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Distance teaching and learning conference finds new ways to engage students

April 20, 2018 By Dean Robbins

Digital culture has profoundly changed the way students process information. The rise of social media, virtual reality, crowdsourcing, and other innovations presents tremendous opportunities for education, as well as tremendous challenges.

With the 34th annual Distance Teaching & Learning Conference, the University of Wisconsin–Madison makes sense of new ideas that will help educators transform the 21st century classroom and workplace.

On Aug. 7-9, leading lights from academia, industry, and government will share the latest learning strategies at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. The conference attracts more than 800 higher education faculty and staff, instructional designers, and workforce trainers in search of ways to engage students steeped in the internet and mobile technology.

“The Distance Teaching & Learning Conference is unique in being sponsored by a major public university rather than a professional organization or a vendor,” says Jeffrey S. Russell, dean of UW–Madison Continuing Studies and vice provost for Lifelong Learning. “That means it’s focused on translating the best research on distance learning into practical applications that will prepare students for a workforce radically altered by technology.”

Alec Couros will help close the gap between educators and learners with his keynote speech “Understanding the Digital Realities of Our Students.” He’ll provide insight into a generation that approaches learning like no other.

“The digital reality young people now inhabit shapes the ways they learn, play, communicate, and relate to the world around them,” says Couros, professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina. “I hope that conference attendees will gain a better understanding of the complex digital world our students must navigate, and that this will in turn enable them to help students acquire the emerging literacies they need to succeed.”

Susan Aldridge’s keynote speech will delve into “Harnessing the Power of Technology to Enhance the Promise of Education.” She’ll explain how to design the kinds of immersive learning options that students now demand, such as virtual, mixed, and augmented reality applications.

“Innovation will drive the future of education when it comes to using the latest technologies to meet the unique needs of today’s learner,” says Aldridge, president of Drexel University Online. “Our students are practiced in harnessing the latest digital tools and applications to connect, collaborate, and construct new knowledge.”

Other sessions will tackle a wide range of topics at the forefront of distance education, including gamification and alternative credentials. Educators will come away with new approaches for a learning environment that’s no longer limited by time or place.

“Given technological advances, face-to-face classes are no longer the only option for learners,” says conference director Wendy Fritz. “The Distance Teaching & Learning Conference will help attendees create high-quality educational experiences for this new era, in which students can advance their knowledge and skills anywhere and at any time.”