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This year, I had the honor of being invited by the University of Phoenix to attend the 21st TCC Online Conference from April 19 to April 21, 2016. Having never attended an online conference before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of the format as well as the wealth of information in the sessions I was able to attend. Throughout the 3 days, the conference website provided both seminars and a general “cafe” room for those who wanted to chat about sessions, projects, or even just where they are from and allow for networking time.

On Day 1, I attended 4 major sessions.

The first session was titled, “Factors explaining instructor integration of student mobile technology use at an institution of higher education,” presented by Cheng-Chang Sam Pan, Stephen Sivo, and Francisco Garcia. Naturally, the presenters noted that in the studies they reviewed, there is an age discrepancy in who uses mobile technology, with “younger” students tending to focus on mobile technology while “older” students tended to focus on the traditional systems. Their study also revolved around a number of factors, but I think the most important take away is that “e-learner” students experience facilitated learning in a respectful environment that fosters open communication and interaction.

The second session I attended was titled, “Responsible Grading: The Importance of Constructive Feedback,” presented by Jennifer Harrison and Crystal Hofegartner. Just as one might expect, the feedback students receive is vital to their growth as a student. This seminar focused on how constructive feedback cultivates engagement with students in online courses and helps to empower them in the pursuit of their education and future careers. Telling a student he or she did well, but not providing coherent, specific, and constructive details does not help the student continue to do well in the future. Of course, in order to meet these students’ needs, all feedback should be “timely, specific, and task-focused.” The feedback itself could be in formative assessments with a summary, preferably with a grading rubric as well. Great reminders all around in this seminar about how important it is to provide strong, accurate, and constructive feedback for students.

The third session I attended this day was titled, “Game Style Online Learning,” presented by Satoru Shinagawa. This seminar reminded me about how our younger, technology savvy students enjoy gaming! 🙂 Students who have the opportunity to learn through a game scenario may be able to retain the knowledge better and feel more motivated to study. This reminds me of how our classes at University of Phoenix have used the “GameScape” system to help teach our students important concepts. GameScape is a game type platform where students have to complete a series of steps or activities, demonstrate that they understand the concepts, and earn points based on how well they are doing.

Lastly, the fourth session this day was titled, “Using YouTube to Teach Media Literacy in the Online Course,” presented by Chareen Snelson. This very enjoyable session was a strong reminder about how visual and hands on most of our students really are. Students like to hear, see, and experience concepts in different ways, so using a variety of media to help reinforce the course material can really help solidify these concepts for the students – such as by having students look at YouTube videos and think critically about them, using a few guiding questions.

Lots to digest at the end of the first day, but I enjoyed it all! 🙂 Now on to Day 2!

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