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Cornell Staff Attends EDUCAUSE ELI Annual Meeting

by Patrice Prusko, guest writer for IT@Cornell news

In February, a small group from Academic Technologies and the Center for Teaching Excellence attended Educause’s ELI Annual Meeting in Houston, TX. I attended with Rob Vanderlan, an instructional specialist in the Center for Teaching Excellence at Cornell. I presented “Student Engagement, The Key to Successful Online Education,” using Cornell’s recent MOOC “The Science and Politics of the GMO” to discuss how use of virtual meeting space such as Shindig and Zoom can be used to increase social presence, engagement, and persistence in an online course.

Conference tracks included: Emerging Learning Technology and Practices; Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning; and What Works: Evidence of Impact and Learning Science.

There were a number of sessions on LMS evaluations and transitions. Institutions shared lessons learned from their evaluation process (always include your existing system in the formal evaluation!) and from their transition support models (longer preparation time is not necessarily better!). One session included an instructive set of role plays where the transition plan was presented to various stakeholders. “I came away,” concluded Rob Vanderlan, “confident that we can learn from the experiences of our peers, and that schools are eager to share the lessons they learned.”

The trendiest topics seemed to be virtual reality (though this was largely vendor driven), adaptive learning, and learning analytics. For the latter, while practitioners continue to promise significant insights from large data sets, the results lag behind. Meanwhile, a professor demonstrated how he uses analytics from in-class behavior to accurately predict student success, and identify at-risk students, after only two weeks.

The topic that seemed to permeate every conversation was Artificial Intelligence (AI) and student privacy. Satya Nitta of IBM Research sparked lively discussion and debate around student data, privacy, and who has access to the data. In his keynote on Watson-Enabled Cognitive Assistants for Education Transformation, he discussed the recent emergence of highly interactive technologies, along with advances in artificial intelligence, that are ushering in the era of cognitive computing, where computers have attributes that allow them to learn and interact with humans in more natural ways. These “cognitive assistants” have the power to transform education and online learning.

This brought up a question on twitter posed by @autumn: “How do we safeguard learning analytics data in a year that resembles 1984? How do we protect student data while making it useful?”

In the other keynote, Karen Cator of Digital Promise Project spoke about the need to address the learning equity gap, research collaboration between neuroscience, cognitive science, and social-emotional learning fields, and new models for research-based personalization.

The importance of the student voice was heard across presentations and discussions.

For fun, participants participated in a Goose Chase, an app designed to support networks and team building across institutions.

People across the globe also participated with on-site participants in a twitter chat, designed to discuss such topics as online innovation, bringing professors and administrators together to provide the best student experience, and building communities of practice that enable transformation within the academy.

To see the tweets, look up the #DLNchat hashtag.

Patrice Prusko is an instructional designer for Academic Technologies at Cornell.   

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