Reflecting on Feedback and Insights from the 2023 WCET Annual Meeting
Published by: WCET | 11/30/2023
I asked some of the WCET leadership and friends to share takeaways and topics that threaded through the entire event (especially those that will impact higher education and digital learning next year).
I appreciate everyone who shared their thoughts for this post! We also included some anonymous comments from the after event survey, thank you for the kind and supportive feedback on this year’s Annual Meeting.
Here are some takeaways I had from the comments I received:
Stay up to date on our work in these areas: WCET Policy, WCET resources on Artificial Intelligence, State Authorization Network (SAN). Enjoy these reflections and comments. Stay tuned for more information on our future events!
– Lindsey Downs, WCET
I continue to learn from our institutional members about the post-COVID impact on the shifts to digital learning. Rather than “going back to normal,” faculty are teaching more online and hybrid courses and more students are enrolling in them.
This enrollment shift has surprised many and there are many practical implications including: more need for faculty development and instructional design, clearer communication on what the student experience will be in a course is needed, resources (technology, software, support staff) are stretched, online student services need to expand, and policies (institutional distance ed fees and federal regulations) are stretched or violated. I heard about one institution where they are re-configuring their online unit. At another, their campus Wi-Fi is overtaxed, even though there are fewer faculty and students on campus. And what do we do with those empty classrooms? Addressing these many issues will occupy many institutional leaders in 2024.
As always, I came away from WCET’s Annual Meeting with lots to think about.
Going into the meeting, AI (especially generative AI), was top of mind for me. I left the Annual Meeting impressed with the depth of thinking that digital learning leaders are doing around AI and was particularly struck by the observation that while we as faculty and staff are working with the most sophisticated technology we have ever experienced, our students are working with the least sophisticated technology they will experience in their lifetimes.
Two highlights for me of the recent WCET Annual Meeting were the pre-conference workshop on Artificial Intelligence as well as the Awards Lunch.
At the workshop, I was so impressed with the inquisitive and knowledgeable minds gathered together in the room to explore effective AI practices and policies.
It gave me hope that we can successfully harness AI to benefit our campuses and students!
And learning about the work of this year’s recipients of the WCET Individual, WOW, and SANsational Awards was so inspiring, pushing me to strive for excellence in the work that I do to support innovation and online learning in higher education.
The WCET Annual Meeting and the SAN Coordinator Meeting are valuable opportunities to learn and share important goals and challenges when serving students using digital technologies, especially through interstate distance education.
In addition to many notable discussions about AI, this year, I was very focused on learning from others about their concerns about implementing nuanced requirements released by the U.S. Department of Education.
My biggest takeaway is that institutions desire more clarity and training to understand complicated requirements. The institutions’ staff members expressed that they need a road map to share this information and to implement these requirements collaboratively among various stakeholders at institutions. Additionally, the institution’s staff members expressed that they wish direction to gain the support of senior leaders when a change or modification of the institution’s processes becomes necessary. Because interstate distance education opportunities will continue to grow, the institutions will need to develop mechanisms to anticipate and support the needs of their interstate students and comply with additional state and federal requirements.
Thank you again for the feedback on our event. Our team members do review the results from the survey and read every comment. It’s important to us to understand what went well and what we can do better each year.
I thought I’d end today’s post with reflections from Megan and Kim, the WCET team members who spent so much time making this event as extraordinary as it was. Cheers to you both!
The 2023 Annual Meeting stood out to me as one of the best WCET conferences I’ve participated in in 17 years. There are many aspects of the event that stand out to me. Being in New Orleans in the historic arts and warehouse district, the location meant numerous restaurants, shops, and walking paths were nearby. The event size of 350 attendees cultivated a collegial atmosphere; it was easy to find friends and make new ones. Lastly, I loved the addition of the Annual Summit of Women in eLearning to the Annual Meeting. This was a wonderful way to connect with women through sharing, mentoring, collaboration, and dancing at the Pajamarama. Throughout the entire Annual Meeting, there was a sense that people were really happy to connect post-pandemic and missed being in person.
I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to our speakers and staff who made this a spectacular Annual Meeting. Attendees seemed especially inspired to share challenges and aspirations to evolve higher ed together, gaining insights to bring back to their campuses. It was wonderful to engage with our community in person—and it’s hard to beat the lively environment, historic neighborhoods, and amazing food one finds in New Orleans.