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A few days ago, I attended the Sloan Consortium’s international conference on online learning in Orlando.  The Sloan Consortium describes itself as “an institutional and professional leadership organization dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education, helping institutions and individual educators improve the quality, scale, and breadth of online education.”  This was my first time attending one of their conferences.  The majority of attendees were from traditional American universities that are adding online and blended learning to their slate of offerings.

Here is my mind map summary of the conference sessions I attended.  Unfortunately, the expanded mind map is too big to show here.

In addition to hearing how online learning is being incorporated into higher education, I learned three new words at the conference:

Peeragogy – analog to pedagogy and andragogy, peeragogy is intended to suggest the practice of peer-to-peer teaching, which is prevalent in online environments.  Howard Rheingold, who gave us the term “virtual community,” stressed that peeragogy is a critical competency for social media literacy.

Infotention – another Rheingold-ism, and I think the man explains it best:  “the psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today, a mind-machine combination of brain-powered attention skills with computer-powered information filters.”

Tweckle – a portmanteau created by combining “tweet” with “heckle.  It refers to the practice of tweeting snark about a speaker while he’s speaking.  Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center opened his keynote on “The New Education Ecology” by asking us not to tweckle him.  Which several tweeters in the audience took as a personal challenge to do the opposite.  But the tweckling Rainie got was nothing compared to what David Brooks got at the New York Times conference on bringing technology into the classroom.

While the conference was hardly life-changing, it was good to get some perspective on There's no getting away from The Mouse in Orlando!where the higher education world is with regard to online learning.  At the moment, it’s a pretty mixed bag, with some people struggling to overcome institutional and operational biases in favor of the default classroom model, while other schools are building robust online programs and experimenting with new tools and unconventional approaches.  The clearest message of the conference, however, was that the world of higher education is changing in many ways.  There’s work to be done to ensure that our educational systems keep up with those changes without undermining academic integrity.  For anyone in the education industry, I think it’s going to be a wild ride.

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