College co-hosts virtual conference on blended and online learning
October 13, 2016
WHITEHORSE—Researchers and academics from across Canada are attending a conference this week taking place at two post-secondary institutions that are 7021 kilometres apart.
Yukon College and Cape Breton University are co-hosting the 2016 COHERE conference.
COHERE (Canada's Collaboration for Online Higher Education and Research) is made up of 14 universities and one college focusing on the research and practice of blended and online learning within higher education.
The annual conference walks their talk by using technology to connect with keynote speakers from around the world and enabling attendees to join the proceedings remotely alongside people physically attending in Sydney, Nova Scotia, or Whitehorse, Yukon.
“Our conversation is focused on ‘how can we offer students the best blended and online learning experience?’ and by weaving blended learning technology into the conference we get to witness both the advantages and challenges of learning in this way,” said Dr. Kathleen Matheos, COHERE program coordinator at the University of Manitoba. “It also enables us to access the best thinkers and strategists in this field from around the world, without the huge cost of flying them to Canada.”
There are four conference keynote speakers. Dr. Gráinne Conole, a UK-based cutting-edge scholar and independent e-learning consultant, and Dr. Alan Davis, President of Kwantlen Polytechnic University will be in-person at CBU and Yukon College respectively.
Joining remotely from Bangaluru, India is Anita Gurumurthy, executive director of IT for Change, an India-based NGO that works at the intersection of development and digital technologies. Joining remotely from Arlington Texas is Dr. George Siemens, Executive Director of the Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab at University of Texas and MOOC (massive open online course) pioneer.
Some of the topics the more-than-70 conference participants at both locations will discuss include: improving how to teach online courses; how today’s students are interacting with technology; removing barriers through a technology loan program; how to balance instructor workloads with the always-on, 24-7 demand of modern technology; and how to develop self-directed learning in online students.
11 of the 43 break-out sessions feature presentations by Yukon College faculty and staff.
Matheos added that Yukon College and Cape Breton University were selected as hosts due to their small size yet large mandate to meet the needs of a student body dispersed over a large geographic area.
“Yukon College is committed to using blended and online learning to make more courses available to Yukon students while working or from their home community. Being part of COHERE and this conference gives us access to the most up-to-date research around this within a Canadian context,” said Dr. Deb Bartlette, Vice-President Academic and Student Services at Yukon College.
Bartlette pointed to the post-degree climate change certificate currently being developed as an example of a program that would be made up of four online courses and one in-person field school. This allows working professionals to obtain the credential without having to take an extended leave from their current job.
COHERE is a collaboration between the University of Alberta, Athabasca University, University of Calgary, University of Cape Breton, Dalhousie University, University of Guelph, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Laval University, University of Manitoba, University of, University of Saskatchewan, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, York University, and Yukon College.