle Pacansky-Brock, Online Faculty Developer and Author, Foothill College, kicked off the conference with The Human Advantage: Online Teaching and Learning in the AI Era. Michelle explored how to humanize online teaching in the era of AI. She shared strategies for using AI to create more personalized and engaging learning experiences for students. One tactic she discussed is the liquid syllabus. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter).

On Wednesday, July 26th we began the day with a panel focused on generative AI, where Asim Ali, Bettyjo Bouchey, and Tom Cavanagh shared their thoughts on using AI as a tool to empower learners and transform online learning. As moderator Ray Schroeder shared, “You won’t lose your job to AI; you’ll lose your job to someone who knows how to use AI.” Check out Ray’s insights on AI and other topics on his Online: Trending now blog on Inside Higher Ed.

Two men (Bob Hansen and Ray Schroeder) stand on stage, smiling at the camera. Ray holds an award.

UPCEA CEO Bob Hansen with award recipient Ray Schroeder, UPCEA Senior Fellow & University of Illinois Springfield Professor Emeritus

On Wednesday afternoon, a number of awards were presented. CEO Bob Hansen announced a new award, the UPCEA Leadership Award for the Advancement of Digital Learning, which was presented to Ray Schroeder, UPCEA Senior Fellow & University of Illinois Springfield Professor Emeritus. During the awards presentation, Bob Hansen announced that after this year the award will be called the Ray Schroeder Leadership Award for the Advancement of Digital Learning, in honor of Ray as the inaugural recipient. The awards presented included:

  • The Shauna Schullo Award for Best Distance Teaching Practices, presented to Lea Wood and Kari Lane of the University of Missouri
  • The UPCEA Outstanding Service in Instructional Design Award, presented to Holly Fiock of Purdue University
  • UPCEA Leadership Award for the Advancement of Digital Learning was presented to Ray Schroeder, UPCEA Senior Fellow & University of Illinois Springfield Professor Emeritus.

Later, Bettyjo Bouchey and Luke Dowden shared their insights on how COLOs and other online leaders can grow in their roles. They emphasized the importance of networking, volunteering, and staying up-to-date on the latest trends in online learning. UPCEA and specifically #DTLSOLAR23 provides opportunities for vibrant volunteering (to combat quiet quitting). Volunteer today!

Additionally, Ray Schroeder shared a mini-site for those who have heard about generative AI but have not experimented with it. The site features links to seven of his favorite genAI apps and a “how-to” for each one. Also included is a summary on prompt writing and a “heads-up” that OpenAI is planning to open an Academy using GPT as instructors later this year.  

On Thursday, July 27th the conference wrapped up with a presentation by Jim Fong and a reaction panel featuring Steve VandenAvond, Jessica Dupont, Evie Cummings, Rovy Branon, and Craig Wilson. Fong shared his predictions for how AI, automation, and other technologies will shape online learning in the years to come. Jim Fong regularly shares his insights on the UPCEA Research and Consulting team’s blog. 

Wildflowers in the foreground, with people talking and the Madison capitol building in the distance.

View from the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center rooftop.

The DT&L and SOLA+R conference also featured a number of other sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities. Attendees had the opportunity to learn from leading experts in the field of online learning, share their own experiences, and connect with colleagues from around the world. 

Save the date for the 2024 DT&L and SOLA+R conference! The conference will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from July 22-24. This is the 40th anniversary of DT&L, so it is sure to be a special time. Be sure to register early to save your spot!

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