Chicago-Area Distance Teaching and Learning Conferences 2016

by Kristina Wilson


As an online instructor for adult and professional students, you know that it’s important to stay current with research and trends in learning science, learning design practice, and learning technologies. That can involve any number of research activities, including reading scholarly journals and teaching and technology blogs like this one.

But what about distance learning conferences?

Panels, roundtables, poster presentations, oh my! You might discover a new web technology to use in your course or an innovative assignment you want to try. Maybe a key presentation will even provoke you to change your teaching style.

And don’t forget the benefits of networking. As an online instructor, it can be tough to meet your peers. If you crave in-person interaction with folks who are facing what you’re facing, a conference might just be the thing for you.

Now is the season to prepare and attend! Most of these conferences occur in the autumn, between August and November.

We know the barriers. Who has time to attend a week-long conference when you need to put out fires in the workplace? Who has the discretionary money to pay for plane tickets, hotel rooms and conference registration fees?

Here are a few great events that are just around the corner from Chicago. They range from a single day–you won’t have to stay overnight–to 3 days at the most. Most of them even have low registration fees and affordable hotel rates that won’t break the bank.

And you might even run into one of our distance learning staff members, attending, presenting, or leading a discussion!

August: University of Wisconsin – Madison 31st Annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference

Date: August 9-11, 2016

Location: Madison, WI

Hosted by: University of Wisconsin – Madison at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center

Cost: Registration varies between $310 and $595, so the table of fees is worth reviewing.

Description: While this conference is a little pricey and a good drive out of town, this is the conference of conferences. Why attend? For three days full of engaging conversations with leaders in the field, from all over the United States and even internationally. They typically have everything from big-name keynote speakers to one-on-one impromptu discussions (just put a sign on a small table welcoming others to chat about your topic!).

If you go this year, keep an eye out for Learning Designer Krissy Wilson, who will be leading a discussion on supplementing online creative writing classes with technology.

August: Loyola University Chicago Focus on Teaching and Learning Conference

Date: August 18, 2016

Location: Chicago, IL – Rogers Park

Hosted by: Loyola University Chicago – Lakeshore Campus

Cost: Free!

Description: One great way to begin getting involved in educational conferences is by attending those offered by other local universities. The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has offered a free TechTeach conference in the past, and DePaul University holds a Faculty Teaching and Learning Conference every year. These are typically free–just be sure to identify yourself as a member of the Northwestern community.

This one-day conference offered by Loyola University Chicago on its Lakeshore Campus in Rogers Park, just north of the city by the Red Line, promises presentations on active learning, alternatives to textbooks, experiential learning, and content specific to online and blended courses.

August: CanvasCon

Date: August 31, 2016

Location: Evanston, IL

Hosted by: Northwestern University and Instructure at the Ryan Auditorium

Cost: $49

Description: So you’ve attended NUIT’s Canvas trainings and participated in the Distance Learning faculty training course. You may have even gone to TEACHx or the Best Practices Forum this spring. Want to learn even more about Canvas? Instructure–and the educators, innovators, and thought leaders who espouse it–will be on Northwestern’s campus for CanvasCon this August, teaching tips and tricks, showcasing unique uses of Canvas, and answering your questions. Plus, there’s a good chance there will be free Canvas goodies!

A number of Distance Learning staff will be presenting, attending, and even volunteering behind the scenes. Stop by to learn more about the ins and outs of Canvas and related ed-tech, as well as say hello to your development team!

October: 2016 Assessment Institute in Indianapolis

Date: October 16-18, 2016

Location: Indianapolis, IN

Hosted by: Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis at the Marriott Indianapolis Downtown

Cost: $290 before September 9, $310 after September 9th

Description: Do you want to soak up some fundamental knowledge about assessing outcomes and developing assessments? Then the Assessment Institute is the conference for you! You might be interested in participating in a pre-conference workshop, following the Global Learning or Graduate Education tracks as you attend concurrent sessions, or soaking up the poster presentations. Although this conference is not specifically focused on distance education, assessment techniques can be applied in any context: on-ground, blended, hybrid, or fully online.

October: University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) Central 2016 Conference

Date: October 17-19, 2016

Location: Indianapolis, IN

Hosted by: UPCEA at the Omni Severin Hotel

Cost: From $350 (member, early bird) to $450 (non-member, regular).


Want to network with the best? Want to learn more about what it means to teach in a school of professional studies, serving adult students? The theme of this year’s UPCEA Central Conference is Making Connections in Continuing, Professional, and Online Education, so you’re guaranteed exposure to “research, best practices, professional development, and leadership opportunities in continuing, professional, and online education.” Thomas F. Gibbons, dean of the School of Professional Studies, is a former president of the association and current editor of UPCEA Unbound, so Northwestern is generally well-represented.

October: 14th Annual Supporting Learning and Technology in Education (SLATE) Conference

Date: October 19-21, 2016

Location: Naperville, IL

Hosted by: SLATE at Northern Illinois University – Naperville

Cost: $99 before September 30

Description: This conference serves the needs of a diverse group of attendees–you’ll find instructional designers, web developers, and administration there, as well as students and faculty–and there’s a great mix of pedagogy and technology topics on offer in more than 60 sessions. Plus, it’s just outside of Chicago!

Staff from the Distance Learning department will be attending the conference on Thursday to attend concurrent sessions, and many of them will be presenting. Keep an eye out for Instructional Technologist Jackie Wickham, who will be discussing Using Self-Assessment to Customize Online Faculty Training, and Learning Designer Elizabeth Lemke, who will be presenting A Case Study of the Anatomy of Designing Online Group Presentations. Will we see you there?

November: Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) 2016 International Conference

Date: November 9-11, 2016

Location: Chicago, IL – Downtown

Hosted by: CAEL at the Palmer House Hilton

Cost: Varies from $270 to $865, so the table of fees is worth reviewing.

Description: CAEL, a Chicago-based nonprofit, has historically held its conferences all over the United States, alternating between the East coast, West coast, and midwest. This year, this international conference is in downtown Chicago! Attend this conference to learn more about how you can tailor your course to the unique context of adult learners. Be sure to visit Learning Designer Krissy Wilson for her roundtable discussion on meeting the needs of adult students with disabilities in online classes.

November: Learning, Teaching, and Assessment Forum

Date: November 16, 2016

Location: Norris University Center – Evanston, IL

Hosted by: Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning at Northwestern University

Cost: Free!

Description: Each fall, the Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning holds a free, day-long forum packed with presentations, posters, and roundtables delivered by Northwestern faculty and staff. This year, the theme is “Examining the Evidence of Student Learning.”
Curious? Take a look at some of the topics from last year, including Instructional Technologist Aaron Bannasch’s joint presentation titled LinkedIn Learning: Connecting Students with Each Other and with Workplace Through Social Media. Inspired? You have until September 8th to submit a proposal to present.

Need more information?

We know that many of Northwestern’s online instructors are all over the country (and the world!), so please feel free to reach out to Distance Learning staff, who can appraise your interests and help identify the right conference for you.

Did you attend?

If you have recently attended a distance teaching and learning conference, we’d love to hear about it! Please contact Content Editor Christine Scherer about composing a guest blog post about the experience and your takeaways.

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