Laissez les bons temps rouler – The E-Learn Diaries, Part 1

New Orleans is a city whose history is filled with cultural diversity. It was passed from France to Spain to France and finally to American with the Louisiana purchase in 1803. Each culture left its mark. The city today is experiential archeology with its narrow cobblestone streets, cathedrals, and colorful architecture. The past and present collide and coexist in a cacophonous display of color, foliage, and free-wheeling melody.

Though by this point you may be wondering if you somehow stumbled into a New Orleans tourism site, let me reassure you most definitely are still AACE bound. New Orleans, with its rich history, diversity, and cultural mixing, happened to, very appropriately, be the context of the 23rd annual E-Learn Conference.

For over 20 years, E-Learn (formerly WebNet) has been the world conference on e-learning in corporate, government, healthcare, and higher education. It is a conference that brings together an international, cross-disciplinary mix of people for four days of knowledge sharing and overall inspiration and provocation on the topic of leveraging technology in learning arenas.

I was fortunate enough to attend E-Learn for the first time this year – adding a shiny newcomer’s badge to my lanyard. The conference started Monday with a series of workshops and the opening keynote by Warren Berger. I hit the ground running on Tuesday morning. Throughout the next three blog posts, I am going to profile my impressions of three days of E-Learn conference. I hope you’ll enjoy following me around!

Keynote

Tuesday’s keynote was presented by Dr. Katie Martin. Dr. Martin is a strong advocate of learner-centered practices. Her presentation entitled “Learning, Teaching, and Leading in a Changing World” got the conference off to a high-challenge start. Dr. Martin reminded us all of the importance of designing content from a learner-first standpoint, implementing technology, not for the sake of technology itself, but promoting positive learner outcomes on a personal level. Martin brought a positive spin on what can be very daunting work, and I felt inspired and empowered by her vision. To learn more about her ideas, read the interview on AACE Review. The keynote recording will become available on the AACE YouTube Channel.

After the keynote, the remainder of the day passed in a variety of shorter presentations where people would present their research as well as roundtables, where people would engage in dialogue about a given topic. Though I will not go into much depth in the remainder of the article, you can see the full scope and schedule via the Academic Experts website.

Pro-tip for AACE conference attendees: Make time to explore the Academic Experts website. One of the things I was most impressed with at E-Learn was how intentional the organizers were about fostering harmonious digital/physical relationships. It is not hyperbole to say that this website is what every conference desperately needs.

The website is not only a scheduler, but also a place for commenting on sessions attending, connecting with presenters and getting insight into sessions you may have missed, and all-around delightful networking. Also, most presenters have uploaded their slides, and it is a living resource that won’t be going dark any time soon, thus making it a treasure trove of resources. This website helps ease “how can I choose between sessions happening all at once” fear of missing out (FOMO) that permeates all conferences.

Sessions and Roundtables

For my journey, I attended a mix of both roundtables and sessions. My goal with any conference is always to seek out and learn from voices furthest from my own experience, culture, etc. The day one schedule offered more than I could take in, but I am happily catching up on the Academic Experts website and thus helping with all the FOMO.

To this end, I spent the morning learning about perceptions of online learning in the Middle East, the intricacies and opportunities that arise when transforming face-to-face medical training into an online cohort-based format and learning about the importance of the visuals and overall pacing in online course design for student achievement.

The afternoon took a slightly more theoretical turn, first questioning the fetishizing tendency of academia to turn everything into a literacy then proposing an alternate definition of what literacy is and investigating how Bloom’s Taxonomy really can be a secret weapon to humanize how one teaches data visualization.

The day ended with a poster mingle, where even more ideas and connections sparked amongst participants. Conveniently enough, these, too, are available for viewing via Academic Experts.

The ethos of New Orleans with its rich history, diversity, and cultural mixing seemed to seep into every corner of the conference, and I left day one thoroughly inspired and excited for what the next day might hold.

 

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