While long-planned professional conferences around the world are canceled for the foreseeable future in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, one 2020 conference is moving full steam ahead.
In fact, the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s 36th annual Distance Teaching & Learning Conference is uniquely suited to proceed with this year’s event, which takes place in Madison — or online — August 4-6.
“The Distance Teaching & Learning Conference is the place to learn from experts across the world in online and technology-mediated learning, design, teaching and administration,” says conference director Wendy Fritz. “If the COVID-19 pandemic prevents us from hosting an in-person event, we are prepared to pivot to a fully virtual experience for our attendees.”
The conference format isn’t the only thing primed to address distance learning in these challenging times. This year’s prophetic theme, Focus Your Vision and See the Future, offers an opportunity to reflect on the educational challenges of 2020 and focus on opportunities to reach out to all learners.
“With the urgent shift from face-to-face teaching to remote instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities are thinking about how to move beyond the bare minimum of technology-enhanced learning into best practices,” Fritz explains. “The future of higher education could go a number of different ways. It is our goal to help attendees be ready for whatever comes next.”
Persistent quality, innovative speakers
Not everything about the 2020 Distance Teaching & Learning Conference will be new. Participants can expect to enjoy a wide selection of sessions, networking opportunities and practical knowledge that the conference is known for producing. Pre- and post-conference workshops offer additional opportunities to develop hands-on skills and earn credentials.
Nationally recognized speakers will unpack big ideas, explore emerging issues and dig into important research findings. They will address a range of pressing topics such as faculty development for online teaching, open educational resources, the scholarship of distance education and serving neurodiverse learners online.
Keynote speakers Newton Miller and Flower Darby will bookend the conference with innovative talks on the human aspect of distance education. Miller is associate dean for the Ashford University College of Education. His research interest in educating at-risk populations will inform his keynote, which explores perceptions around the cultural gap that exist between many educators and the growing population of nontraditional learners. Darby is the director of teaching for student success at Northern Arizona University and coauthor of Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes. Her keynote will examine ways of reinvigorating online teaching, motivated by the highest ideals of educating our citizenry.
Single rate fits all
To make planning more convenient for attendees this year, organizers are offering a single conference registration fee of $495. Registrants can secure their spot now and decide later if they will attend in person or online. More than 800 higher-education faculty members, staff, instructional designers and workforce trainers from around the world attended last year’s conference.
Fritz expects an engaging conference no matter what the future holds. “Whether participants join us virtually or in person, they will get the unparalleled experience of learning from and with the leading voices in the field of distance education.”