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FIU Online Con 2018 unveils cutting-edge technology to add richness to online learning and course development.

The dynamic digital industry continuously creates user-friendly disruptors that shape the way we live. Online learning is no exception. Today, students and professors alike have increased access to courses through mobile devices, from anywhere in the world, without losing the quality of instruction. To encourage faculty to take advantage of new, high-tech capabilities in instructional design, FIU Online recently hosted its annual FIU Online Con event.

“The conference empowers faculty to leverage new instructional technology that will help them enrich online courses,” said Joseph Riquelme, Assistant Vice President of FIU Online at Florida International University. “Our instructional designers partner with faculty and expose them to new tools and course design strategies for increased engagement. "While some innovations may not stick, it’s important that we continue to explore and pilot emerging technologies and initiatives to gauge the impact they have on the learning experience and student success."

The Art of Teaching

This year’s FIU Online Con demonstrated that online learning is an ever-evolving art. The conference’s theme, “Your Course is Your Canvas,” came to life with new “brushstrokes” that offered more than 200 faculty members, along with their instructional designers, new best practices in course design and development. The daylong event took place November 2nd at FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus Kovens Center.

“Not only did I gain a lot of knowledge that can be utilized to improve my online teaching, but I also left feeling excited and energized about the future of online learning at FIU Online,” said FIU professor Melody Whiddon-Willoughby, Ph.D.

What’s Next?   

Riquelme offered a recap with a glimpse of what’s to come, “where pedagogy is the driver and technology is the accelerator,” he said.

As of Fall 2018, FIU fully migrated to Canvas, a more dynamic learning management system with richer capabilities. More than 56,000 students take one of the university’s 6,775 courses—now all delivered through Canvas—led by more than 2,300 faculty and instructors. In addition, FIU Online leads the nation in Quality Matters (QM) certified courses. QM, a peer-reviewed national review process, ensures the highest quality in the design and delivery of online courses. 

While these numbers show great growth, Riquelme underscored that the next year will be a “refining” year as the unit makes more progress through emerging technologies such as with artificial intelligence, adaptive learning and predictive analytics—all of which aim to increase pass rates for students.  

“We’re on a mission to provide access to our students,” said Riquelme. He explained how the university is answering the call for degrees that ensure the state of Florida has a bench of professionals armed with in-demand skill sets. “With more than 80 online degrees today, we’re building professionals for the future, looking at ways to remove barriers to higher education, and reducing the cost of textbooks.”

Riquelme discussed new first-in-the-nation degrees including the Bachelor of Science in Internet of Things and the Bachelor of Science in Crime Science. He also revealed how the FIU Online Affordability Counts initiative to cap course material costs to just $60, already features 270 certified FIU courses. The initiative, which FIU Online spearheaded, will be adopted statewide at other universities, he announced.

Faculty Choice Awards

FIU Online also recognized outstanding faculty who are leaders of innovative course design and delivery with the Faculty Choice Awards. Named at the conference, this year’s winners include the following:

Creative Tool Usage & Innovative Course Design - Melody Willoughby and designer Erika Huezo for their work in EDF5481: Foundations of Educational Research and PPE3003: Theories of Personality

Creative Tool Usage - Marcela Lopez Bravo and designer Gali Lefkowitz for their work in ASN3503: Exploring East Asia: Virtual Reality Travel

Innovative Use of Open Content - Elio L. Arteaga and designer Felson Thomas-Watson for their work in VIC3400: Visual Design for Globalized Media

Student Engagement with Team-based Activities to Explore Gender Differences - Irma Alonso and designer Jennifer Echeverri for their work in ECS 3021: Women, Culture, and Economic Development

Gamification Strategies - Lukas K. Danner and designer Nina Crutchfield for their work in CPO3502: Politics of the Far East

Refueled and Refreshed

In addition to the nuts-and-bolts breakout sessions for attendees, the conference’s keynote speakers Phil Hansen, internationally recognized multimedia artist and Ted Talk speaker, and Michael Bonner, second-grade teacher, published author and speaker, delivered moving presentations to refresh attendees with a renewed sense of purpose. Hansen painted a picture of how limitations are the catalysts to limitless possibilities.

“Our success depends on our ability to shift,” said Hansen who summarized his talk, which was a metaphor for online learning. “You’re trying to take the tools you have and trying to reach students to make the most of what you have in front of you. Can you imagine what you could do if you get rid of the limitations in front of you?”

Bonner, the afternoon keynote speaker, finished the day with an inspiring talk about how teachers have a calling and legacy as no one can tell where their impact will end in a student’s life.

“I feel as if FIU Online is headed for nothing but greatness and will serve as a model for other online programs worldwide,” stated Whiddon-Willoughby.

For more information on FIU Online Con, visit https://online.fiu.edu/faculty/professional-development/fiu-online-conference/index.php.