Celebrating 30 Years of Innovation: Welcome to OLC Accelerate 2024


Tawnya Means, Conference Chair, OLC Accelerate 2024

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As we gather to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Accelerate conference, it’s both a time of reflection and anticipation. This milestone signifies three decades of growth, evolution, and unwavering commitment to advancing the field of online learning. It is an honor to serve as your conference chair and to witness the incredible journey that has brought us to this point.

Over the years, OLC Accelerate has evolved from a small gathering of pioneers to a global event that attracts thousands of educators, researchers, and practitioners from around the world. This growth is a testament to the dedication and passion of our community. From the early days of exploring the potential of online learning to today’s innovative approaches, our conference has consistently been at the forefront of educational transformation. Personally, I have been attending and presenting at OLC conferences since 2013 (when it was still called Sloan Consortium). I have made connections around the world and learned from so many amazing people across the years and I can’t wait to gather together with colleagues and friends to celebrate!

Reflecting on past conferences, several key achievements and moments stand out. We’ve seen groundbreaking research presentations, witnessed the launch of innovative technologies, and engaged in profound discussions that have shaped the future of online learning. Each conference has contributed to our collective understanding and has driven forward the standards of excellence in our field.

One of the most remarkable aspects of OLC Accelerate is the strong sense of community and collaboration built over three decades. This conference has always been more than just a series of sessions; it’s a place where relationships are forged, ideas are exchanged, and collective wisdom is shared. It is this spirit of collaboration that continues to propel us forward, ensuring that we remain at the cutting edge of online education.

This year, we are excited to share several programming updates that reflect the dynamic and inclusive nature of OLC Accelerate. We are thrilled to welcome our keynote speakers, Dr. C. Edward Watson and Dr. Christina Katopodis. Dr. Watson, Vice President for Digital Innovation at the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), will deliver the Tuesday keynote. His presentation, “Preparing Students for Life Beyond College: Embracing AI as Essential Learning,” will address the rapid impact of generative AI tools on education and the need for higher education to integrate AI competencies and literacies as essential learning outcomes.

On Wednesday, Dr. Katopodis, Mellon Senior Researcher at the CUNY Humanities Alliance, will share her insights in the keynote, “The Future is Co-Created: Toward Inclusive, Collaborative Digital Learning.” She will explore how to transition from hierarchical and inequitable educational models to more democratic and inclusive ones, emphasizing collaborative digital learning practices.

Additionally, our master classes offer deep dives into critical topics, providing attendees with practical strategies and insights to implement in their own contexts. Highlights include sessions on leveraging generative AI in education, accelerating research innovation with AI, transforming presentations through storytelling and design, and mastering AI for scalable improvement of online courses.

We are also introducing several new featured events and engagement opportunities. The OLC Leadership Network Symposium 2024 is an exclusive one-day leadership symposium focusing on strategy and high-impact practices. We cordially invite senior leaders and their trusted advisors to join us in Orlando, Florida this fall for a remarkable opportunity to learn, collaborate, and network. This symposium, taking place prior to our larger community gathering at OLC Accelerate (November 18-21), will bring together trailblazers and influential voices in our field, fostering discussions and debates about our digital learning futures. This highly collaborative event aims to identify areas requiring focused attention to address the challenges and opportunities for creating equitable, inclusive, and quality online and blended education. Themes will include operational strategies for digital learning excellence, equity and inclusion in digital learning, and innovating digital learning pedagogies and methods.

The K12 Symposium at OLC Accelerate 2024 will feature lively discussions on AI and EdTech, engaging students, cultivating digital citizenship, pathways from K-12 to higher education, boosting critical thinking in online learning, and honing digital literacy skills. 

Another great opportunity is our engagement sessions which create spaces for community members to collaborate and think critically about our field’s practices and methods, focusing on positive change. From networking breaks to evening socials to early morning mindfulness sessions, we offer unique opportunities for connection, collaboration, and innovation within digital learning. 

On a personal note, I want to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation to each of you. Your dedication and enthusiasm are what make this conference truly special. It is your willingness to share, to learn, and to grow together that has brought us to this milestone. As we look forward to OLC Accelerate 2024, I am filled with excitement and anticipation for the insights, connections, and innovations that lie ahead.

I invite you to join us in celebrating this significant anniversary and to engage fully with all that OLC Accelerate 2024 has to offer. Whether you are a long-time attendee or joining us for the first time, there is something here for everyone. Let’s come together to honor our past achievements and to inspire each other for the future.

See you at OLC Accelerate 2024!

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