OLC and the Season of Planning, Gathering and Giving Thanks


Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D., Interim Chief Executive Officer, Online Learning Consortium

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This truly is a busy time of year. It’s the final quarter of 2019 and we’re all focused on finishing the year in the strongest way possible. At the same time, we’re in planning mode for 2020. And for the OLC team, it’s also all hands on deck in final preparation for gathering the online learning community for OLC Accelerate 2019 and the 25th-anniversary celebration of this event! 

What is evident in this whirlwind of activity is the continued strength of OLC. Before our community heads to Orlando in a few weeks, I’d like to draw your attention to the incredible work our team and our members have accomplished so far this year, and how these accomplishments are positioning us to advance our strategic vision in the year ahead. 

Strong Membership the Foundation of All We Do

Starting with our vital and growing membership, I’m delighted to report that in 2019 more than 100 institutions have become new OLC members. Strong membership is essential for our future success, as membership fees go right back into providing resources for our members and the broader academic community. 

High-Value Research & Publications

Among the resources valued most by our members is Online Learning, the highly respected, open-access, peer-reviewed journal, providing leading research in our field. Article downloads for Online Learning Journal have nearly doubled each year since 2016. We look forward to extending this trend in 2020. 

We are also very excited to be entering a new phase of growth for the OLC Research Center for Digital Learning and Leadership, which will expand its vision and mission in 2020, with a focus on high-impact, quality practices for online learning success for students, leadership, institutions, and the overall state of higher education.

Among the most widely read reports published by the Research Center this year were: 

The Research Center is also working on some valuable original research in the year ahead. With our partners Every Learner Everywhere, Carolina Distance Learning, Digital Ed, and HHMI, and led by Jeff Seaman of the Babson Survey Research Group, we’re developing the first-ever national survey on the State of Online STEM Education. We invite you to participate in the development of this research at the Research Summit taking place at OLC Accelerate 2019.

As the Research Center expands and works to provide theory- and practice-based resources and engage with the online learning community, OLC members are encouraged to connect with us about the work you’re engaged in and what matters to you. Contact publish@onlinelearning-c.org to learn about potential collaboration and publication opportunities.

Professional Development Specifically for Online Learning Practitioners 

Another important community resource is professional development. We are proud that the OLC Institute for Professional Development has become the go-to resource for training of online learning practitioners and leaders of the future. 

This year, the Institute has created a special pre-conference event at OLC Accelerate. The Instructional Design Summit will address a variety of issues in the field and provides networking opportunities for anyone interested in or working in an instructional design role. There’s been strong interest in this event, with more than 350 already confirmed to attend. If ID is your thing, you really should check this out.

The Institute has also created a compelling schedule of new learning opportunities for 2020 – including workshops, webinars and badges. When planning your professional development goals for the new year, be sure to check out what’s new in 2020.

Developing the Next Generation of Online Learning Leaders

Our leadership focus is evident in the Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning program (IELOL). Entering its 12th year in 2020, IELOL serves the development needs of emerging leaders responsible for a variety of digital learning initiatives in higher education. 

The IELOL leadership community has grown to nearly 400 members and has also spawned other OLC leadership initiatives such as a comprehensive professional development program within OLC’s Institute for Professional Development, the Leadership Network and several studies focusing specifically on the role of the digital leader in post-secondary education.

In 2019 we held a successful IELOL event, hosted by our academic partner, the University of Central Florida. We’re putting the final touches on next year’s program. Watch for details coming soon about the launch of registration for IELOL 2020. 

A Platform for Showcasing Your Thought Leadership

In 2020, we will continue to drive OLC’s thought leadership agenda through new and existing channels, including the addition of a new podcast (details coming soon), and our Online Learning Leaders Special Interest Group (join here). We’re also looking for member suggestions on more SIGs you like us to add – email your ideas to research@onlinelearning-c.org.

The OLC Insights blog is always serving up fresh new ideas contributed by our community of experts and practitioners, on a range of topics including leadership, quality, professional development, instructional design, and research, as well as special or emerging topics and new releases of reports, data, and resources.  OLC members are invited to join the conversation and submit ideas for blog posts to publish@onlinelearning-c.org.  

Quality Scorecard & Consulting

OLC has seen explosive growth in consulting related to speaking engagements, quality course reviews, and other online learning support. The OLC Speakers Bureau is becoming a go-to source for expert speakers in online, blended, e-learning and digital learning topics for a wide range of events.  

With more than 5,200 downloads in 2019, OLC’s Quality Scorecard suite continues to be one of the leading quality benchmarking tools available for institutions looking to ensure online learning excellence. The QS Navigator is an ongoing source of consulting opportunities from institutions seeking guidance in completing the Quality Scorecard for the Administration of Online Programs. The most significant growth is coming from requests for OLC to complete quality course reviews. 

A Village of OLC Volunteers

As a nonprofit, member-driven organization, OLC relies on volunteers to help us provide the tools and resources that support quality in online and digital learning. We are so thankful for the generous support of our extensive network of volunteers, without whom, we could not achieve our goals. Visit our Volunteer Opportunities page to learn about the many ways you can get involved. 

A Quarter-Century of Can’t-Miss Conferences

OLC conferences are an incredible source of fresh ideas and new relationships that strengthen our community all year long.  

Attendance at OLC Innovate in Denver this past spring was up 4 percent over 2018, attracting more than 1,200 in-person attendees from all 50 states, and an additional 1,000-plus who joined virtually. 

And, perhaps you’ve heard… OLC Accelerate 2019 marks 25 years of OLC’s gathering of online learning leaders and practitioners from around the world. As OLC’s largest annual conference, OLC Accelerate will welcome some 2,000+ online learning leaders and practitioners from across the globe devoted to driving quality online learning, advancing best practice guidance and accelerating innovation in learning for all.  We’ll be celebrating in Orlando, and, of course, you’re invited! 

Thankful for Our Shared Successes

As we enter the season of giving thanks, I’d like to express my gratitude to the OLC team and to you, our members, volunteers, and extended community, for the successes of 2019, and for your unwavering commitment to OLC and our shared mission. Thank you.

I hope to see you soon in Orlando for OLC Accelerate 2019. Safe travels!

Dr Jennifer Mathes

Jennifer provides leadership in researching and planning strategic initiatives, special projects and partnerships that align with OLC’s mission, vision and goals. Dr. Mathes has nearly 20 years of experience in both public and private for-profit higher education where she has supported online learning initiatives since she taught her first online course in 1997. She has been instrumental in working with start-up online initiatives as well as leading growth in institutions with an existing online program. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she wrote her dissertation on “Predictors for Student Success in Online Education.” She also has earned a Master of Science degree in Business Education and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications from Illinois State University.

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