Your Direct Input



You enthusiastically answered our call to help us build the program for the World Conference on Online Learning: Teaching in the Digital Age – Re-thinking Teaching & Learning by responding in large numbers to our request for feedback from all regions of the world. Many thanks!

During the month of October 2016, we called on you, as prospective delegates, faculty, instructors, academic leaders, policy makers, instructional designers, and others involved in online, open and flexible learning, to share your priorities and goals for the program for the World Conference to be held in Toronto, Canada, from October 17 – 19, 2017.

We asked a large group of you to review the Five Tracks for the World Conference. The group included:

  • 1,031 individuals from 89 countries who signalled their interest in receiving information and in attending the World Conference;
  • The institution and individual members of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE); and
  • More than 22,000 readers of Contact North | Contact Nord’s bi-weekly Online Learning News.

We asked you to respond to two questions focusing on content, one on key take-aways from the World Conference and the final question requesting a core message concerning online, open, and flexible learning.

In planning for a series of interactive and engaging sessions and activities as part of the program, Contact North | Contact Nord is benefitting from your direct input through this wide-ranging survey, modelling the idea exchange and consultation that are trademarks of the World Conference.

In short, we enlisted all of you as the “Program Committee” for the World Conference by asking for your advice on your priorities and essential outcomes.

You provided clear and strong messages for incorporation into the structure and focus for the program’s sessions and activities. We are pleased to share your collective responses to each question and outline how your direct input impacts our plans for the program.

CONTENT PRIORITIES – Your Level of Interest in the Five Tracks

We asked you to rate your level of personal interest in the Five Tracks guiding the program for the World Conference.

The theme of Emerging Pedagogies and Designs for Learning was rated as the most important, with the next three tracks (Expanding Access, Openness and Flexibility; New Delivery Tools and Resources for Learning; Changing Models of Assessment) rating almost equally. Re-designing Institutional Business Models had strong support from quite a number of you, but was rated lower overall.

As guidelines for the design of the program, your priorities tell us to emphasize presentations highlighting learning and pedagogy, offering practical, experience-based projects and ideas related to the teaching, technology, assessment, and access challenges you address in your design, delivery, research and planning for online learning.

CONTENT PRIORITIES – The Key Issues You want the World Conference to Address

Your responses included numerous thoughtful and challenging topics in response to the question asking for one overriding question or issue to be addressed by the World Conference:

  • Designs for learning, which are engaging, motivating, inclusive, appropriate for all, lead to learner success, include learning communities, and shift the paradigm of learning;
  • Student support for what is described as self-regulated learning and skills development leading to successful careers;
  • Faculty development to engage, motivate and support that is offered online and system-wide;
  • Sustainability for online learning programs as an aspect of social justice;
  • Online assessment that is reliable and supports learning success;
  • Access to educational opportunities, resources, and technology, with special emphasis on developing countries, less privileged learners, and open educational resources;
  • Technologies that work well now and what is coming in the future; and
  • Institutional models for dual and single mode institutions, which are innovative and responsive to learner needs.

As guidelines for the design of the program, your suggestions offer us insightful headings for the content and linking of sessions to ensure each key topic is addressed with various examples and possibilities. You told us the activities and sessions, whether papers, demonstrations, or how tos, need to highlight real-world responses with their strengths and challenges clearly outlined.

FOCUS ON RESULTS: You Identified Key Take-Aways

Your clear and concise statements on the question asking for your most important take-away from the World Conference can be expressed in three categories:

  1. Best practices – ideas, models, and trends in areas such as instructional design, tools, technologies, assessment, quality, expanding access, mobility, institutional governance, and implementation of online learning on a country-wide scale.
  1. Contacts – taking advantage of the international scope of delegates at the World Conference to broaden connections and networks.
  1. Partnerships and collaborations – between individuals, institutions, and North-South.

As a guideline for the design of the program, your first take-away highlighting best practices and trends points to practical content and formats for sessions and activities.

You want to see and hear what your colleagues are doing and how it works for them so you leave inspired and ready to try new and proven ideas.

In order to facilitate your development of contacts and partnerships, the format of sessions and activities needs to focus on interactions and exchanges, so you can connect with participants with shared interests. As well, we understand achieving your goals can benefit from special features in the program that bring people with like interests and needs together in themed, open-ended environments where you can interact and exchange freely.

FOCUS ON ONLINE LEARNING: You Want to Give a Core Message to the World about the Importance of the Future of Online Learning  

We asked you provide one message you want to give the world about the importance, the potential or the future of online, open and flexible learning. Your responses are impassioned and full of hope and possibility. We selected a few of your messages to demonstrate the level of conviction you have about the critical importance and essential roles of online, open, and flexible learning.

The overall message emerging from your responses conveys the quality of the contribution online, open and flexible learning is making in response to educational, social, and economic needs and possibilities in the world.

The core messages from your responses from around the world can be grouped under four headings:

  1. Your messages highlighting broad goals, purposes and contributions of online learning in making the world a better place:

The future of online, open and flexible learning promises an opportunity for a transformation to the lives of many. (Australia)

 Increasingly complex global issues can only be addressed through collective intelligence which is built through educational opportunities that are networked, accessible, collaborative, intercultural, interdisciplinary and intergenerational. (Canada)

It’s all about being inclusive; to better understand one another to help reduce global conflict and address global challenges. (Canada)

Cooperate in the interests of mankind and educate the world around us. Keep inclusive equity and local diversity in online education. (Pakistan)

  1. Your messages highlighting the specific role of online, open and flexible learning in providing access to learning and offering better lives:

Online and flexible learning will enable the disadvantaged, remote people to connect as global citizens. The connectivity will change their lives. (Bangladesh)

I believe online, open and flexible learning to be a possible answer to improve the access and the completion rates in formal secondary and higher education in developing countries. (Brazil)

It is the only way of reaching the unreachable. (Philippines)

Online, open and flexible learning will take us to reaching each and every student who wishes to learn regardless of financial status, location or knowledge. (South Africa)

Online education is one of the ways we can democratize access to education. Understanding and supporting how people can teach and learn well online can help us to change the world. (U.S.A.)

  1. Your messages highlighting the pedagogical importance of online learning:

We should never underestimate the importance of the balance between pedagogy and technology. We have to be innovative and think creatively in order to make teaching and learning more purposeful, individualized and flexible. (Canada)

Online and distance learning is not just about passing courses but about learning to learn. (South Africa)

  1. Your messages highlighting the challenges for online, open and flexible educators and learning:

Given that much global conflict is rooted in misunderstandings and clashes between worldviews, how can we shift our focus in curriculum design and learning strategies to foster an environment rich in sharing and shared perspectives in order to broaden our individual understanding of others with whom we share an increasingly globalized planet? (Canada)

How can we ensure that the value of education is safeguarded in the changes that digitization and networking of learning and education facilitate? (Canada)

 Affordable scale with quality is the 21st century challenge for education and online, open and flexible learning represents a key range of strategies to meet these challenges. (United Kingdom)

We all live in times of profound change – as educators we need to engage with the challenges of the digital age to help shape it in a way that respects our core values and principles. (United Kingdom and France)

One message, from Israel, offers concise encouragement to all of us to “embrace change”.

A respondent from China presents us with a powerful image for the potential of online learning: “Online, open and flexible learning is water which suits every container.”

As guidelines for the design of the program, your messages offer inspiration and a challenge in looking at how the World Conference and its program can be structured to best facilitate the information and personal exchanges supporting your goals and beliefs.

Your core messages reinforce your earlier guidelines about practical, problem-solving sessions and activities, which offer ideas and solutions to shared problems. In response to your guidance, facilitation of shared innovation and perspectives becomes the core principle for the organization of the World Conference – stressing interaction and engagement.

Your heartfelt and hopeful messages also deserve a broader audience and integration into the World Conference itself. Whether as text in the World Conference materials or underlying themes for presentations, your messages of hope and purpose will resonate throughout the World Conference on Online Learning: Teaching in the Digital Age – Re-Thinking Teaching & Learning.

Thank you!