#WeAreOLC: Forging Global Connections Through the Openness of Storytelling


Angela Gunder (Co-Chair, 2019 Online International Summit at OLC Accelerate 2019)

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OLC Institutional Membership - Join a Global Network of Educators

With the idea of stories being a connecting element throughout all of our conference activities, we are creating a variety of opportunities for you to share your story and to hear the stories of others. We’re calling this initiative #WeAreOLC. As the #WeAreOLC initiative unfolds, you will see a series of blog posts focused on how we (the members of the steering committee) are using storytelling to create a memorable and impactful 25th Anniversary experience. Read the first blog post of this series.

Back in May, I had the opportunity to participate in the 2019 China-US Online Higher Education Forum, organized by CMS Global and the OLC.  Hosted by Shanghai Jiatong University in the heart of the vibrant city of Shanghai, the convening took the goal of surfacing the connection between innovation in education technology and quality in online education.  Joined by colleagues from the University of Virginia, Lamar University, Rutgers University, and the University of Florida, we each told the story of how our institutions tackle the ubiquitous challenge of providing access to education by leveraging the power of the online learning environment. 

As presenters from prestigious universities across China and the Ministry of Education shared their findings, successes, and future goals for online education, I was struck by the enormity of the challenge of ensuring student success at such a scale. In my own talk, I focused on the interplay of the multiple definitions of scale.  Within online education, we most often use the term scale to mean growth and expansion, but it also means to traverse a difficult climb. The University of Arizona sits within a city surrounded by mountains, and I shared that in our five short years establishing Arizona Online, the most important thing we did was to focus on which peaks we wanted to climb.  Or put another way, we were intentional about setting our own institutional metrics for success aligned to the success of the specific populations of students we serve.

Looking back on the convening, though the various institutions shared diverse perspectives and approaches to sustaining quality online education, it was the intentionality around the act of sharing goals, findings and effective practices that served as the common thread across the various organizations.

In June, I had another opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the globe, this time as part of The University of Arizona Global Micro-Campus Conference.  The summit brought together members of The University of Arizona’s network of micro-campuses in rich discussions on how we might redefine international education through partnerships with institutions globally.  The event was held at Ocean University in Qingdao, the location of the university’s very first micro-campus which was established in 2015.

I had the pleasure of connecting with the leadership and faculty from several of our current and future partner universities, including Sampoerna University in Jakarta, the University of Mauritius, American University of Phnom Penh, and many others, presenting with colleagues on active learning in the flipped classroom.  Collectively, we explored the distinct challenges and opportunities of designing a global curriculum that could be offered in multiple modalities and co-taught by a UA professor and a global lecturer at the partner university. Yet again, I was struck by the fact that each university came to the table with unique challenges, but sharing each of these threads formed a collective tapestry of stories on how we all fight for access to education and student success.

Inspired by these global meetings, and also in great part by my years as an associate editor for MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Teaching Online), I reached out to my OLC family with an idea for how we might amplify the power of our collective stories with an online convening.  Each year at OLC Innovate, MERLOT has its leadership meeting, where Executive Director Gerry Hanley shares statistics on MERLOT membership internationally. Only a handful of the 195 countries across the globe do not have MERLOT members, a fact that reminds me how incredibly connected we all are and how so many of us across the globe have made a commitment to open education.   Gerry never fails to bring different global partners to the MERLOT meeting at OLC Innovate, and these exchanges and connections are often the highlight of the conference.  In service to this mission of connection and open collaboration, the idea for the very first OLC Online International Summit was born.

The OLC Accelerate 2019 Online International Summit is a free, fully-online gathering that will examine how educators from across the globe define openness in education.  Our field has seen the refocusing of the research lens from open educational resources (OER) towards the open educational practices (OEP) as a means of illuminating the sustaining methods and initiatives that support open pedagogy (DeRosa & Robinson, 2017; Paskevicius, 2017).  This shift is a reminder that our efforts are not products or commodities as the nodes that connect, but rather the people themselves that define the open landscape.

The summit is meant to serve many goals – a lightweight way to network on a global scale, a crowdsourcing of definitions of openness, and a collaborative storytelling session focused on how we will only solve our challenges if we work together.  The Online International Summit will be held on Tuesday, November 19 on Zoom, and will consist of six 1-hour sessions, with speakers from every continent (minus Antarctica) kicking each session off with a 5 minute provocation. Participants will spend the next 10 minutes in a lightning brainstorming session, followed by a closure and connections to backchannel activities.

The findings from the summit will be shared out as a white paper, further emphasizing the importance of telling our collective stories on our dedication to openness in education.  As the planning continues with my co-chair, Clark Shah-Nelson, we’ll post the full schedule and additional details on the OLC Accelerate website. However, if this intro has enticed you and you want to be involved, please do not hesitate to contact us right away (info listed on the site link below). The success of the inaugural Online International Summit depends on your energy and enthusiasm!

Learn More About the OLC Accelerate 2019 Online International Summit.

The OLC’s dedication to storytelling has a long history, but the recent launch of the #WeAreOLC initiative shines a light on the practice as critical to our success as a community.  In celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the OLC at Accelerate this November, I invite you to reflect on the ways in which openly sharing your story has improved your work as a practitioner and the lives of those around you.  You can share stories or visual memories, either on your own blog or social media, or on this Google form, that tell the story of how openness is critical to helping us to scale the mountains ahead of us in ensuring equity and access within all levels of higher education. 



We know that we would not be where we are today were it not for your contributions over the last 25 years. With this in mind, we first invite you to share your own OLC narratives. You can join in our quest to story the past (so that we can better prepare for the future) by submitting one or more of the following to this GOOGLE FORM:

Share a visual memory

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and we encourage you to help us collect memories from the past. Scour your archives for photos, videos, documents, or other resources that tell a story. We’ll share them with the OLC community through our social media channels as our way of saying “thanks for being a part of the OLC”.(Remember, we’re hoping to build a history of the OLC for the last 25 years)

Share your story

We want to highlight you and your work or contributions to making OLC what it is today. Create a blog post, a twitter post, etc. that we can share with the other members of our community. Here are a few prompts to get you started.

  • How did you first get involved with the OLC?
  • 25 years (then and now): What kinds of technology were you using 25 years ago and what technology do you engage with now?
  • What is one of your favorite OLC experiences?
  • Who composes your OLC community (i.e. the people you have met along the way and always enjoy seeing)? Tell a story that shares about your relationship.
  • How do you support inclusion, diversity, equity, and advocacy in your teaching and learning and how has this evolved in the past 25 years?

We hope that you join us by following along with the series, as we articulate our shared commitment to a more inclusive, equitable, and humanizing OLC through engaging in individual and collective storytelling. Thank you for sharing your stories with us and for being an important part of our community. #WeAreOLC.



DeRosa, R., & Robinson, S. (2017). From OER to Open Pedagogy: Harnessing the Power of Open. In R. S. Jhangiani & R. Biswas-Diener (Eds.), Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science (pp. 115–124). Ubiquity Press.

Paskevicius, M. (2017). Conceptualizing Open Educational Practices through the Lens of Constructive Alignment. Open Praxis, 9(2), 125–140.

Angela Gunder (Co-Chair, 2019 Online International Summit at OLC Accelerate 2019)

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