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Reflections on the 2017 OLC Accelerate Conference

Elizabeth (Liz) Ciabocchi
Thursday, November 30, 2017

Having just returned from the 2017 OLC Accelerate Conference, one of the largest online learning conferences in the world, I would like to share some of my thoughts and experiences, and offer commentary on the state of online learning in higher education generally, and here at St. John’s University.

With over 2,000 participants and more than 400 educational sessions, the OLC Accelerate Conference is a flurry of activity from start to finish. On the first day of the conference, I attended the OLC Board of Directors meeting and the master class for the Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL), having served as a member of the IELOL faculty this past year. I had the pleasure of helping to organize and participate in the Women’s Leadership Luncheon on the second day with keynote speaker Teresa Boyer, Ed.D., Founding Director of the Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership at Villanova University. I highlight these particular events because they reflect my personal commitment of service to the profession of online learning, and to the development of the next generation of online learning leaders in higher education. As online learning continues to expand and mature in higher education institutions around the world—including St. John’s—it is critically important to nurture and support the countless individuals who dedicate their careers to the success of online students via teaching, research, and administration. Moreover, as the number of women (as well as other underrepresented minorities) in higher education leadership positions steadily increases, we must pay special attention to their leadership development needs.

In addition to these special events focused on leadership in online learning, I also attended some high-quality educational sessions including a panel discussion by leading experts in the field on higher education’s digital future, the creation of a college-wide faculty community of online learning at The Pennsylvania State University, and a case study on the creation of a new virtual campus at the University of Central Florida, one of the largest and most successful providers of online learning in the United States. In between educational sessions, I also celebrated the newest class of the OLC Fellows and the recipients of this year’s OLC Digital Learning Innovation and Effective Practice Awards.

Through my activities and involvement with OLC, I am able to glean insights from a vast network of expert online educators that bring tangible benefits to St. John’s in areas such as professional development for faculty in online teaching and learning; online and hybrid course and program development; quality assurance, and accessibility, to name but a few. As St. John’s continues in its journey to expand access to high-quality learning opportunities and promote student success in all of its programs, regardless of format, I hope to continue to serve as a bridge between the larger online learning community and our institution in ways that directly benefit our students and faculty.

With special thanks to Robert A. Mangione, Ed.D., Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Simon Geir Møller, Ph.D., Senior Vice Provost, for supporting my participation on the OLC Board of Directors, at conferences, and in the IELOL program and Women’s Leadership Network.