Virtually Inspired: A Showcase of Innovations in Online Learning

Concurrent Session 6
Streamed Session OLC Session

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Brief Abstract

Experience the extensive research uncovered of those using an array of innovative technologies and practices to engage students in authentic, active and customized learning experiences.


Marci Powell is President/CEO of Marci Powell & Associates and an expert in the field of educational technology with extensive experience in applications related to lifelong learning and innovation. She serves on the board of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) as Chair of Global Partnerships, is Chair Emerita and Past President of the Association. Ms. Powell also writes and speaks on digital learning, video for learning, and innovative education for numerous national and international media sites. Before assuming her current position, Powell was Global Director for Education at Polycom. She has also served as Director of Educational Advocacy for AT&T. Powell began her career as a classroom teacher and quickly moved on to serve as an administrator at various educational institutions across Texas. Marci was inducted into the Texas Distance Learning Association (TxDLA) Hall of Fame in 2011 and the USDLA Hall of Fame in 2012. Most recently Marci was named Higher Ed Tech Decisions Top 10 Leaders in Higher Education. In 2014, the European Distance and Elearning Network named Marci an EDEN Fellow for her distinguish contributions to the European learning field. She serves on the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), USDLA Board of Directors, and EduAlliance board (UAE). Her work with organizations such as the European Distance and Elearning Network (EDEN), European Commission DG Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ankabut, The Masie Center LEARNING Consortium as well as with educational institutions, various ministries of education, and businesses helps drive high quality open and distance learning environments. Marci serves as senior educational researcher to Drexel University Online and is co-anchor of Virtually Inspired: Showcasing Innovations in Online Learning, a website designed to inspire administrators and faculty.

Extended Abstract

In contemplating the future of teaching and learning, there are more than a few forward-thinking institutions in the process of re-imagining it, using an array of innovative technologies and practices to engage students in active, authentic, and customized learning experiences. 

Rigorous research has been conducted under the direction of Drexel University Online, comprising of dozens of interviews with faculty, administrators, and training officers worldwide to uncover the innovations and technologies being implemented.  

For example, by enabling sophisticated educational games and simulations, virtual reality (VR) technologies empower students to actively and authentically learn by doing, through repetitive and thought-provoking practice, within a safe and multi-sensory environment, a proven approach for mastering expert knowledge and complex skills.

In a similar vein, holography allows students to create and manipulate their own three-dimensional, free-standing images through photographic projection, using special headsets and other wearable devices.  As such, this technology can support any number of authentic and customized learning experiences, from virtual field trips through 16th century villages to science experiments that are too dangerous, expensive, or difficult to perform in real life. 

Other areas researched include adaptive learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, learning platforms/tools, robotic telepresence, video, virtual labs, virtual worlds, and technologies on the horizon. Examination across several discipline areas from general studies to specialization areas was conducted. More than 50 leading examples were uncovered.   

This session will showcase a few innovative approaches and the many ways technologies are being effectively optimized for teaching and learning around the world.  In doing so, participants will actually see these tools in action, while exploring why and how they are rapidly reinventing education in the age of connected teaching and learning. A healthy and interactive discussion around the technology and pedagogical practice will be facilitated to engage participants.