October 31, 2023: The future of AI — We’ve added 3 more sessions to NDLW 2023

Happy Halloween, dear USDLA friends!

National Distance Learning Week starts next Monday, and we are excited to introduce you to our newest presenters:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2-3 pm: Al Pisano, a versatile professional with extensive experience in the education and corporate sectors, helps us explore the “Real-world implementation of AI in education.”
  • Friday, Nov. 10, 1-2 pm: John Agnew Ph.D. Program Coordinator for the Ph.D. Psychology Program at Walden University will explain, “GenAI Holds Great Promise for Distance Learning, But There Are Concerns.”
  • Friday, Nov. 10, 3-4 pm: USDLA president Chuck Sengstock and Board Member Dr. William Ryan help us demonstrate that your distance learning programs meet the highest standards of excellence in the industry.

Please scroll down to learn more about the 10 presentations you can join throughout the week. Click here to register for NDLW 2023.

We are also excited to share updates from our 2023 National Conference speakers, including:

  • Jennifer Williams, who is co-hosting Climate Action Day on Nov. 2. This live, online event, produced by Take Action Global, serves as the culminating celebration of the Climate Action Project, a six-week initiative involving 3.4 million people across 152 countries. During the event, students and teachers will present questions to speakers and will showcase potential solutions for climate change. Schools and classrooms will be recognized for their efforts. Scroll down for details, and click here to watch our interview with Jen on our Distance Learning Roundtable podcast and video show.
  • Kate Colbert’s book, Commencement, is being raffled off at each NDLW session. Be sure to join us to win your copy. Learn more about Kate and her co-author Joe Salustio here.
  • Amrit Ahluwalia, editor-in-chief at The EvoLLLution: A Modern Campus Illumination, and his colleagues, will be presenting at NDLW on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Scroll down for more information and meet Amrit here.

We’ll be back in touch on Thursday with our USDLA Brief. —  Valary Oleinik, chairwoman of the USDLA Events Committee and NDLW 2023

Don’t miss Climate Action Day: Thursday, Nov. 2

Join us for the 4th annual Climate Action Day on Thursday. Registration is free, and classrooms around the world are invited to participate in a day of recognition and celebration of climate action education. During the event, students and teachers will present questions to world leaders and dignitaries, climate scientists, youth activists, and stakeholders. The online event is the culminating celebration of the Climate Action Project, a six-week initiative involving 3.4 million people across 150+ countries. Schools and classrooms will be recognized for their efforts.

This year’s event includes speakers from the UN, UNESCO, LEGO Group, NASA, WWF, and featured talks from:

  • Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson
  • Professional skateboarder, author, entrepreneur Tony Hawk
  • HRH Princess Esmeralda of Belgium
  • Director of TV and film, including Don’t Look Up Adam McKay
  • U.S. Astronaut Leland Melvin
  • Chilean Youth Activist Julieta Martinez

Click here to learn more about this important event: climateactionday.net


Register here: usdla.org/2023-ndlw

Monday, November 6, 1-2 pm EST

Finding the Yin-Yang in Faculty Development Balancing AI-Centered with Student-Centered Learning 

Presenters: From the University of North Carolina at Charlotte — Dr. Kiran Budhrani and Heidi Echols

About the session: With the rise of Generative AI systems and platforms, universities can no longer get too comfortable. Integrating Generative AI into a university culture requires a certain level of risk-taking and commitment from a campus. Join this presentation to uncover how and why Centers for Teaching and Learning (CTL) must take on a primary leadership role in faculty development towards awareness, positive and ethical use of AI, and supporting the development of curricula that integrate AI pedagogy while driving student-centered learning approaches. We will explore strategies to build up faculty development competencies and instructional design capabilities amidst this rapidly changing technology environment of Generative AI.

About the presenters: 

Dr. Kiran Budhrani (pictured left) is dedicated to leading transformative change in teaching and learning to impact the future workforce and a better world. Her dynamic energy, creative systems thinking, and bold ideas drive her as the Director for Teaching and Learning Innovation at the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) within the School of Professional Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her focus is on leading strategic initiatives and extending capabilities within teams to drive growth, excellence, and student success through faculty-centered programs involving teaching innovation, generative AI, personalized and adaptive learning, online learning, instructional design strategies, and academic technology solutions.

Heidi Echols (pictured right) has a rich background of over two decades in higher education. Now, with the Teaching and Learning Innovations Team at UNC Charlotte, Heidi champions holistic learning experiences. Her tenure as a full professor and department chair provided insights into leadership and curricular innovation. Her role as Director of a Center for Teaching Excellence highlighted her commitment to faculty development. Heidi collaborates closely with faculty, emphasizing student-centered design principles. Across her varied roles, she seeks to make education more personal, engaging, and meaningful.

Monday, November 6, 3-4 pm EST

Session: Gaining the Competitive Edge with Cutting-Edge AI-Powered AV Solutions

Presenter: Charlie McCarrel, Technical Director

About the session: Discover how Huddly challenges video conferencing conventions in distance learning. We will discuss why AV is becoming the big differentiator in education, why schools that rely on cheap webcams are not enough to fulfill the needs of today’s tech-savvy students, and how AI-driven innovations like Huddly Crew transform education.

About the presenter: Charlie joined Huddly in August of 2021 as Technical Director for the Americas. Before coming to Huddly, he worked as Sales Engineer for the Western US at Mersive Technologies and has been an expert in the industry for over 20 years with an audio and acoustics background. His current focus is on video and collaboration technologies in telemedicine. In his spare time, you will find Charlie attempting to cook and spending time with his three kids. He is based in Southern California.

Register here: usdla.org/2023-ndlw

Tuesday, November 7, 1-2 pm EST

Using AI and Hard Data to Teach Soft Skills

Presenter: Scott Provence, MA, MFA

About the session: Ask ten people to express empathy, and you will get ten different answers. How can we expect Artificial Intelligence to teach us about something we can’t even agree on ourselves? Perhaps you’ve struggled to justify the ROI of a soft-skill training program. Or perhaps you’ve had groups push back on virtual role-plays. In this session, you’ll journey from the evidence-based shores of clinical psychology to the new frontier of Large Language Models as we uncover new AI-powered conversation tools. You’ll see real-world examples of how machine learning can help us standardize how we use communication skills for talking to customers and to each other.

About the presenter: Scott Provence, MA, MFA, is a health-tech leader and content developer whose print and web-based curricula serve millions annually. Scott has worked in the public and private sectors, creating federal education programs and leading L&D teams from small startups to Google. He founded Versant Metrics, whose award-winning algorithm empirically measures how well caring gets communicated in a conversation.

Tuesday, November 7, 3-4 pm EST

Uncovering the Potential, Realities, and Future of Generative AI through Research

Presenters: Dr. George Veletsianos, Canada Research Chair in Innovation Learning & Technology, Royal Roads University, and Dr. Cristi Ford, VP of Academic Affairs, D2L

About the session: While much has been said and written about Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education, systematic investigations about its use are slow to emerge. The Canadian Digital Learning Research Association recently surveyed 438 administrators and faculty across 126 Canadian institutions to gauge their perspectives on generative AI. This webinar will present findings and provide a space for an expansive discussion. Findings reveal that AI policy development in Canadian higher education is nascent. AI use appears inconsistent and primarily experimental, driven by individual faculty yet supported by some institutional initiatives. While respondents believe that AI offers potential and may become a staple in higher education, they note that its value hinges on multiple factors and are concerned about its biases and limitations.

About the presenters:

Dr. George Veletsianos (Γιώργος Βελετσιάνος) is a professor in the School of Education and Technology at Royal Roads University. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology. His research agenda focuses on designing, developing, and evaluating online and blended learning environments, studying learning experiences and participation in emerging online environments, and learning futures. Learn more: veletsianos.com.

Dr. Cristi Ford is a Vice President of Academic Affairs at D2L. She has over 20 years of experience in higher education, secondary education, project management, program evaluation, training, and student services. She is a tireless advocate for quality online education and has helped institutions build capacity to launch and expand online programming through effective faculty development, instructional design, and pedagogical practices.

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 12-1 pm EST

Navigating the AI Education Space: Incorporating AI Into the Learning Environment

Presenters: Amrit Ahluwalia, Editor-in-Chief of The EvoLLLution; Asim Ali, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Innovation at Auburn University;and Frederick T. Wehrle, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of California Berkeley

About the session: In this panel discussion, leaders in the digital and innovative learning space will share their insights into how generative AI tools are blended into the educational environment. Panelists will reflect on how educators can navigate the tools available to them, how to assess the value of these tools, and how to teach learners to use them effectively.

About the presenters:

Amrit Ahluwalia is the Editor-in-Chief of The EvoLLLution, an online newspaper focused on non-traditional higher education and the transforming postsecondary marketplace. He also serves as Director of Strategic Insights for Modern Campus. Ahluwalia was part of the team that conceived of and launched The EvoLLLution in 2011 and served as its Managing Editor from 2011-2021. Ahluwalia works personally with every contributor at The EvoLLLution to produce content that has supported the site’s rise to becoming the top resource for non-traditional higher education.

Asim Ali is the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Innovation at Auburn University. He advances the center’s mission of providing professional development programs, services, and resources to enhance instructional innovation and support scholarly and creative activities. Ali oversees a team of more than 90 professionals, graduate students, and staff members across the center’s various units, which include Auburn Online, Biggio Teaching, Biggio Technology, Biggio Testing, and Engaged and Active Student Learning, or EASL, classrooms, and classroom buildings. Ali co-leads Auburn’s augmented and virtual reality initiative, AUX, in collaboration with the Office of Information Technology. Ali also co-leads work on artificial intelligence for the Office of the Provost to build faculty capacity for understanding and implementing AI in teaching and learning. Ali holds a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, a master’s degree in information systems management, and a Ph.D. in adult education from Auburn University.

Frederick T. Wehrle is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of California Berkeley and has been at U of C Berkeley since 2018. Some of his other roles there included Assistant Dean for Academic Design and Innovation and Director of International Initiatives. Prior to that, he was Director of Accreditation and International Relations at the Center for Global Engagement at EDC Paris Business School. Wehrle holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Management Science from the University of Paris and a Master of Science in Behavioural ecology, neurobiology, bioinformatics, and anthropology from the University of Freiburg.

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2-3 pm EST

Explore a real-world implementation of AI in education

Presenter: Al Pisano

About the session: Join us for this engaging presentation to explore the real-world implementation of AI in education. This presentation provides educators with practical knowledge about AI education and its potential transformative impact. Learn about AI fundamentals, using AI as an instructional tool for personalized learning, reimagining assessment with AI, ethical considerations for student use of AI, and administrative uses of AI for streamlining tasks and decision-making processes.

About the presenter: Al Pisano is a versatile professional with extensive experience in the education and corporate sectors. He is a presenter, thought leader, author, innovator, entrepreneur, administrator, curriculum developer, and consultant. With a background in K-12 and higher education, Al has created and taught numerous programs and courses in educational leadership, technology, business, and more. He has also established successful businesses focused on leadership development and program design. Al has collaborated with influential stakeholders at companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon and is a published author of The Collective Mindset: A Roadmap for Continuous Innovation and Mindful Change. His breadth of experience provides valuable perspective and insight in various domains.

Thursday, November 9, 1-2pm EST

Data Justice, Data Rights and AI Ethics

Presenters: Farah Bennani, Ph.D., and Kae Novak, Assistant Director, Learning Design at Front Range Community College

About the session: Data Justice is an emergent area of digital rights and activism that has its roots in technology is not neutral. We must question learners’ and workers’ rights in the age of big data, surveillance capitalism, algorithmic bias, and ubiquitous AI.

About the presenters:

Farah Bennani, Ph.D., (pictured left) has more than two decades of combined leadership, instructional experience, and innovation in the STEM field. She served as vice president of the Colorado Distance Learning Association and, in 2018, won the eLearning Advocate of the Year Award from the eLearning Consortium of Colorado. championed and served as the Allied Health Curriculum Expert at the North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO), developing remote-web-based science labs (RWSLB), where she designed virtual online labs curricula that allowed students to control lab activities remotely. Her leadership in STEM and online learning has resulted in her teams being the recipients of multiple grants that focus on student engagement, multiculturalism, and immersive learning in the STEM field. She presents and publishes nationally and internationally on emerging technology, augmented and virtual realities, adaptive learning, and game-based learning.

Kae Novak (pictured right) has 15 years of experience in online learning and is the Assistant Director of Learning Design at Front Range Community College. She teaches multimedia, computer information systems, and marketing courses in the Colorado Community College Systems. She is the Co-Chair of the eLearning Consortium of Colorado and has led the organization in its annual virtual and hybrid conferences for the past three years. She is researching online learning, immersive learning experiences, and social justice. Her most recent publication is co-authoring a chapter titled Constructivism for Active, Authentic Learning.

Thursday, November 9, 3-4 pm EST

AI: The Impact on Higher Education

Presenter: Dr. Robbie Melton, Interim Provost/VP of Academic Affairs and VP of Technology Innovations for the SMART Global Technology Innovation Center and tenured professor at Tennessee State University

About the session: Dr. Robbie Melton will highlight and showcase how artificial intelligence will impact various areas of higher education. She will:

  • Demonstrate AI’s power to advance research through modeling and data analytics while discussing chatbots and their benefits for student support.
  • Share innovations in AI music and the arts that are transforming creative fields.
  • Emphasize the need to develop these technologies with diversity and cultural perspectives in mind while outlining AI’s vast potential.
  • Stress that to realize AI’s benefits its applications must be inclusive and accommodate varied cultural learning needs and styles.
  • Address the importance of promoting diversity among AI researchers and developers to help guard against unconscious bias.
  • Describe the transformations AI may bring, from improving teaching to pioneering new research frontiers.
  • Highlight that responsible, people-centered development is key to ensuring AI transforms in higher education for the betterment of students and society.

About the presenter: As Interim Provost/VP of Academic Affairs and VP of Technology Innovations for the SMART Global Technology Innovation Center and tenured professor at Tennessee State University, Dr. Melton serves as a global researcher and international consultant for Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Education and Emerging IOE (“The Internet of Everything”) Smart Mobile Technology of mobile devices, smart phone-tablets, wearables, smart gadgets and tools, and mixed reality of VR and AR. She formerly served as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Emerging Technologies for the Tennessee Board of Regents and the primary developer and chief administrator for the system-wide Regents Online Degree Programs. Her tributes include The 2023 Top 50 Women Leaders in Education, the 2019 USDLA Hall of Fame, the 2018 Distinguished Women of Legend, the 2017 OLC Leadership, the 2016 WCET Lifetime Achievement, the 2014 Top 30 Technologists, the 2013 Apple Distinguished Educator, 2012 Top Fifty Technology Innovator; and 2012 WOW EdTechnology Awards.

Friday, November 10, 1-2 pm EST

GenAI Holds Great Promise for Distance Learning, But There Are Concerns

Presenter: John Agnew, Ph.D. Program Coordinator for the Ph.D. Psychology Program at Walden University

About the session: Generative AI has emerged rapidly into public awareness in the past year, and much has been written about the cataclysmic threats and vast possibilities of this new technology. Working in distance learning, we know that our students have many needs (editors and statistics tutors are just two examples) that GenAI could meet. But we also have fears that our students may use this technology to avoid the hard work of critical thinking rather than using it to allow more time for such deeper learning. In this presentation, Dr. Agnew will share his observations about the assignments that are easier or harder for GenAI to complete, talk about the concerns with AI detectors and why they will likely never be successful, and discuss some of the ethical concerns of using GenAI and Large Language Models with student information that is protected by FERPA and research-participant data that is covered by human subjects protection guidelines.

About the presenter: John Agnew has been teaching in higher education for the past 20 years, both in-person and online. In 2019, he became the Program Coordinator at Walden University and has been teaching exclusively online since then. His background is in cognitive neuroscience, and over the past year, he has been exploring the possibilities of generative AI in the classroom. At Walden University, he serves on the AI Innovation Taskforce and has studied the effectiveness of AI detection tools. He has also been involved in developing policies and best practices for the use of AI by faculty and students.

Friday, November 10, 3-4 pm EST

AI: The Impact on Higher Education

Presenters: USDLA President Chuck Sengstock and longtime USDLA Board Member Dr. William Ryan

About the session: How can you demonstrate that your distance learning programs meet the highest standards of excellence in the industry? How can you benefit from a rigorous and systematic process of self-evaluation and peer review? How can you join a network of distinguished institutions that have achieved Quality Certification from USDLA? In this webinar, Dr. Bill Ryan and Dr. Chuck Sengstock will share their insights and experiences on how USDLA’s Quality Certification can help you enhance your reputation, performance, and outcomes in distance learning.

About the presenters:

USDLA President Chuck Sengstock is well respected throughout the state of Iowa for his expertise in distance learning. Distance learning programs Chuck has helped develop and manage have received state and international awards for excellence. Currently, Chuck is the Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development within the School of Education at Drake University. In this position, he oversees the development and marketing of all online and video correspondence graduate courses. He also develops departmental policies, procedures, and initiatives. During his 25-year career, Chuck has worked at four different colleges and universities in Iowa. He has developed training and support initiatives for both online and video conferencing instructors as well as managed a multimedia production facility where he worked with instructors to create digital objects for their online, blended, and face-to-face courses. Chuck is also skilled at live event production and has organized and managed events for various colleges and universities as well as corporations such as Warner Brothers Records and Ingram Entertainment. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Iowa Wesleyan College, a Master’s Degree from the University of Northern Iowa, and a Specialist in Education from Drake.

USDLA Board Member Dr. William Ryan consults with organizations on learning and performance needs. His expertise is in distance learning and competency-based programs. He was the Executive Director of the Learn on Demand online competency program at the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS), a VP of Education for a regional home health company, and has held positions as National Leader for Curriculum and Technology Solutions with Humana Inc., serving a global learning community focused on performance improvement. He has been a VP for Technology/CIO at Lakeland Community College and worked for Westinghouse and IBM in learning technology roles. Learn more: www.williamjryan.com

Register here for NDLW: usdla.org/2023-ndlw