#WeAreOLC: The Personal Learning Network and OLC Live


Clark Shah-Nelson (Co-Chair, OLC Live at OLC Accelerate 2019)

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OLC Live LogoWith 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.

Once upon a time, I was a lonely Coordinator of Online Learning at a state university, largely working on my own in a remote small town, designing instruction, supporting faculty and students for technology and online education. Within my first year, I started attending regional meetings and conferences and interacting with interesting folks in similar positions at other area institutions. I realized that this was a key missing element that could enhance my abilities and work at my home institution. We would discuss how we handle situations, organize our work, encourage development, utilize tools, share success and horror stories and just generally enjoy each others’ company. Some of the folks I met (Alexandra Pickett, Greg Ketcham, Phylise Banner, in particular) spoke of attending larger national conferences, such as something they called “Sloan-C ALN” (the predecessor to OLC Accelerate). This piqued my interest. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was just starting to expand, learn and grow in a personal learning network (PLN). 

Eventually, I wound up attending that national conference for online learning, and meeting even more like-minded folks who were sharing ideas, strategies, practices and processes with one another. It made my work at my home institution richer and more expansive. Phylise Banner and Frank Tomsic hatched the Technology Test Kitchen (TTK) idea and brought me along as a master chef when we first launched it at the Sloan-C (just before it became OLC) Blended Learning conference in Denver in 2014. We kept the conversation going after the conference, with email, instant messages, text messages, tweets, videoconferences and collaborative software for composing papers, session ideas, slides and so on. We planned, wrote, and presented together. Meanwhile, via the TTK, I met loads of other amazing, brilliant, fun people, too many to name! To read about this in detail, check out Musgrove et al., 2018. This PLN thing had legs, and eventually another entity organically and spontaneously erupted, becoming known as #SquadGoalsNetwork. (Check out the hashtag on Twitter to participate!) 

Folks in this PLN continued seeing each other once or twice a year at conferences and even visited each other at their home institutions. Discussions and stories of life, family and much more than just work ensued. Eventually, various members of the PLN became involved with co-chairing conferences such as OLC Innovate and OLC Accelerate and helping plan and lead various aspects of conference engagement. One of these engagement efforts, OLC Live, first appeared at OLC Innovate 2018 in Nashville, TN. OLC Live helps connect people from all parts of the globe to the conference and to one another by means of live videoconferencing. It includes discussions, stories, conversations and interviews with speakers, participants, award winners, conference steering committee and members of the OLC Board of Directors, a real swath of OLC Accelerate people. 

OLC Live continues to evolve with each iteration. Before OLC Accelerate, the OLC Live crew will feature several pre-conference town halls, which will feature past conference chairs, OLC board members, best in track winners, and tips for getting the most out of the conference. At OLC Accelerate in 2019, OLC Live will include a day long online international summit that cuts across most time zones, with featured guests from around the globe discussing the importance and nuances of openness. OLC Live will also include variety hour sessions in the OLC Live Studio and streaming online. These will invite both on-site and virtual attendees to engage with OLC Live hosts and a litany of guests in a series of high-energy online sessions that will include games, prizes, networking opportunities, and much much more. OLC Live will include a live lounge for socializing, a videoconferencing room where attendees can simply connect with each other, have some informal discussion, tell some stories and share experiences. Be sure to visit the OLC Live web page for up-to-date information about timing and location of all activities. Finally, the conversation will continue after the conference with the #WeAreOLC hashtag on Twitter

Your journey to OLC Accelerate is part of your own story, your own personal learning journey, and whether you realize it or not, your own personal learning network. This PLN keeps evolving and growing, and it has helped others form new connections and their own PLNs. And of course, everyone lives happily ever after!



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 narrativesYou 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.


Musgrove, A. T., Gunder, A., Knott, J. L., Tomsic, F., Banner, P., Melton, R., Goodrich, D., & Shah-Nelson, C. (2018). Technology-Enhanced Exploratory Installations to Support Constructivist Professional Development: The Technology Test Kitchen. In V. Bryan, A. Musgrove, & J. Powers (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Human Development in the Digital Age (pp. 1-32). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-5225-2838-8.ch001


Clark Shah-Nelson (Co-Chair, OLC Live at OLC Accelerate 2019)

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