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Reflections on Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning Conference

Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning

I attended the Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning in Madison last week. I believe this to be one of the most productive conferences in the field of online learning, and try to attend each year.

There were over 170 presentations, choosing the right event to attend was sometimes frustrating.

Here are some of my notes from the conference.

To begin, the conference organizers helpfully package proceeding papers as a PDF. This year I was sporting an iPad, and found this a great way to work through each of the papers. The iPad worked well as a note-taking device during presentations. I will be using this at my next conference.

Albert and Trudi Johnson (Memorial University of Newfoundland) gave a particularly enlightening presentation on “Students' perceptions of effective teaching in distance education.” These guys were prepared – they provided DVDs to the participants, and shared their findings at http://distance.mun.ca/survey/ and http://distance.mun.ca/survey/SPETHE_Final_Report.pdf

What I found particularly helpful was the relative ranking of what students wanted in an online course:

On Campus

  1. Respectful
    2 Knowledgeable
    3 Approachable
    4 Engaging
    5 Communicative
    6 Organized
    7 Responsive
    8 Professional
    9 Humorous

Online
  1. Respectful
    2 Responsive
    3 Knowledgeable
    4 Approachable
    5 Communicative
    6 Organized
    7 Engaging
    8 Professional
    9 Humorous

This seemed to reinforce some of my observations. I hope DePaul can participate in a larger rollout of this study.

Karen Ford, Susan Tancock and Michael Putman (Ball State University) presented on “Redefining online discussions: A taxonomy to encourage in- depth interaction.” My hopes for this presentation were never likely to be fully met – I am always looking for the holy grail of getting online discussion to totally work - but I found this session to be very helpful.

I appreciated discovering their taxonomy of respondent characteristics:

  • Counselor
    • Information Filter
    • Pessimist
    • Reflective Practitioner
    • Reinforcer
    • Restator
    • Supporter

And discussing how students might be gently pushed towards Reflective Practitioner. This is something I see myself returning to.

Jon Aleckson (Web Courseworks) has an account with the rather impressive SonicFoundry – he used this to record his presentation for posterity. His presentation (Micro-collaboration: Team sharing to build highly interactive online activities) will be extremely useful to anyone running or creating an instructional design department. Jon also shared a couple of useful URLs that I made sure to note:


CoI Model


On Friday, Phil Ice’s (American Public University) presentation (Using the Col framework survey for multi- level institutional evaluation) was my highlight of the day. The Community of Inquiry model has proved extremely useful in a couple of DePaul research projects I have collaborated on. Phil used the CoI model to analyze the effectiveness of courses at American Public University. The sheer scale of the operation was both humbling and frightening – the data is being used to continuously improve quality and highlight the effectiveness of new technologies.

My presentation (Teaching with Twitter and Google Wave: Real-time social media) was in one of the last slots on Friday. Google had announced that week that Wave would be cancelled, which resulted in some of the presentations I wanted to see being cancelled. Luckily, my presentation demonstrated some of the issues that Wave created – so the presentation was still of value. I enjoyed getting to chat with folks afterwards.

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