I had the privilege of attending The Online Learning Summit 2023 (OLS23) held at the University of Leeds on July 10-11, 2023. The summit brought together a remarkable gathering of industry experts, educators, and leaders with a shared goal of exploring the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities in online education. Throughout the event, there was a strong emphasis on promoting equity, fostering inclusion, and driving innovation in the online learning landscape.
OLS23 offered a diverse range of sessions and presentations that covered a wide spectrum of topics. These sessions provided valuable insights into various aspects of online education and showcased the remarkable work being done in the field. Attendees had the opportunity to engage with thought leaders, participate in panel discussions, and learn from the experiences of pioneers in online learning.
Day 1 Highlights
Neil Mosley: The Online Learning Landscape in UK Higher Education
Neil Mosley’s presentation set the stage by discussing the UK’s online learning landscape. He highlighted the growing applicability of online distance learning as a solution to challenges faced by UK higher education, including accommodating increasing numbers of students and addressing the student housing crisis. Mosley emphasized that online learning can help meet the demand for university education and provide flexibility for learners with other commitments. He also discussed the types of online education companies and courses available, showcasing the growing importance of online distance learning within higher education institutions.
Applying the Learning Engineering Process: Continually and Iteratively Supporting Online Learning
This session, led by Aaron Kessler from MIT, focused on the learning engineering process (LEP) and its application in online learning. Participants explored how to address learner and instructor challenges, consider contextual factors, and leverage available team members to support online learning. The session highlighted the importance of engaging with examples from online learning contexts and emphasized the iterative and complex nature of the LEP within organizations and programs.
AI and Ethics Panel Discussion
Chaired by Jo-Anne Murray, this panel session explored the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and ethics in the context of online learning. Speakers such as Donald Clark, along with panelists Eric Atwell, Adam Nosal, and Andrew Kirton, discussed considerations when engaging with AI in learning, the roles of students and educators, and the impact of AI on humanity. The discussion delved into the potential benefits of AI in learning, such as improving learning outcomes, providing consistency, and offering fast feedback to learners. Ethical implications and the need for responsible AI implementation were also addressed.
What’s in a Name: MOOC, Short Course, Microcredential
In this session, Megan Kime chaired a panel consisting of Melissa Highton, Chrissi Nerantzi, Salha Abdo, and Steve Osborne. The discussion revolved around different online course models, such as MOOCs, short courses, and microcredentials, and their role in serving learners and society. The panel explored the potential for stacking credits and courses into a degree, the recognition of component parts of education, and the need for consensus around online pedagogy and delivery models.
Day 2 Highlights
Bringing Wicked Education Problems to Heel: Three Ways of Thinking
Chaired by Jo-Anne Murray, this session featured Joann Kozyrev and a panel discussing how three different ways of thinking—systems thinking, design thinking, and futures thinking—can help address complex educational problems. The session emphasized the need to identify root causes, engage in creative problem-solving, and consider future possibilities. By leveraging these different problem-solving mindsets, educators and institutions can untangle wicked problems, design executable solutions, and prevent new problems from emerging.
Podcasting for Engagement and Impact
James Pickering chaired this session, featuring Bo Kelestyn from the University of Warwick. Kelestyn shared her experiences using podcasting in educational practice, showcasing examples from teaching, community building, and profile development. The session explored the role of podcasting in enhancing student engagement, improving learning outcomes, and fostering community connections. Kelestyn highlighted the importance of diverse voices, co-creation with students, and the promotion of individual and institutional profiles through podcasting.
Developing Learning Design Maturity
Margaret Korosec chaired this session led by Neil Mosley, with panelists Leonard Houx, Matt Cornock, and Marlies Gration. The session focused on the challenges and opportunities of embedding learning design in universities. The panel explored the organizational and individual challenges faced by learning designers, highlighting the need for a learning design maturity framework. The session emphasized the importance of observing, listening to, and learning from students, designing for scale, and adapting teaching approaches to meet the needs of global online learners.
These sessions at OLS23 provided valuable insights into various aspects of online learning, including the landscape, ethics, pedagogy, accessibility, and future possibilities. The summit fostered a collaborative and innovative environment, encouraging educators and leaders to reimagine education, address challenges, and strive for equitable and inclusive online learning experiences. As OLS23 came to a close, participants were inspired to continue the conversations, implement transformative practices, and shape the future of online education.