Evolve Conference on Friday: Engaging students in the online conversation

On Friday, January 17th, I’ll be in LA to help moderate the Evolve Conference put on by the 20 Million Minds Foundation. Despite all the talk about the role of online education in higher ed, most conferences and events – GSV Education Innovation Summit, EDUCAUSE, WCET, Sloan Consortium, and others  - include institutional leaders and staff, faculty, technologists, investors, and consultants but not students. Last year’s Re:Boot conference did include a student panel, but we need more focus on the student perspective. I don’t fault  these conferences, as it is very hard to get student input outside of a survey, but it is still a missing piece to the puzzle – arguably the biggest piece.

This student focus gets to the core purpose of the Evolve Conference:

Major stakeholders have weighed in on the role of online and educational technologies–we have heard from faculty, unions, system leaders, policy makers, and leading ed-tech innovators. However, the ever-critical student perspective has largely been absent.

Building on the success of the 20MM “Re:Boot California Higher Education” symposium of January 2013, “EVOLVE California Higher Education” is the second installment of the collaborative discussion series that will shift the focus to ensure that the student voice is given prominent placement in the state and national conversations surrounding online learning and technology. Student presenters will be joined by a myriad of post secondary leaders and technology innovators.

I’ll co-moderate the panels with Isa Adney, a recent (read that as ‘much younger than Phil’) community college graduate who went on to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She has written a book on the community college experience and is now a speaker and advocate for students. I look forward to working with Isa at the conference.

The program is built around a student panel, who will start by sharing their personal experiences with online education and educational technologies. After this first panel, there will be series of  presenter panels that will speak to the students and field questions from the ongoing student panel. The topics include:

  • How will online offerings increase access to undergraduate and bottleneck courses?
  • How can online offerings support the needs of a diverse student population?
  • How will faculty use online platforms to design robust course offerings?
  • What policy recommendations can support online initiatives that increase graduation rates?

There is an obvious bias that online offerings can address these problems if done properly, so much of the conversation should focus on how, not whether.

The event will be live-streamed on Friday, January 17th from 9:30am – 2:00pm PST. Check out the conference web site for more information on attending the conference in person or by live stream. Update: the live stream information is not on the site yet but will be by Friday.

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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4 Responses to Evolve Conference on Friday: Engaging students in the online conversation

  1. Pamela Fox says:

    I don’t see the streaming information on the site. Will it be posted the day of the conference?

  2. Phil Hill says:

    Pam, yes, they will post the live streaming information on their site by Friday. I’ll update my post.

  3. Kate says:

    Hi Phil

    This is a really interesting initiative, and you’re right about the bias towards “how” that precludes “not at all”. I think we also know that there’s a far more candid conversation about elearning happening among students through other channels (especially, even now, Facebook) that doesn’t often get well represented by token student inclusion at events where students are in the minority. And then some of the key institutional issues with elearning such as analytics aren’t yet fully visible to students, which is of course the other big worry. We are our own little NSA.

    I don’t have a good solution to this, but I know it’s an issue. Particularly, there’s an issue in sorting out whether online fatigue, LMS features, lecture capture, or simply bad design are the pressing issue, or whether it’s always a mix. Obviously, Rate Your Online Professor is one option, but anonymous feedback sites aren’t always better at building the kind of real conversation we need.

    Keen to know how you go with this. Will you be tweeting from there?


  4. Phil Hill says:

    Hi Kate, since I’ll be moderating my tweets might be somewhat limited (I’m painfully slow typing on my phone and wouldn’t want attendees to have to watch that grass grow). Hopefully others will live tweet at #20mmEVOLVE.

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