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The Online Learning Consortium and MERLOT would like to invite you to our OLC Ideate Labs for Online STEM: Innovating STEM Education 2020 on August 19-21, 2020.  This free virtual expo will showcase a wide range of virtual and distance labs designed to support online STEM education, offered by both commercial and open educational resource (OER) providers. This event brings educators and providers together, not only offering expert guidance on how best to deploy the different types of virtual labs to achieve successful learning outcomes, but also in centering educator use-case virtual lab stories.

Event Details: The upending impact of the COVID-19 outbreak upon higher education has created an immediate demand for delivering laboratory experiences in online settings. This event will foster conversations, exploration and relationship-building between higher education leaders and established online labs providers, organized around 4 strategic themes/questions:

  • WHY CONSIDER VIRTUAL LABS? If you are just getting started, what are the unique affordances of digital, virtual, and distance labs and strategies for intentionally incorporating them into STEM educational spaces into the future?
  • HOW TO GET BUY-IN FOR EXPLORING VIRTUAL LABS? How do you center engagement, welcome exploration/failure, and ensure quality within virtual, digital, and distance labs, so people can try these innovations?
  • HOW DO YOU PLAN FOR SUSTAINING SUCCESS WITH VIRTUAL LABS? How do you connect with stakeholders to discuss policy, resources, training, and the relationship between innovative virtual / digital / distance content and certifying / governing / professional bodies?
  • HOW DO YOU SUCCESSFULLY IMPLEMENT VIRTUAL LABS? What are demonstrated strategies for implementing virtual, digital, and distance labs with sustainability, affordability, accessibility, and equity in mind?

The OLC and MERLOT will facilitate a three-day virtual exposition of virtual laboratory curriculum and tools (e.g., AR/VR, animations, simulations/models, simulations of real experiments, and labs at home) using the Zoom video conference system. We have invited commercial and non-commercial partners to submit proposals for 45-minute sessions aimed at providing you information about tools and strategies that would support the implementation of technology in your STEM labs. The selected Lab providers will present their curriculum, pedagogy, assessment methods, tools and requirements in dialogue with STEM faculty and educational leaders who are either looking to either enhance their in-person lab course experience with some virtual activities, replace the lab entirely with a virtual or at-home option, or simply are curious about the laboratory options available at a distance. Anchored in the four major themes above, the event builds intentional space for building meaningful connections between technology partners and educators, creating multiple entry points for various levels of Lab adoption, as well as authentic storytelling around the implementation of Lab technologies, and (re)imagine in community the future of Online Labs for STEM.

While the first year of the Expo will focus mostly on STEM, we also recognize the opportunities to extend dialogues around Labs to the humanities, arts, and indeed across the breadth of our institutional landscapes.

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Day 1

The first day of the event kicks off with a welcome, providing the history of how this event came to be. The welcome will be followed by an orientation to VoiceThread and the unique affordances of the asynchronous Salons, which will support community-building alongside session presentations. A Technology Support Fair is an additional highlight for Day 1 for those who are finding they need or want assistance in navigating the day. Given that a major goal of the event is to facilitate storytelling through online and digital modalities, Day 1 includes both synchronous and asynchronous opportunities to engage with others in sharing your Lab stories. If you are an educator interested in hearing from technology partners themselves regarding what they’re planning for the future or how they’re supporting education in our current moment, you won’t want to miss this kickoff day! Likewise, if you are a technology partner looking to connect one-on-one with folks regarding current or future needs or perhaps looking for new communities to partner with, you’ll want to plan to follow the VoiceThread comments, as well as joining in on the storytelling fun. Day 1 closes with a 45-minute Ideate Saloon, full of casual social networking and virtual fun.

Day 2 & Day 3 

Join us for Days 2 & 3 of the event for our synchronous Salons. Both days begin with a keynote inspired Community Salon, which will situate this event in the current STEM educational context and drive conversation through provocations related to where we need to go. Programming for both days then moves into two major half-day blocks, each anchored around one of the major event themes. You will be oriented to the theme by one of the event sponsors, who will story how they have contributed to addressing driving questions pertinent to the online lab STEM community. These remarks serve as a transition into 45-minute synchronous Salons. Whether they take the form of a Discussion Salon (whole group) or a Cohort Salon (breakout rooms) these Salons will be key moments for thought leadership, administrators, technology partners, and the educator community as a whole to make connections and dialogue around the implementation of Lab technologies and how we might (re)imagine the future of Online Labs for STEM. Days 2 and 3 also feature mid-day Coffee Talks, additional asynchronous engagement opportunities, and of course a fun and engaging Saloon for lightweight and fun community building. 

Sessions will be recorded and available to OLC Professional and Institutional members shortly after the event. 

Following Ideate

The conversation won’t stop here! If you are looking for continued engagement and community building with others committed to the future of Online Labs for STEM, you’ve come to the right place. Join us in August to start making those connections and for more information on how to stay connected and additional opportunities to engage.

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Are you a STEM educator who has experience using virtual Labs in the online or digital modality? Are you a technology partner who intentionally considers learning outcomes as you design? Have you experienced barriers to lab implementation in the last few months or are you expecting any as we prepare for fall? Share your story at the OLC Ideate Labs for Online STEM event and submit to the CFP today. Whether it be a successful use-case scenario, a narrative based in failure, a provocation about where we need to head next as a community, or tips, tricks, and guidance, we look forward to you joining the dialogue.

Submissions will be evaluated based on overall goodness of fit for the event as well as quality of the proposal. For those interested in submitting, we recommend you carefully consider how your proposal speaks into the four event themes, what stories your proposal is telling about Lab technologies, what it contributes to the STEM community and conversations around Lab technologies, and how it helps us (re)imagine the future of Online Labs for STEM. Given the dialogic nature of this event, proposals that center authentic storytelling and which aim to build community through active presentation formats will also be prioritized.

Technology partners will be expected to submit with an educator. If you are a technology partner interested in this event, know that this is uniquely different than an industry showcase or the sales pitch context. We want to hear the ways in which you are contributing to the STEM and online lab community, make space for your thought leadership, and truly dialogue around not only needs, barriers, and implementation, but also directions for the future. In looking for educators to present with, we’d recommend starting with the institutions you partner with and educators utilizing your technology. If you are having trouble finding an educator interested in presenting with you, please contact both JP Bayard ( and Maddie Shellgren (

There are two primary session types you can submit a presentation for:

1) Synchronous Salons: These are synchronous 45 minute sessions hosted with Zoom that will take place on August 20-21, 2020. There are two types of synchronous salons that you can submit for: A Discussion Salon or a Cohort Salon.

Discussion Salons are structured 45 minute blocks with a leader guiding the entire group through a series of provocations and discussion prompts.

Cohort Salons are informal 45 minute blocks with a series of leaders in breakout rooms. Participants will work on a driving question in small breakouts and then share out with the larger group.

2) Asynchronous (Discovery) Salons: These are asynchronous, pre-recorded sessions hosted with VoiceThread. The event will kickoff with intentional engagement with these presentations and will returned through during key community building moments throughout the event. Participants and the STEM community will also leverage VoiceThread for continued asynchronous engagement following the event (where you as a presenter can engage with attendees via recorded comments for ongoing dialogue).

Presentation submissions are due Monday, August 10th at 11:59pm Eastern Daylight Time with notifications sent no later than August 12th.


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You will need an OLC account to register. During the registration process, you will be first taken to the login screen if you are not already logged into your OLC account. If you do not have an OLC account, you will need to create one at that time. This account is free and simple to create. 

Why do I need to create an OLC account? Your OLC account will allow you to access this event and any future events you may select through OLC. Using your account login helps us keep our virtual environments safe and secure.

There are a few steps to the registration process. Please take note of these steps here so you will be clear as you move through the short process.

  1. Click the dropdown menu to add 1 free event ticket and click “Add”. It will take about 5 seconds for the ticket to be added to your shopping cart. Click “Continue” to proceed to the next screen.
  2. Click “Checkout” and proceed to the next screen.
  3. Click “Confirm Order” to confirm your registration for the event. YOU DO NOT NEED A DISCOUNT CODE so leave that blank.

If you have any questions about your registration, please contact

For technical questions during registration, please contact 

For general information about the Expo, contact JP Bayard at



This is an OLC Ideate virtual event. Please use the form to the right to sign up for updates as more information becomes available about this event and future events.

Revisit OLC Ideate Virtual Salons (Past Event – Spring 2020)

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