Vibrant Vibes, Unforgettable Moments, and Culinary Delights: Highlights from the 2023 WCET Annual Meeting in New Orleans

Published by: WCET | 11/16/2023

Tags: WCET, WCET Annual Meeting, WCET Awards

As my plane took off from the airport in New Orleans, LA a few weeks ago, I had a smile on my face. That smile was due to the wonderful experience of this year’s WCET Annual Meeting. This year I attended several meetings and sessions that brought up fresh topics to learn about, networked with our community, met some incredible people, and visited a town I’d never been to before! The group dinners at local restaurants were a huge highlight for me! This was an outstanding year – it was not only the 35th anniversary of the Annual Meeting but it was also the first year that WCET hosted the Annual Summit for Women in eLearning (ASWE).

If you attended the conference, today’s post will recap and remind you of the event. If you couldn’t attend, I hope to highlight some of the big topics and big moments. I also have some details to share about next year’s Annual Meeting, and I hope you’ll join our team there!

By the way, ChatGPT wrote the title for this blog post and bravo.

Who’s Who

The attendees each year at the Annual Meeting have great questions, helpful resource suggestions, and thoughtful support and guidance. I appreciate the opportunity to meet and talk with such a variety of individuals brought together to continue to learn from each other and discuss how we can make higher education and digital learning better. I was very excited to see that we had a few students join us this year as well; some attended for professional development and some as panelists for a session.

The WCET Annual Meeting and ASWE Summit was attended by individuals in a variety of roles:

2023 AM and ASWE Attendee Job Categories

Academic Officer	11%
Administrative (Manager/Director)	46%
Compliance	10%
Corporate Leadership	8%
Faculty/Teacher	4%
Instructional Designer	5%
IT Administration	1%
Other	15%

Attendees hailed from all over the country, here are the top ten states represented at the meeting:

Top states represented at the meeting:

Texas	24
Colorado	22
Florida	22
Louisiana	15
Utah	15
Arizona	14
Ohio	11
California	10
Minnesota	9
District of Columbia	8
Illinois	8
Idaho	7
New Jersey	7
Georgia	6

In the Beginning…

The Annual Meeting this year started with pre-conference sessions and meetings. The State Authorization Network (SAN) held a coordinator meeting, and the WCET Steering Committee and Executive Council met to examine the past year and brainstorm on topics WCET should address for next year.

The pre-conference workshops included:

  • Accessibility Should Be the Default, Not an Option: Embedding It Across the Institution, and
  • Developing Effective Practices and Policies to Harness Artificial Intelligence.

From what I heard and experienced, the topics of the pre-conference sessions definitely foreshadowed two of the big overarching themes threaded through the entire event.

The WCET Annual Meeting officially opened with the general session: AI in Higher Education – Exploring the Promise and Perils. During this session, moderated by the incomparable and gracious Gloria Niles, Director of Online Learning with the University of Hawai’i System, panelists discussed the perils and promises of AI in higher education. My big takeaway was that we definitely MUST be working on this topic (oh good, we are) and that work must be focused on the inclusiveness, adaptability, and dynamic engagement of any learning environment that is informed or assisted by AI. Our experts recommended reviewing and consistently updating your AI and Academic Integrity policies, as they will likely need updates as this technology continues to progress (I also most used the word evolve here, but it would undoubtedly bring up too many movie references).

Awarding and Showcasing Promising Practice and Dedicated Service

As stated during the Awards Luncheon and Program, I am so lucky to work on the Awards program for WCET. It’s an honor to learn about the innovative work taking place in our field and finding exciting ways to showcase that work.

During our Awards program, we honored two practitioners with individual awards from WCET, three institutions with WOW Awards, and reviewed three institutions who received awards from the State Authorization Network (SAN).

WCET Individual Awards

The Dick Jonsen Mollie McGill Award

WCET’s top honor is given each year to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the digital learning community and to WCET. This person is selected by WCET leadership and staff. This year’s recipient was Shannon Riggs, Associate Vice Provost of Educational Programs and Learning Innovation, Oregon State University. WCET Steering Committee Past Chair, WCET Executive Council. Shannon is an excellent example of exactly what we hope to honor with this award. Her commitment to providing high-quality, inclusive digital learning and the time she has devoted to WCET are truly commendable and so appreciated. Thank you, Shannon, for all you have done for the entire WCET community!

Sally M. Johnstone Award

If you know Sally Johnstone, then you know our goal with an award named after her is to showcase outstanding leadership capabilities and excellence in practice.

This year’s recipient, Dr. Felicity Cruz Grandjean, Associate Dean of E-learning Quality, Office of E-learning, Dallas College, more than fulfilled the award criteria. Nominated by Shani Suber, also from Dallas College, Felicity has shown dedication to inclusiveness, accessibility, quality standards, and more, and has brought that dedication to many programs and initiatives such as accessibility and quality checklists and frameworks for staff and instructors and participation and leadership campus wide online learning user groups. Shani mentioned that her leadership in the online teaching and learning industry has been inspirational. Congratulations Dr. Grandjean, we look forward to supporting you as you continue to lead the way.

2023 WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) Award

The WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) Awards recognize outstanding efforts by member organizations and individuals in applying innovative solutions to a challenging educational need.

First of all, thank you to everyone who submitted a nomination for a WOW award this year. Our awards committee spent a lot of time reviewing your submissions and discussing the impactful and wonderful projects, programs, and initiatives we learned about. The work that is happening in our community is truly remarkable.

We were able to narrow down to this year’s WOW Awardees:

  • Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education – Online Consortium of Oklahoma,
  • Rio Salado College – RioPACT,
  • Sinclair Community College – Course Equity Rubric.

Thank you to each of these individuals and institutions for their amazing work making higher education digital learning more successful. Congratulations! Check out the blog posts from our WOW winners and stay tuned for Frontiers podcast episodes featuring this year’s recipients. Read more about the 2023 WOW Award winners.

SAN – SANsational Awards

The SANsational Awards recognize outstanding efforts by SAN member institutions and organizations in developing a high-quality, comprehensive solution to a challenging state authorization issue.

Congratulations to the 2023 SANsational Award Winners:

Awarded: Licensure Programs – Notifications and disclosures for professional licensure program status in each state.

  • Post University (CT)
    • Personalized Licensure Advising and Disclosure
  • The Chicago School (CA)
    • The Licensure Story; When Obstacles & Challenges Lead to Wins

Awarded: Location – Identifying student location for regulatory compliance and reporting requirements.

  • Sinclair Community College (OH)
    • Professional Licensure Disclosures (location of students)
  • The Chicago School (CA)
    • Embracing Purposeful Engagement for a California Institution

Awarded: Compliance Innovations – Institution policy, tools, compliance teams or other inventive or novel compliance management process.

  • University of Louisville (KY)
    • Elevating the Importance of Academic Compliance: A Paired Approach to Change

While we didn’t specifically honor the SANsational winners during the awards program, we did highlight those institutions. SAN team members went on tour to present the SANsational awards to the recipients in-person, on their campus! Read more about each of this year’s SANsational award winners.

Empowering Insights

The WCET Closing Keynote also served as the Opening Keynote for the ASWE Summit! ASWE became part of WCET last year, and this year the Summit event was held in tandem with the Annual Meeting. During this session, Nia Haydel, Vice President for Alliance Engagement & Institutional Transformation with Complete College America, provided us with a powerful discussion of keeping our purpose at the forefront of our work. Nia invited us to consider how we can truly support students in meaningful ways in digital learning environments. We need to ask about the policy barriers, attitudes, and practices that maintain inequitable experiences and outcomes. What a great way to conclude WCET and to kick-off ASWE!

Title of the AM and ASWE keynote session: keeping purpose first as we lead, learn, and live in the digital ecosystem


Thank you to all of you who attended WCET 2023! Our entire team enjoyed seeing everyone and learning with you.

2024 – WCET Annual Meeting Heads to California 

Save the date for the 2024 WCET Annual Meeting! We’ll be in Long Beach, CA October 8 – 10, 2024! The Call for Proposals will open in March 2024.

Save the date postcard with details on the 2024 annual meeting 
Save the date for the 2024 WCET Annual Meeting! We’ll be in Long Beach, CA October 8 – 10, 2024!


I hope you enjoyed this virtual walk down memory lane as much as I have. Did you learn something new that surprised or inspired you? Do you have feedback on our custom cocktail name that came from ChatGPT (“the MIXed Bliss”)? Share your favorite moments and takeaways with us on X @wcet_info with #WCET2023!


But wait, there’s more!
I love reminiscing about great travel and learning experiences, and that’s why we’ll be back with part two of this post with some final thoughts from WCET staff and leadership on the Annual Meeting and the ASWE Summit, topics that reigned supreme in our discussions and questions, and what they took back to their institution or organization.

Lindsey Downs

Assistant Director, Communications and Community, WCET



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