COVINGTON, Ga.—Online teaching can be rewarding; but it can also be isolating for students who need social interaction with their instructors and peers. To cultivate methods to create a stronger sense of ‘belonging’ and engagement for students, Georgia State Perimeter College’s Office of Online Initiatives is presenting its first “unDistance Learning Conference” Nov. 6 – 10.
The conference is a hybrid event, with virtual presentations from nationally known experts Monday through Thursday, and an in-person workshop with group sessions on Friday. The conference aligns with National Distance Learning Week and is free and open to all educators.
“A substantial portion of Perimeter College's student body enrolls in online courses and frequently contends with feelings of isolation and detachment,” said Andrea Hendricks, Perimeter’s senior director of online initiatives. “In response, the conference was established to provide our faculty and staff with the necessary tools and strategies to enhance student engagement and cultivate a stronger sense of belonging. Our core objective is to bridge the emotional and educational divide that often accompanies distance learning, with the aim of instilling a sense of belonging and motivation in our students, thereby empowering them to excel in their academic endeavors. “
“We hope to establish this conference as a signature event in the field of online education, one that our faculty and staff can consistently depend on for innovation and professional growth,” Hendricks said. “In the future, we are committed to continually expanding and enhancing the conference's offerings, featuring cutting-edge insights, best practices, and the latest advancements in online education. We hope to foster a learning environment that empowers educators and staff to excel in the digital era, equipping them with the knowledge and tools to support our students effectively.”
Speakers for the week-long conference are:
Monday, Nov. 6, 3 p.m. (Virtual)
“Sense of Belonging Matters in Online Learning”
Speaker: Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, Professor of Education and Psychology; Director of the Center for the Study of HBCUs, and Principal Investigator of The Belonging Lab at Virginia Union University, where he also serves as Associate Provost for Faculty Development.
Strayhorn will explore the crucial role that belonging plays in education, especially online learning environments. Drawing on theory, research, and front-line practice, he delves into the unique challenges faced by online/remote learners and the importance of fostering positive relationships, supportive communities, and ‘belonging messages’ to increase student engagement and success in digital spaces. Register to attend.
Tuesday, Nov. 7, 3 p.m. (Virtual)
“Bridging the Distance Between You and Your Online Students”
Speaker: Dr. Anthony Piña, Chief Online Learning Officer, Illinois State University.
Although decades of studies have demonstrated that students can learn effectively online, we still see higher attrition rates among online students. Why is this so, and what can we do about it? Let’s explore concepts and strategies to lessen online students’ feelings of isolation and increase their sense of belonging and engagement. Register to Attend
Wednesday, Nov. 8, 3 p.m. (Virtual)
“Radical Humanity: How (and Why!) to be Human in the Online Classroom”
Speaker: Dr. Nathan Pritts, First-Year Writing Program chair and professor of at the University of Arizona Global Campus.
If teaching online can sometimes feel exhausting and dehumanizing – like nothing more than boxes to check off and spreadsheet cells to populate – then imagine how it feels for students! But we can encourage students to deeper levels of engagement, and higher levels of success if we take the time to reassess our presence and hone our actions in the online environment. We’ll consider some steps anyone can take to personalize and energize our teaching in the online classroom – whether you’re teaching online for the first time or have been at it for a while. Register to Attend
Thursday, Nov. 9, 3 p.m. (Virtual)
“Co-Creating Relationship-Rich, Validating Online Course Experiences”
Speaker: Dr. Isis Artze-Vega, Valencia College Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
After a brief overview of the importance of human connections as described by both researchers and students themselves, this session will describe and crowdsource unique challenges and opportunities associated with cultivating relationship-rich, validating experiences in online courses. Register to Attend
Friday, Nov. 10, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Decatur Campus, SF-2100. (In-person workshop, space is limited.)
"Pin the Tail on the Narrative"
Speaker: Andy Irwin, former artist-in residence, Oxford College at Emory, songwriter, comedian, traveling writer and storyteller.
Think Lawn Darts meets Eudora Welty. This raucous workshop involves the careless throwing of pens and carefully guided steps for developing personal narratives, freeing participants to delve into the past and chip away at the unmovable stone of self-doubt to reveal the treasure of new stories.
Space is limited; lunch will be served. Register to attend.
For more information about the conference, check out this site.