Back From OLC 2016 Annual Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the annual OLC Accelerate international conference in Orlando last November. It was an exceptionally rewarding experience and one that I hope each of you can someday attend yourself.  With over three hundred sessions, twenty-two hundred onsite and eleven hundred online attendees, it was by far the largest conference I had ever attended.

For those of you who are not familiar with OLC (Online Learning Consortium), here are a few words from their website:

“OLC is the leading professional organization devoted to advancing quality online learning by providing professional development, instruction, best practice publications and guidance to educators, online learning professionals and organizations around the world. OLC is a key factor in the transformation of the e-Education field. Through our conferences, quality learning opportunities, and tools for individual and institutional success we have been a part of this swift growth. Membership in the organization provides institutions and corporations with faculty training, improvement of institutional ROI, leadership development, and access to subject matter experts (SMEs). Individuals can benefit from recognized leader affiliation, training by industry experts, networking with community and colleagues, access to scholarly information, and professional development.”

If your institution is not an OLC member I would strongly encourage you to investigate joining.

Back to my experience.  As previously mentioned, there were so many con-current sessions that I had to plan carefully in advance the ones that I would attend. Being a Technologist, I had a predisposed preference for sessions that discussed technology use in collaborative efforts. (I.e. I tried to pick sessions that might have an application to our TLC endeavors).

In an ideal situation, the best approach to attending this conference would be to have a team to try and cover as many of the areas of interest as possible.  If you are interested in the myriad of session topics offered, here is a listing of concurrent sessions:

Many of the sessions were also live streamed which we took advantage of here at Schreiner. Recordings of the sessions are also available for viewing by OLC members.


The following is a brief overview of some of the sessions/presentations that I attended:

International Learning in Time: Scholarship, Practice and Policy for Real World, Augmented Reality and Virtual Space

A panel discussion moderated by members of the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame member

How to integrate Online with main curriculum and not just view it as a revenue stream.

  • Greatest growth between 2010-2020 students are 25 or older. The post traditional student era.

  • Today, 60-70% of degrees are in an occupational field.

  • Changing of the landscape of Higher Education.

  • Changing of the landscape of Higher Education. Focus now is on employment skills. Some critics call it the “Vocationalization of Higher Education.”

  • Higher education needs to engage more with work force employers.

  • What skills are needed, break down the boundaries.

  • We have to do learn to provide both Liberal Arts educations and Job Preparation.

  • There is a fear of traditional faculty that we are creating “Armies of Online Adjuncts.”

Distributive Learning is now the norm resulting in the unbundling of faculty roles as a result of online instruction.

How will Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will impact Higher Education? A panel member defined the two concepts as:

Augmented Reality brings digital content into the real world.

Virtual Reality brings the real world into the digital realm.

The technologies are so new that there is no reliable data on its impact on the education environment.

Harvard (as you might expect), is integrating AR/VR into their existing Innovation Lab.  Many schools are experimenting with its use in Health Care professionals training.

Museums are a perfect match for AR and VR. The INDE Corporation is a pioneer in the use of AR/VR.


Let’s get (Inter) Personal: Using Role Play and Web-conferencing to access effective communications skills.
Jennifer Norton (Widener University) and Joshus Smith (Wiley Education Solutions)

Their application is in the Social Services fields.  Students record role playing scenarios and submit them to the professor.  Or, they do group role play while the faculty observes.

  • Big Blue Button is their conferencing application as well as Google Hangouts.

  • Students also use Screencast-o-matic.

  • Some level of initial technical training is necessary. They do provide 24/7 access to a help desk.

Takeaway: The recording of “Role Play” play interaction by students could be applied to the TLC Language endeavors.


The Internet of Everything
Robbie Melton (Tennessee Board of Regents)

This was an outstanding presentation. Dr. Melton presented a wide array of new technology that is being used in many K-12 and Higher Education institutes in Tennessee.  Many of the devices she obtains for free or at exceptionally discounted prices. She is very aggressive at contacting manufacturers and vendors.  For example, she obtained one hundred out of manufacture Samsung Smart phones to use with VR applications.

Some of the items demonstrated were:

  • 9450 smart basketball $195. This basketball syncs with a smart phone app and analyzes your shots.

  • A T-shirt with augmented imaging that is used for anatomy training. Manufactured by a Kickstarter called Virtuality :

  • Modern POLAXIS – An amazing 3D holographic book:

  • Daydream VR glasses by Google. Just one of the numerous VR glasses available for use with smartphones.

  • Insta 360 nano iPhone VR camera.

  • NO1phone smart watch. A very inexpensive smart phone watch. 

  • Microsoft Holo Lens. Melton’s lab is a Beta tester for the latest and greatest Augmented Reality device.  I got to try it and it was amazing.  The downside is that they will market for about $4,000 when they are released.

Takeaway: If you have the luxury of having the space and staffing to set up a faculty testing lab, there are a wealth of devices available.


Leveraging Innovative Technology to promote student collaboration and engagement for cross-campus blended courses.
Amy Roche and Julie Lang (Penn State University)

Abstract: Implementations of innovative technology focusing on student engagement in cross-campus, blended courses will be explored. A round robin of emerging technologies/practices will include interactive open educational resources, mobile/student generated video, robotic presence, mobile group messaging, social networking, polling across geographic boundaries, gaming, e-book implementation, and group project technologies.

This was an excellent presentation which highlighted the use of online tools such as:, Plickers, Quizizz and Stoodle.

Takeaway: There were too many tools showcased to adequately address in this report so, I have captured the recorded session and it is available here for your viewing:  I think you might find some technologies here that you might be interested in trying.


Virtual Field Trips: Exploring Active Learning in Higher Education
Allyson Haskell and Shannon Dunn (University of Florida)

Abstract: Creating active learning assignments can seem challenging, particularly for online courses.  Incorporating virtual field trips into active learning assignments can foster student engagement while presenting a variety of content for student learning. Virtual field trips tend to be highly visual, and offer varying levels of interactivity. Many resources for virtual field trips already exist online and can easily be incorporated into existing course content and assignments.

Virtual field trips can be used as a method for providing access to content that would otherwise be inaccessible.  For example, most geology students do not have the opportunity to visit the San Andreas Fault or Mount Etna’s lava flow, but with simulated visits, students can apply their knowledge to these case studies in active learning assignments.

Additional resources may be found at:

Takeaway:  Again another excellent presentation with more information than I can adequately describe.  So, once again I have captured and posted the presentation for your viewing pleasure.


I would like to close by sharing a link to a few images I took.  There are several images of the equipment highlighted by Dr. Mellon. I also included some photos of the University of Virginia’s “LightBoard.” (A cool concept but probably beyond the capabilities of our institutions because of cost and shear space requirements).

Again, I would highly recommend that members of the Consortium attend the next annual conference in November 2017.


Dan Brown
Schreiner University
Instructional Technology Support Specialist

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