What does OLC Accelerate’s 25th Anniversary mean to you?

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Megan Kohler

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OLC Accelerate Attendees

The Online Learning Consortium celebrates the 25th anniversary of the OLC Accelerate conference this November, and it promises to be a spectacular event. A milestone of this magnitude couldn’t happen without you, our OLC community members. Each year, you take the time to draft proposals, create presentations, and travel to Orlando to contribute to this event, making it the premiere higher-education event of the year.

CFP is Open: Deadline is May 22, 2019. Want to get expert tips on getting your proposal accepted to the conference? Join us for an inside look at the process used by the conference committee to select proposals for Accelerate. OLC Accelerate 2019: Call for Proposals Info Session

In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of OLC Accelerate, I want to share some of the biggest benefits of attending this conference, as well as some thoughts from our attendees about what OLC Accelerate means to them.

Sense of Community

One of the key features of OLC Accelerate that I continually hear people talk about is the sense of community. No matter who you meet at the conference—students right out of grad school, seasoned program directors, deans, and members of OLC’s Executive Board—everyone is kind to you and accepts you as part of the community.

OLC is able to create this vibrant community, through the opportunities they provide for people to network and engage in meaningful conversations. The Institute for Emerging Leaders in Online Learning (IELOL) program is one such opportunity. The closing event of the IELOL program, the Master Class, is held at OLC Accelerate every year, where new ‘graduates’ are welcomed by introducing them to alumni of the program. I am a proud alumna of this group and was able to meet the esteemed Garvey Pike at Accelerate 2017. I reached out to Garvey to get his insight on what makes Accelerate a meaningful event for him.

“What makes this conference special is the community spirit. People are genuinely interested in helping each other. And the quality of presentations is far superior when compared to other conferences in our field. There is no grandstanding, just true community.”
Garvey Pike, Director for the Center for Teaching and Learning, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

If you are new to OLC Accelerate, or even if you’re a seasoned attendee, another opportunity to connect with other online learning professionals is the Field Guide program. This program was established to create deeper and more meaningful connections between attendees. Every year at Accelerate, volunteers from the community join together to welcome attendees (new and returning) by engaging in a variety of activities. If you’re not familiar with the Field Guide Program, you can learn more about it by visiting the OLC Accelerate 2018 Field Guide page.

Quality Programs, Content, and Resources

As Garvey Pike mentioned in his statement, OLC has a strong focus on creating quality experiences—both in the classroom and the conference hall. Each year, OLC receives nearly a thousand proposals to present at Accelerate. The committee carefully reviews and selects the highest quality proposals in order to create a memorable conference. The conference also attracts attendees from around the world. It is because of the contributions of conference presenters and attendees that we are able to enjoy dynamic and rich conversations that truly work to advance higher education.

“I love OLC Accelerate because it’s great to be surrounded by people who care so much about online education. The opportunities to present, volunteer, network, and compete (and win) in super-fun social media activities are just a few aspects that have caused me to repeatedly return to the conference in the last 10 years. Each year I attend, I’m amazed that OLC manages to surpass the conference quality from previous years. I can’t imagine what they’ve got in store for their 25th.”
Ed Queen, Instructional Designer, Johns Hopkins University

Over the past few years, a fundamental resource at the Accelerate conference has been the OLC Quality Scorecard for Blended Learning. OLC offers this free scorecard to help you evaluate the quality of your blended learning experiences. It continues to grow in popularity and is a wonderful tool you may not have discovered. More information is available on the Quality Scorecard webpage.

Fun!

As the saying goes “Work hard, play hard” and OLC knows exactly how to do that. Maddie Shellgren is leading the Technology Test Kitchen for this year’s Accelerate conference. Maddie is a true visionary when it comes to creating impactful learning. Last year she brought her creativity to the planning committee by designing an Escape Room focused on addressing accessibility concerns in the classroom, and this year she plans to improve on the concept. Maddie shared her thoughts on why she returns to Accelerate every year.

“Accelerate was my first OLC conference and when I joined the OLC community I did so on the programming side of things. Truthfully, I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I agreed to be a “Master Chef” in the Technology Test Kitchen, but when I arrived, I was blown away. When I left at the end of the week, I could say with full honesty that OLC Accelerate provided the most unique and fun experience I had ever had at a conference to date. It supplied me with a different model for conference programming that went far beyond the presentations I sat through at other conferences. It provided me the opportunity to reimagine what was possible at a conference. And it gave me the unique chance to see that a conference could genuinely and authentically be fun…something I typically hoped for but never counted on from a conference setting.”
Madeline Shellgren, Program Director for the Graduate School, Michigan State University

Every Accelerate conference seems to top the previous year with fun activities. In 2017 we enjoyed ProctorU’s “Hot Night in Havana” Party and Proctorio’s “School of Rock” Karaoke Party. In 2018. We went “Back to the Future” with an actual DeLorean in the exhibit hall and grooved to the music at Proctorio’s 80’s dance party. With this year’s 25th Anniversary, it’s certain there will be plenty of celebrating!

Thank You

These are only a few of the benefits of the OLC Accelerate conference, and there are many more we could discuss, but perhaps we’ll have to wait until we meet in Orlando this November. In the meantime, I will share a statement from my fellow Program Chair and friend.

“I have grown to really appreciate the connections I make at OLC Accelerate. As a long-time attendee, presenter and volunteer for this conference, I especially look forward to celebrating this milestone anniversary with my OLC community.”
Doug Geier, Director of eLearning and Instructional Design, Golden Gate University

These incredible achievements are possible because of you. Your passion and dedication to sharing new ideas, approaches, and technologies for the advancement of online and digital education is really the heart of what makes this conference so special. Thank you for being a part of this wonderful community, and I look forward to seeing you in November.

*If you would like to share your story on how OLC Accelerate has made an impact in your life, we’d love to read about it in the comments.

Want to get expert tips on getting your proposal accepted to the conference? Join us for an inside look at the process used by the conference committee to select proposals for Accelerate. OLC Accelerate 2019: Call for Proposals Info Session

Megan KohlerMegan Kohler is a Learning Designer with the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute at Penn State. She has presented at international conferences, such as Open Ed 2010 in Barcelona, Spain, the International Conference on Arts and Humanities in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the Online Learning Consortium in Orlando, Florida. Megan relies on her training and over 12 years of experience as a professional actor to bring a unique element of fun to her presentations and design work, creating a fun and engaging experience for all.

Among her professional accomplishments, she is recognized for her work as the lead instructional designer and project manager on Penn State’s highly-rated Epidemics MOOC. She conceptualized the MOOCs by Design Webinar series and served as the pedagogical lead for the Penn State Digital Badges Initiative. She continues to explore interesting opportunities focused on improving the online learning experience for higher education. She frequently shares her insights on teaching, learning, and technology on her blog titled, RedesignEd.

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