Reflecting on the ten years separating e-learn 06, from the 2016 event, and what has changed.
Time has a habit of slipping by. This is worse as we age, as the decades that rush by us represent a smaller proportion of our life thus far. Having speculated a little about middle-age elsewhere, it’s probably wise to move on, but I just wanted to reflect on the decade that separates my first and my most recent visits to the AACE‘s e-learn conference.
In 2006, I dragged my (relatively) youthful frame to e-learn 06, to give a paper about: Thinking outside and across the curriculum – breaking down walls. The event was memorable for more than my paper, what with an earthquake and resultant power-cuts. Professor Curtis Bonk gave a paper on ‘Podcasts, Wikis, and Blogs (oh my); – with graduate students as Wizard of Oz characters. I bought a stupid shirt. There were a lot of papers, and the world of e-learning suddenly opened up in my mind, as much broader than I had originally realised.
But although I discovered it was a much broader world of e-learning, I didn’t encounter much of what I’d call surprising depth. There was little serious talk of pedagogy, and less about strategic, institutional planning. A lot of the deployment of technology-enhanced
learning tools was still interested primarily in a delivery model of shovelling content into students’ brains.
Before I reflect on the changes evidenced by the 2016 event, I want to tell an anecdote. When I returned from the 2006 event, I immediately set up a blog (now hosted at rpeglos.com), and began using it with the Religion, Philosophy & Ethics course I was then leading. Within a few days, I had a ‘phone call from our Public Relations colleagues, who were a little anxious. That probably hits the tone – a bit concerned. They had seen the blog (mainly because I has sent them the link, I think), and were not sure about it lacking the corporate logo, font, design guidelines for official publicity material, and it also lacking a central moderation check on the comments (other than mine). They didn’t instruct me to close the blog, but they were, as I say, concerned. We talked. They were (and I imagine still are) reasonable people. The blog persisted, and nothing bad has happened (yet). But fast forward to the present day – were staff may automatically have a blog at some Universities, or be expected to raise their profile in this way. Now, you are more of a rebel if you don’t have a blog (or LinkedIn / Academida.Edu / Twitter) presence than if you do.
Returning to the conference, what had changed? In some ways, it is still quite old-school.
No event-app, and although there is an online planner, lots of attendees hang around with the paper copy of the programme, gnawing highlighters while they deliberate about the best paper options. Social Media has exploded in the last decade, and there were papers on this important theme, with a Twitter hashtag keeping some of us busy twittering away during the event.. #elearnconf
The papers are pre-ocuppied with some of the same themes as in 2016. Nurse education, Teacher CPD, addressing inclusivity concerns, all still attract a lot of attention. What is different though is something in the tone. What I was able to discern was an emergent concern about e-learning trying to move from ‘best practice’ to ‘business as usual’. This is far from being the case in most educational contexts, but people are being to coordinate a strategic direction towards something more pervasive, planned and broad. There is a long way to go, much is still up for debate., and a vast of work still to do. Nonetheless, there was a notable shift.
It felt like, in the last decade, while I had merely aged, e-learning had matured.