The 2013 IST Conference was held on February 28th and March 1st. This was my second IST Conference and my first time on the planning committee. While my role as Adult Education Liaison was more of an advisory role than a planning role, I had the opportunity to witness all the hard work from many people that goes into planning a successful conference. I have an even greater appreciation now for the heads of associations tasked with coordinating week-long conferences. My heart goes out to you!
The conference also allowed me the opportunity to facilitate my first conference roundtable discussion. The subject of the roundtable was Building Community in Online Education Programs. It was well attended, suggesting this is a topic of interest in the instructional systems technology community. Some of the discussion prompts included:
* If successful online education requires a different pedagogy than f2f instruction, is the same true of online community building? Is more required than just creating virtual versions of traditional community building environments?
* What types of interaction do online distance education students feel they are missing, if any?
* What types of interactions do students and instructors wish they had outside of the formal classroom environment, if any?
* What is lacking in current strategies being utilized to build program-wide community?
* What other questions do you think are relevant?
There was a lot of conflicting experiences about community within online education courses among the participants. Conversation kept going to community within online courses, and I had to continually ask questions about what happens outside of the class to bring the focus back to programs as a whole. Some students wanted community outside the classroom, many did not. There was some discussion about the difference between interaction and community, between social interaction and networking. I came away with the additional questions of what impact does age, program of study, location, etc., play on the desire for community? What effect do they have on the method of community desired?
Overall, these firsts provided me with new perspectives. Isn't that the point of a conference, to initiate transformational learning in the attendees? Well, sometimes it can lead to transformational learning on the part of planners and facilitators, also. When has attending a conference led to new perspectives for you?