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Reimagining the Higher Ed Summit 2020: Leveraging Best Practices of Distance Learning

Leveraging Best Practices of Distance Learning

Written by

Jennifer Walker

Principal Strategist, Higher Education at Traction on Demand

We’re taking a look at the methodology of those who eat, sleep and breathe online learning delivery models and consider how we, as Higher Ed Summit 2020 attendees and presenters, can make the most out of this new virtual format.

As our community collectively heaves a sigh of resignation that the Higher Ed Summit 2020 will be moved online, we feel it’s worth acknowledging that higher education is uniquely positioned to draw from our own industry best practices when redesigning the Summit as an engaging and collaborative remote event. 

In the past two weeks, we have seen education institutions leverage online platforms, such as Zoom, to rapidly adapt to the need to close on-campus operations. Many have speculated this crisis might provide an opportunity to assess whether a digital delivery model is viable for more long-term approaches.

While these wonderful technologies have allowed schools to shift courses online to finish the term, it’s important to understand that these quick fixes are not analogous to thoughtfully designing a learning experience designed with the delivery method in mind. For example, your chemistry lab curriculum will have to be drastically rethought for a digital platform. 

Teaching well online requires a much more intentional arc of planning and learning around design and pedagogy.

—Penelope Moon, Director Online Learning Strategy, University of Washington

As the Higher Ed Summit 2020 is reimagined as a virtual event, it provides the perfect opportunity to acknowledge some intentional design best practices, developed by educators who work to support online learning models. 

For Higher Ed Summit 2020 Presenters:

Be Conscious of Digital Divides

To meaningfully take part in a digital learning experience, a necessary prerequisite is access. Whether that be in the form of high-speed internet or digital literacy, barriers that prevent a diverse audience from uniformly consuming content should be a top priority. Salesforce already does a great job posting recordings after a live session. As we rethink our presentations, let’s consider how our messaging might translate to ADA compliance and varying levels of technical literacy. Do you have a ton of small text on a slide? Does the colour palette meet WCAG Guidelines of text and background contrast ratios? For more inspiration from our academic community, check out ADA Compliance for Online Course Design

Facilitate Collaboration 

A powerful aspect of the Higher Ed Summit is the built-in opportunity to engage with one another around the topics presented. How many times have we continued to build on an exciting presentation by sticking around and chatting with the person next to us or the presenters themselves? That collaboration and diversity of creative thought breeds innovation, and in a remote format, we need to manufacture the connections that would have taken place organically. One idea is for there to be a breakout session post-presentation so that participants can plan to “bump into” one another and keep the ideas flowing. We have yet to see if the new virtual Summit will provide room for this, regardless, presenters can share their social media handles to allow participants to connect with them for follow-up chats.

Get the Audience Engaged

Like the experience of physically sitting in your seat in a classroom, the conference atmosphere is often enough to keep participants focused for the duration of the session. And the Salesforce event planning machine does an amazing job making the in-person conference fun and engaging. Move from the classroom or conference center to your home environment, and now you have competition for your attention that you didn’t have before. To keep learners engaged, Andrew Salcido and Jessica Cole of ASU remind educators and presenters to prompt questions. You might even consider designating a few people to get the conversation going. 

For Higher Ed Summit 2020 Attendees:


Dedicate Your Time

Who hasn’t taken a “critical” call in a quiet hallway of the conference center in between sessions? While they temporarily distract you from the conference, merely being in the conference center keeps your mind focused on why you’re there. It’s similar to a student within the classroom setting. When you step through the door, your brain says, “I’m here to learn for the next hour and a half.” If we remove ourselves from the conference center or the classroom we don’t have those same cues, and we’re more likely to engage in context switching, ping-ponging from learning to doing. To make the most of the remote Summit, we recommend blocking your calendar the same way you would if you were in Indy. 

Schedule Follow-Ups

In lieu of hallway chats post-session, take the initiative to reach out to other attendees on common topics. Think of it as the equivalent to a student work session. Utilize the chat functionality in the conference call application to coordinate with others with a shared interest, then grab 20 minutes. Yes, it takes some additional coordination, but it will help you to find even more value post-session.

This is an unprecedented time, for not only higher education institutions, but the whole world. We’re fortunate, as a cloud technology company, that we’re well equipped to continue working from the comfort of home, without any major disruption to our project work. We’re getting creative, looking for new ways to lend a helping hand and perhaps alleviate some of your pain points. If there is any way that we can help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Uncertain times, not uncertain strategy.

Let’s talk it out – together we can create a solution. At this time of uncertainty, we’re doing everything we can to lean in and support you.

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