Last week, I attended the annual eLearning conference by the Instructional Technology Council in Las Vegas. An actual in-person conference with a keynote, concurrent sessions, collaboration, and connection with great colleagues from across the country. It was my first significant travel in 2 years, personal or professional. Although in December the organization did not know if there would be an in-person conference due to the current spike in cases. But unlike March 2020 and 2021 when “the virus that shall not be named” upended our lives and large conference facilities were willing to give organizations a financial break so they could pivot to virtual, in 2022 they are not so agreeable. The message in December from the facility was that ITC had to make the pre-pandemic minimum contractual numbers or eat the money. So the ITC kept the conference in person and I, the other Board of Directors members, and 95 other people headed to Las Vegas. (Normal attendance is 200-250)
Although the conference was small it provided an opportunity to spend more time with colleagues from other schools in long conversations about just about anything and everything about the past two years. How we were mentally, physically, what did we learn about ourselves and our faculty, what did we learn about our students, and what is the future of online and blended learning. From the keynote to the concurrent sessions, it felt more intimate and more personal. It was exactly what many of us needed to spark our professional reconnections and make new ones.
Here are a few highlights of my conference sessions:
- Dr. Carlos R. Morales, President of Tarrant County College – Connect Campus, graciously stepped in to deliver the keynote after the original speaker had to cancel last minute due to illness. He spoke about how the data from the past 2 years has driven the decision-making of his college and how much they have grown since 2020 and continue to grow.
- Meghmala Tarafdar, from City University of New York, Queensborough Community College shared the success factors from a faculty peer review process for supporting teaching excellence online. The peer review program trains faculty to give descriptive language in feedback and helps to set up a collaborative action plan through the process.
- Pima Community College in Arizona presented a design challenge in an online course they coordinated with students using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students were challenged to use the SDGs to solve issues in their own communities and work collaboratively to present their projects during a synchronous event using Zoom.
- Allegra Davis, an online English instructor and department chair at Tarrant County College – Connect Campus shared how she uses video and audio projects in her courses for student discussion, student choice assignments, and podcast projects. Allegra models the projects by creating her own videos and a podcast for her classes. She shares all of her resources on her Allegra Hanna website.
While I was nervous about traveling to Las Vegas, I am so happy that I made the trip. Since being elected to the Board of Directors I had not met any of my fellow members in person, only through Zoom. It re-energized the Board for planning the Leadership Academy this summer (in-person) and all the other events on our calendar. I’ll share some of those opportunities as registration opens and I hope you will be able to attend.