Before each OLC conference, steering committee members, with ample input from OLC members, reach out to the best and brightest in the field of online learning to invite them to present their work and ideas at our conference. These featured speakers have been selected to present at OLC Accelerate because of the innovative way they are changing online, hybrid, and digital learning for all learners.

“We need innovation in education and dedication to the task before us.” -Alan Autry

Join us at Accelerate this year to share their visions for building the future of online learning. We invite you to make special note of these sessions (that means blocking off time in your calendar!) to ensure your attendance.

In order to help you make time to attend, this year, the featured sessions will take place during time slots with no other sessions scheduled. There will be one featured session and fireside chat scheduled for each day of the virtual conference. (Featured workshops and onsite featured sessions do take place within the regular conference program, not in stand-alone time slots.) 

Join us after selected featured sessions as indicated for fireside chats. The best conference sessions feature the rich sharing of ideas from thought leaders that spark our curiosity and open up new opportunities for us to advance our work in online, blended and digital teaching and learning. This fireside chat creates that space for an extended conversation with each of our featured speakers, giving you the chance to bring your questions, your challenges, and your extensions of new ideas to the table, participating in a collegial and generative discussion on effective practices for the field.

We look forward to learning with these talented educators. Join us!


Virtual Conference – Featured Sessions


Second Chances And New Pathways Through Online Education: Opening Doors And Creating Possibilities For College Students In Recovery

Monday, September 20, 5:30PM – 6:15PM US ET
Presenter: Becki Elkins (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)

Popular culture paints college in the U.S. as synonymous with drinking and drug use. Institutions offer myriad prevention programs to help students make responsible choices. But, what about those individuals who are in recovery from substance use disorders and need to maintain sobriety? While some students in recovery are fortunate to attend colleges with “collegiate recovery programs,” the vast majority do not. This session will explore the capacity of online education to open college opportunities and create possibilities for individuals in recovery.

A Fireside Chat on Access and Education Pathways with Becki Elkins

Monday, September 20, 6:45PM – 7:30PM US ET

What’s it Going to Take to Move From Mass-Production to Mass-Personalization?

Tuesday, September 21, 1:45PM – 2:30PM US ET
Presenter: Dale Johnson (Arizona State University)

What is it going to take for us to toss the 19th century mass-production model of education onto the trash heap of history and embrace the 21st century model of mass-personalization? Artificial intelligence is facilitating the delivery of mass-personalization in many aspects of our lives. From medicine to manufacturing, we see intelligent systems creating personalized solutions to meet the unique needs of every individual. However, in education mass-personalization is still considered experimental and has not gained widespread acceptance yet. In this session, we will explore the factors enabling or inhibiting this change.

A Fireside Chat on Personalized Learning with Dale Johnson

Tuesday, September 21, 3:00PM – 3:45PM US ET

What Comes Next May Surprise You: The Future Of Work And Learning

Wednesday, September 22, 10:00AM – 10:45AM US ET

Session Moderator: Angela Gunder


  • John Baker, President and CEO, D2L
  • Jill Buban, Vice President & General Manager, EdAssist Solutions
  • Gerry Hanley, Executive Director, SkillsCommons
  • Abra McAndrew, Assistant Vice President, The University of Arizona

As people begin to make their way back to in-person work and school, a lot of us are wondering how much our new world will look like our old world. John Baker, President and CEO of global learning leader D2L believes the future of work and learning will look very different. Not just because technology will help us digitize – but because technology will help learning and work become more human. In this exciting, collaborative session, you’ll hear provocations from John along with other thought leaders within the learning and workforce community connection space, and participate in futurecasting our digital learning future.

Digital Learning As A Tool for Equity And Racial Justice In Higher Ed

Thursday, September 23, 3:00PM – 3:45PM US ET
Presenter: Jessica Rowland Williams (Every Learner Everywhere)

Access to a quality education can have a profound effect enabling students to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, higher education has historically been unjustly denied to Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students and poverty-affected students for generations. The future of education depends on our ability to better serve these students moving forward, and we believe that equity-centered, student-focused, and anti-racist digital learning strategies are a catalyst for this change.

A Fireside Chat on Digital Learning Equity with Jessica Rowland Williams

Thursday, September 23, 4:15PM – 5:00PM US ET

Global Transitions And Adjustments To Support Teaching In The Pandemic And Plans For Moving Forward

Friday, September 24, 11:15AM – 12:00PM US ET
Presenters: Tawnya Means (University of Illinois – Gies College of Business), Sara Denize (University of Technology Sydney), David Wood (University of Western Ontario), Dan Gruber (Arizona State University, WP Carey School of Business), Lucian Tipi (Sheffield Hallam University)

Tune into a conversation featuring teaching and learning leaders from around the globe about their institution’s efforts to support teaching in the pandemic as well as their plans for the future.  In this session, education leaders at University of Technology Sydney, Ivey Business School at University of Western Ontario, Arizona State University, and Sheffield Hallam University will talk with Tawnya Means, Chief Learning Officer at Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois to share experiences and challenges in making program adjustments to meet students’ needs through the pandemic, how they see leveraging the lessons learned by faculty, and what they hope for the future of teaching and learning in the post pandemic world.

A Fireside Chat on Ensuring Continuity of Instruction with Tawnya Means

Friday September 24, 12:30PM – 1:15PM US ET


Virtual Conference – Featured Workshops


Developing Structure-Based, Construct Valid Online Training

Tuesday, September 21, 11:15AM – 1:15PM US ET
Presenters: Michael Hardt (Le Moyne Institute), Glenn Wright (Syracuse University), Joel Bialek (Le Moyne Institute), Samantha York (Le Moyne Institute)

The online learning market is polluted with content-based noise and “lakes” of big data. As educators and instructional designers, we can find ourselves overwhelmed and at times unable to make use of the volume of data. This workshop will use the story of a partnership project between two higher education institutions (Le Moyne Institute and the Syracuse University Graduate School) to share usable techniques of a structure-based approach to generate and make sense of data to monitor, revise, and enhance learning outcomes for any learning environment.

The TikTok Professor: How to Use TikTok to Build Community and Connect With Students

Wednesday, September 22, 1:45PM – 3:45PM US ET
Presenter: Rachel Brenner (Colorado State University)

A university professor with over 50,000 followers on TikTok will provide a crash course on how to use TikTok to connect with students and build community. The first part of the workshop will cover basic information on the benefits of TikTok, how the app itself works, and how participants can use TikTok to create meaningful asynchronous engagement with students. The second half is experiential and will guide participants through brainstorming and designing their own TikToks.

(Re)Designing Equitable Online Assignments, From Back to Front

Thursday, September 23, 4:15PM – 6:15PM US ET
Presenter: Kevin Kelly (San Francisco State University)

Participants will follow the backward design model to (re)design an online assignment with equity in mind.

  • Assessment – Participants will investigate methods to increase learning equity in how students complete and submit their work, and how they (the teacher) review and score that work.
  • Engagement – Participants will identify ways to increase learning equity during assignment-related interactions (e.g., student-student peer review, teacher-student feedback).
  • Content Review – Participants will discuss strategies for increasing equity related to reviewing content for an assignment (e.g., sharing multiple perspectives, using Open Educational Resources).
  • Instructions – Participants will explore an expanded Transparent Assignment Template to create equity-focused assignment instructions.


Onsite (and Streamed to Virtual) – Featured Sessions


NASA STEM Engagement: Inspiring the Next Generation of Explorers

Wednesday, October 6, 1:15PM – 2:00PM US ET
Presenter: Mike Kincaid (NASA)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invests in endeavors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) engagement, providing exciting and compelling learning experiences for students across our nation. With contributions from NASA’s mission directorates, centers, and functional organizations, the STEM engagement portfolio comprises a diverse set of activities, and products designed to engage and educate students, and to support educators and educational institutions. Through these efforts, NASA makes vital contributions to federal education goals to build a strong foundation for STEM literacy, prepare the STEM workforce of the future, and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM

Leading Blended Learning: Top Down and Bottom Up

Wednesday, October 6, 3:45PM – 4:30PM US ET
Presenter: Kelvin Thompson (University of Central Florida)

Blended learning is often a grassroots activity, and some institutions maximize affordances of blended learning systemically through organizational protocols from “on high.” Synergies can be found, though, in fostering an environment where both approaches are employed cooperatively. Doing so requires clarity, collaboration, and no small amount of leadership.

Teach Access: Eliminating the Accessible Skills Gap

Thursday, October 7, 3:15PM – 4:00PM US ET
Presenters: Kate Sonka (Michigan State University and Teach Access), Cyndi Wiley (Iowa State University), Sarah Huibregtse (University of Mount Union)

Teach Access envisions a future where all technology is accessible. This collaboration between industry, education, and disability advocacy groups is preparing the next generation of designers, developers, and creators to ensure technology is born accessible. Join us to learn how our theory of change connects our mission and vision through online learning, emerging technologies, and advancing education about digital accessibility within varying subjects. We will discuss how we intend to reach 1 million students by 2030, who are the future creators of a world where all people, regardless of disability, are able to fully engage in the digital world.

The Forgotten Ones: Exploring the LXD Model to Address the Barriers UDL Creates for Neurodivergent Learners

Friday, October 8, 9:45AM – 10:30AM US ET
Presenters: Megan Kohler (Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus), Tracy Balduzzi (Syracuse University)

Universal Learning Design has become a valuable way to increase learner engagement, inclusion, and to accommodate learners of varying needs. However, many UDL approaches create barriers for learners who are neurodivergent. By providing quality learning experiences, neurodivergent learners needs are more effectively met during the learning process.


Onsite (and Streamed to Virtual) – Featured Workshops


360 Degrees of Learning: Using Immersive Virtual Learning Technologies and Approaches

Wednesday, October 6, 8:30AM – 9:30AM (Part 1) AND 10:30AM – 11:30AM (Part 2) US ET
Presenters: Elizabeth McGee (University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences), Emily Frank (University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences), Mechelle Roy (University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences), Erolle Dennis-Garner (University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences), Mauricio Viana (University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences), Derek Dudek (University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences), Maria Puzziferro (University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences)

Participants will see examples of how we used 360 technology, virtual reality, “choose your own pathway” software platforms, and our learning management system to create personalized experiences that immerse our students into authentic learning environments such as hospitals, educational settings, homes, and workspaces. This presentation will demonstrate the multiple ways we have implemented 360 technology to successfully engage students and achieve learning outcomes. We will demonstrate how we have overcome the obstacles presented in the areas of home safety evaluations, skills practice and demonstration, workplace ergonomics, and inpatient safety considerations using immersive learning approaches. Participants will be able to explore environments, select learning pathways, and experience the personalized learning media and feedback that is given to students.

Bettyjo BoucheyDr. Bouchey is Associate Professor and Dean of Online Education at National Louis University where she is responsible for standards of quality and service for online programming across the institution. Dr. Bouchey holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University at Albany, an M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Doctorate in Education from Northeastern University. She is a co-founder of the CORAL Research collaborative focused on online leadership and scholarship; her personal research interests include the nature and future of organizational structures of online units in institutions of higher education, as well as inventive and high-impact pedagogical practice in online teaching. | @DRBouchey | 


Tracy BalduzziDr. Tracy Balduzzi is the Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives at Syracuse University. She is responsible for helping academic programs create a more holistic student experience for all graduate students at the University. She is also an adjunct lecturer at Utica College where she teaches courses on taking a project management approach to research. Her research interests examine the perceptions of academic and social development in online education. | @TracyBalduzzi |