Looking back on the Blended Learning 2016 Conference

Posted May 25th, 2016 at 9:45 am.

The fifth annual Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts Conference challenged us to explore new pedagogical possibilities and rethink the boundaries of the classroom. It featured over a dozen panels, five hands-on workshops, a poster session, and more.

Held May 18-19 at Bryn Mawr College, the conference brought in 100+ people from around the world, representing over 65 colleges and universities and a range of disciplines and types of institutions. Participants shared specific techniques and classroom tools and debated big-picture questions about the purpose, pitfalls, and potentials of blended learning.

A highlight of the conference was Rebecca Frost Davis’s keynote, “Designing for Agency in the Emerging Digital Ecosystem.” Davis argued that a liberal arts education offers students preparation for the types of skills the future will require—solving unstructured problems, working with new information, and so on. She provided several examples of projects which innovatively use blended learning and responsibly scaffold skills.

Davis put a particular emphasis on student engagement with “signature projects,” which often challenge our understanding of the classroom. The students Davis described contribute to ongoing faculty projects stretching beyond the semester, participate in virtual and physical spaces, collaborate across campuses, and engage with the community beyond the university. Traditionally, higher education has been centered on questions of how we as educators can make connections for students. But in her keynote, Davis suggested that we are moving towards a model of higher ed in which students will learn to make these connections for themselves.

The final session, “Why Blend the Humanities?: A Critical Conversation” featured a panel of professors from liberal arts institutions. Panelists debated topics such as the joys of subverting the “right” way to use digital tools, the broader institutional contexts influencing blended learning, and the ways in which we can maintain a balance between traditional and blended forms of engagement with the course material and the world.

Conference participants commented on the meaningful conversations, stimulating ideas, and positive networking opportunities they experienced at the conference. For those of us planning and running the event, it was a pleasure to see things come together.

Conference materials and session recordings will soon be available on Bryn Mawr College’s Digital Commons Repository site. The Twitter discussion is archived on Storify.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Filed under: Conference Tags: by Beth Seltzer

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