Welcome to year three of the OLC Innovate conference, in partnership with MERLOT! The past three years have seen an evolution of experience, informed by you, and we are so thankful for the feedback and community spirit that has allowed this event to grow.

The word “innovate” is one we frequently see, but can rarely define. Is innovation truly, as Merriam-Webster says, “the introduction of something new” or a “new idea, method, or device?” Or, is it much more than that? The system of higher education faces a difficult climate; one which is not likely to get easier in the next few years. Change is both frequent and notoriously difficult. In cases like these, where things seem hard and progress is slow, we find we work better with a little help from our friends.

Innovation is born of our rich collaborations, and as you’ll notice in the dynamic makeup of our committees, you’ll see “co-” prominently listed quite often. This year, we are also working hard to ensure that all voices are heard, and everyone can participate in conference activities, no matter what their abilities. To that end, we have introduced an accessibility and inclusion committee to ensure that the experiences we create together are created with all in mind.

This conference is designed by and for a number of mixed roles. Practitioners, academics, and administrators representing a variety of career stages and goals come together to create learning experiences that encourage intersectional conversations and opportunities to interact with people that are both like and very different from you. If you leave this conference without having felt the productive tensions that surface in the meeting of unlike minds, we have not done our jobs. We want you to learn and grow, we want you to enjoy yourself, but we do not necessarily want you to remain in your comfort zone for the entire week. Our challenge to you: find someone you don’t know and talk to them. Find someone who has a job you think would be very different from yours and see if you can find a similarity. Find someone whose work you’ve admired and thank them. Ask them the question you’ve always wanted to ask.

We don’t immerse ourselves in the field of higher education because it is the easy path. Let’s be honest, there are easier paths we could take. But the feeling that comes from solving problems together, from finding common ground where we thought there was none, and from challenging those who say “this is how we have always done it” or “this is how academia works” is unlike any other in the world.

We don’t mean to sound like a t-shirt from the 1980s, but we truly believe that “teamwork makes the dream work.” Join us at OLC Innovate 2018, and let us help you build your team.

Angela Gunder  

Conference Chair

Angela Gunder, The University of Arizona

Jess Knott  

Conference Chair

Jessica Knott, Michigan State University


Executive Conference Chair

Kathleen Ives, Online Learning Consortium


Robbie Melton

Executive Conference Chair

Robbie Melton, Tennessee State University