Conference speaker

Educators glimpse the future at 2017 Conference

What does the future hold for distance education? Hundreds of higher education professionals and workforce trainers have a better idea after attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s 2017 conference.

At Frank Lloyd Wright’s lakeside Monona Terrace Convention Center, they explored disruptive design, the next-generation digital learning environment, and other topics on the leading edge of educational innovation. With help from experts in the field, they learned the latest pedagogical techniques and technological tools for engaging learners. And they had fun, networking with colleagues from around the world while enjoying Wisconsin’s lovely capital city.

See the slideshow of this year’s Distance Teaching & Learning Conference, and watch this website for updates on the 2018 event, scheduled for Aug. 7-9. All photos by Scott Norris.

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Innovation meets inspiration: Meet the speakers for the conference finale

Focused on the future of online education, the finale is one of the most inspiring events at the conference. These visionaries will give short talks on some of the biggest, boldest ideas in distance teaching and learning. Then we’ll form small groups to start turning these ideas into action.


Cathy Sandeen Portrait

Cathy Sandeen
Chancellor, University of Wisconsin Colleges and Extension

What more can we do to meet the needs of today’s online learners? What are the most important challenges—and opportunities—nontraditional students face? Sandeen will unpack questions like these and then rally the crowd with a call to action. Educational leadership is her specialty, after all: Following more than two decades at the American Council on Education and the University of California System,

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Immersive technology is set to transform distance education

Virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence are no longer in the realm of science fiction. The Distance Teaching & Learning Conference will devote several sessions to such immersive technology and its uses in higher education.

In “What’s the Buzz? Deciphering How VR/AR and AI May Impact Distance Learning,” Rose Cameron will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these technologies for distance education.

In “Making It Real: Virtual Reality for Learning,” Gordon Bellamy will explore innovations that allow multiple users to enter the same virtual space and interact with one-another in real time, creating new opportunities for online and distance education.

And in “Emerging Directions in Immersive Learning,” Chris Dede will show how instructors can use virtual reality,

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Are you ready for the next-generation digital learning environment?

As technology continues to transform higher education’s approach to teaching and learning, everybody wonders: What’s next and how to prepare? The Distance Teaching & Learning Conference will help answer that question with a session called “The Next-Generation Digital Learning Environment Is Closer Than You Think: Are You Ready?”

The term “next-generation digital learning environment” comes from an EDUCAUSE report that explores the gaps between current learning management tools and a digital learning environment that might better meet higher education’s changing needs. Such a system would incorporate interoperability, personalization, analytics, advising, learning assessment, collaboration, accessibility, and universal design.

“Next-generation digital learning environments will empower universities to become virtual gateways to continuous education and collaboration, through which learners of all ages and stages in life may move in and out at different times,

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Michelle Weise explores disruptive design at the DT&L Conference

Higher education is in the midst of a transformation, and Michelle Weise is a key figure in making sense of it. Her keynote speech at the Distance Teaching & Learning Conference will help prepare educators for the changes to come, shedding light on “Disruptive Design for the Future of Online Learning.

Weise will devote part of her talk to online competency-based education, which allows students to master skills at their own pace. She’ll explain why such education for nontraditional students is a significant development in our rapidly evolving knowledge economy.

“I’ll focus on the emergence of compelling new learning pathways that may not end in a two- or four-year degree,” says Weise, who leads the Sandbox Collaborative at Southern New Hampshire University. 

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Keynote speaker Nick Floro shows how to create magic with today’s tools

Nick Floro believes we have the technology to take learning experiences to the next level. It’s just a matter of understanding your audience, knowing the capabilities of the new tools, and using them inventively to create amazing experiences.

“When designing online courses, you have to think about where you and your learners will be in two to five years in a next-generation digital learning environment,” says Floro, CEO of the software company Sealworks Interactive Studios. “If you design them the old way, using systems that have been around for years, your courses will soon be extinct.”

Floro will point the way toward higher education’s future at the Distance Teaching & Learning Conference, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison on July 25-27.

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DT&L Conference more essential than ever in an age of digital disruption

The University of Wisconsin-Madison pioneered distance education in 1891 when it offered the world’s first correspondence course. More than a century later, it remains on the forefront of educational innovation with the Distance Teaching & Learning Conference. Since 1985, the conference has helped educators adapt to a new world in which students increasingly learn via technology and online rather than in a traditional classroom setting. Given the accelerating pace of digital disruption, the 33rd annual event is more essential than ever to higher education faculty and staff, instructional designers, and workforce trainers looking for the latest strategies to engage learners.

Leading figures in distance education will share their expertise with more than 800 attendees from around the world on July 25-27 at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.

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Wedemeyer Award ceremony shows how far distance education has come

At the Distance Teaching & Learning Conference on Aug. 9-11, Ray Schroeder received the Mildred B. and Charles A. Wedemeyer Award for Outstanding Practitioner in Distance Education. Prominent thought leaders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison event marveled at how far distance education has come since Charles Wedemeyer’s pioneering efforts 70 years ago.

“Charles would be amazed to see 800 people sitting around tables discussing distance education,” said Penn State Professor Emeritus Michael G. Moore, addressing a packed exhibition hall.

Wedemeyer (1911-1999) is considered the father of modern distance education. As director of UW-Madison’s Correspondence Study Program, he revolutionized education by advocating adult, distance, open, and independent learning. He saw technology as a tool for increasing access to education.

“His legacy is that he created a vision of education for everyone,

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Dt&l Conference Addresses Technology’s Challenges


New technology offers tremendous opportunities for education, but it can also create confusion among educators.

“Technology can be disruptive, and a lot of innovative instructional technologies have created a disruption within our traditional system,” Les Howles tells Isthmus in “Teaching from a Distance: How Technology Is Transforming Education.” “It’s forcing us to think about teaching, learning, and learners in new ways.”

Howles is the director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Distance Teaching & Learning Conference, which has helped educators stay on top of emerging technologies for more than 30 years. On Aug. 9-11, hundreds of college faculty and administrators, instructional designers, researchers, K-12 teachers, and corporate and military trainers will explore state-of-the-art teaching practices at Monona Terrace.

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