What’s all the Buzz about Discovery Sessions, Anyway?!


Sherri Restauri, OLC Accelerate Conference Co-Chair, IDEA Co-Chair, & Happy Discovery Session Presenter

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Talk about innovative pedagogical uses of technology–Discovery Sessions at OLC conferences, such as the upcoming OLC Accelerate in Orlando, Florida–epitomize the best of pedagogy, technology, and collaboration, and I would even suggest, are the best format for allowing for innovation and creativity on the part of the presenters. I’ve been involved as an attendee, then speaker, then volunteer with OLC for many years, well over a decade now, and over time, I’ve become the #1 fan (no….SERIOUSLY!!) of this particular presentation format. If you’ve never PRESENTED in this format, or even never made it a point to attend these, I truly hope that 2019 is the year you get to experience these great DS formats for the first time. Based on years of assisting with and also presenting in these formats, I’ve created a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Discovery Sessions below. Read on! 

Question 1: What does a Discovery Session (DS) look like? 

Here is an incredibly fun DS I presented at with 2 colleagues recently–one of our presenters took a moment to take a selfie with those standing around talking and listening.

Our DSs are set up in a large room with individual presenter stations including both a low and a tall tabletop display. There will be 10-15 presenters in each room, and some may have co-presenters if their presentation was accepted with multiple authors, just like in our other session formats. Sessions are labeled with the name on a small display sign, but the main focus of each individual presenter station is the people and the digital display that you present. This year we have generously also been provided with a digital monitor for external display by one of our vendor sponsors, MindEdge, so you’ll be able to more easily showcase your content in slide decks, etc. on a large, 26+” monitor from the instructional station. 

Question 2: What should I bring to present at/attend a Discovery Session? 

OLC Accelerate has competitive acceptance rates for ALL SESSION FORMATS–this means that if your session was accepted as Discovery Session (whether you submitted for this format originally or not), you are in a select group of individuals who have a topic that our conference organizers and proposal evaluators felt was directly pertinent to our attendees, likely because it includes several of these characteristics: 

  • Direct fits into one or more of our conference tracks
  • Includes a focus on research that demonstrates best practices within the digital learning space
  • Has applications for others who are attending the conference whereby they may review your presentation materials, and immediately take-away ideas on how to implement improvements and innovations within their own space
  • Involves pre-planned interactivity and engagement with attendees that will showcase to them the importance of your topic and also allow for the group to interact in a meaningful manner

So what should you bring? Your laptop with its’ charger; a slide deck with approximately 5-8 slides highlighting the big points and take-aways, and I strongly encourage table decor =), business cards, and/or candy. Have you ever browsed around vendor sessions, recruitment fairs, etc.? What catches your eye? Think of innovative ways to decorate your tables, and attract people towards your station. We’ll provide the power station, just remember your computer and slides! Some presenters–including me!–like to bring more than one computer, such as an extra laptop or iPad. This makes it easier to have all attendees engaged when you get busy as they can browse independently on one device. Here is a recent DS session I conducted with 4 colleagues, and 3 devices:

(P.S. If you are using a Mac, we encourage you to bring an adaptor to connect to the display monitors). 

Question 3: And the most common question about DS I’ve received:
I’ve never presented at/attended these before and am afraid it may be uncomfortable. How do I engage with others at these sessions? 

Discovery Sessions allow you to discuss in a low-key, small group setting your electronic presentation (~5-8 slides total) for 10-15 minutes, re-starting and repeating your presentation (“pitch”) to attendees over a 45 minute time period. The truth is, these are the least stressful and most fun of all of our conference format options, in my opinion! You can present 5-8 key points, and talk about your great innovations and research, right? It’s a wonderful opportunity to network with peers. 

The main goal is to engage and elicit comments and ideas from your peers. One of the best features about DS’s is that they are designed to allow for interactive 1:1 discussions between presenters and attendees, so you may have a better level of engagement with these formats than in many other conference session formats, in fact. Our Presenter Services team has created some incredibly helpful Presenter Guides including for the DS format-see those and other resources below. 

Are you presenting at our Discovery Sessions for the first time? Please take a look at our great tips we’ve added in our Discovery Session Presenter Guide: 


Read more about our Discovery Session formats:


Make plans to attend our upcoming Presenter Services webinar on Discovery Sessions on October 24 at 2:00pm ET, led by blogger and OLC Accelerate Conference Co-Chair, Dr. Sherri Restauri. All presenters were sent an invite. If you did not receive this invitation, please email conference@onlinelearning-c.org for webinar access. 

Sherri Restauri, Coastal Carolina University (OLC Accelerate 2019 Conference Co-Chair)


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