Save the Date! OLIS will return on March 1, 2024. Mark your calendar now!

OLIS 2023 – Transforming the Online Classroom: Challenges, Opportunities, and Innovation

The Online Learning Innovation Summit is a campuswide professional development conference hosted by UA Online. Faculty, staff and graduate students from across The University of Alabama and the region will come together for brainstorming, problem-solving and sharing experiences and best practices surrounding online learning and teaching technologies.

The 2023 summit was held on Friday, Feb. 10, at Bryant Conference Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Here’s what you missed!

 For more information, contact the OLIS Planning Team at


Theme and Keynote Speaker

The 2023 theme was Transforming the Online Classroom: Challenges, Opportunities and Innovation.

Our keynote speaker was Dr. Sebrena Jackson, associate professor and associate dean for educational programs and student services in The University of Alabama School of Social Work. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Tuskegee University and both her master’s and doctorate from Clark Atlanta University.

Jackson has presented at national and international professional conferences about online social work education. She was recently selected to participate in the Institute on Pedagogy and Technology for Online Courses at Columbia University.

She has received awards as an Innovation Team Scholar and Innovation Scholar in Residence from the former UA College of Continuing Studies, now known as the UA Office of Teaching Innovation and Digital Education. Jackson has completed the Quality Matters Teaching Online Certificate program.

In 2008, she founded the National Social Work Enrichment Program, a program that encourages foster youth to consider social work as a major while inspiring them to graduate high school and enroll in college. Jackson was honored by the National Association of Social Workers as Social Worker of the Year for Georgia in 2009 and Alabama in 2017.


  • Lights, Cameras, Lectures! (CDI, W – see session key below)
    Lee Laska, Johnnie Blackburn & Nathan Dains

    This workshop will deliver direct training and experience with the tools, techniques, and opportunities offered by our staff to create meaningful learning experiences for UA students.  Instructors will participate in learning hands-on skills with some of our studio technology used to create engaging courses online as they bring their content to life as distance educators.
  • Fostering Student Engagement Through Digital Breakouts (TT, W)
    Kristin Johnson

    Getting tired of the same dull assignments? Are you noticing a lack of engagement amongst your students and want to reignite their passion? Digital breakouts are a great way to assess your students’ knowledge while also providing a collaborative, engaging atmosphere! In this session, you will find out what digital breakouts are, how to use them with your students, and then have an opportunity to create your own.
  • Engaging Online Discussions (RSI, W)
    Anthony Derriso
    Are your students truly engaged in your online discussions – are they intrinsically motivated by interest and curiosity or are they simply fulfilling a requirement? Ready to move beyond the prescribed post, read, post, repeat rhythm? This session will include a lively discussion of online discussion, including the latest research on the topic. Participants will leave with several ideas that can be implemented immediately to help their online students connect and learn together.
  • Expanding Your Digital Toolkit for Online Learning (TT, W)
    Sabrina Stanley

    This session focuses on using simple, free digital apps and websites to help our digital-age students engage with science and engineering practices – developing models, constructing explanations, creating understanding, and communicating. Please join this session with a digital device and transformative mindset.
  • Lights, Cameras, Lectures! (CDI, W)
    Lee Laska, Johnnie Blackburn & Nathan Dains

    This workshop will deliver direct training and experience with the tools, techniques, and opportunities offered by our staff to create meaningful learning experiences for UA students.  Instructors will participate in learning hands-on skills with some of our studio technology used to create engaging courses online as they bring their content to life as distance educators.
  • Don’t Let Templates Terrorize You (CDI, W)
    Ciera Cornelison & Matthew Wisla

    Are you afraid your online course will look like all the others, with no opportunity for flexibility or creativity? In this workshop you will learn how a course template can provide consistency while increasing flexibility, see some creative approaches in action, and get some tips to put into practice to make your own course unique.
  • Crisis Management in Higher Education: How to Use Instructional Technology to Maintain Academic Continuity (TT, W)
    Hanna Howell

    All higher education institutions are susceptible to crisis situations and research shows institutions tend to be more reactive than proactive in crisis situations. In this session, learn about ways to utilize the instructional technology you have to prepare you for the next crisis event using the crisis management cycle. You will also create a basic crisis management plan for a course or process you manage.

Breakout Sessions

  • Improving Student Engagement and Learning Through ActiveFlex (RSI, PR)
    Tracey DeCicco, Mark Gale & Joy Oettel

    In an effort to re-engage students post-pandemic, we implemented an enhancement of Hyflex called ActiveFlex. Students can choose their method of attendance weekly and receive an equal learning experience regardless of that choice, which includes built-in active learning opportunities designed to reinforce key course objectives and increased student to instructor and peer to peer interaction. In this session, we’ll describe the principles of ActiveFlex and the innovative room design we developed to accommodate this.
  • The Right Tool for the Job: Adding Variety to Content, Interaction, and Assessment in your Online Course (CDI, PR)
    Tyler Roberts, Lori Bowden, Crystal Butler & Preston Ruddell
    Presenters will share tools related to three areas of course design (content presentation, student interaction, and assessment) to give attendees ideas that can be incorporated into their own courses to help reach desired student outcomes.
  • Increasing Course Engagement with Loom (TT, PR)
    Caleb Walters

    Online education is more prevalent than ever, and it is imperative that educators have the tools to make virtual learning as seamless and effective as possible. Research shows that students who feel more engaged and connected often perform better than those feeling isolated and alone. Focusing on learner/instructor, learner/learner and learner/content engagement, see how Loom, a free screen and video recording platform, can be implemented in asynchronous virtual classrooms alongside other tools to increase student engagement and improve accessibility.
  • Fishing for Feedback: How to Leverage RSI to Increase Interaction in your Online Course (RSI, PA)
    Hanna Howell, Elizabeth McDonald, Megan Moore & Emma Stanford

    Join experts from multiple areas of online learning as they share their perspectives and experiences regarding online education. Specifically, this session will address UA’s Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) policy and expectations set by the Office of Teaching Innovation and Digital Education (OTIDE) for quality online instruction. Hear from instructional design, technical support, faculty and student professionals as they outline ways to increase interaction among students and faculty within online courses.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All: The Importance and Implications of Class Size in Online, Asynchronous Courses (CQI, PR)
    Stefanie Buckner, Tori Jessen & Sierra Wyatt

    Many educators and administrators assume that the size of online, asynchronous courses simply doesn’t matter. Come discover the lessons we have learned (often the hard way) about the effects online class size can have on student engagement, instructor satisfaction, and course content. We will discuss the practical, concrete ways we have learned to adapt, prioritize, innovate, and reflect so both students and instructors have a meaningful experience in our fast-paced, jam-packed UAEC 200 College Readiness course.
  • Dealing with the Unexpected: Navigating Student Wellbeing in a Digital World (RSI, PR)
    Elizabeth McDonald, Jennifer Humber & Jeremy Henderson

    As described by the American Psychological Association (2022), universities are facing a mental health crisis. Similar to face-to-face courses, students in online courses experience mental health concerns that have an impact on the academic work they produce. Engaging with student wellbeing increase student success and retention but is challenging no matter your teaching experience. We will use case study examples to provide participants with engagement strategies with online students who may be struggling with mental health.
  • I Can’t Get Baking Soda: Developing Interactive Labs for Equity (TIOC, PR)
    Rachel Walker & Nellie Christian

    Not all students can access even simple lab materials for courses. In this session, ACCESS will share its journey to developing basic interactive online labs. The presenters will share examples of planning documents, assets, and final products. They will also share strategies for development and feedback from stakeholders.
  • Utilizing Qualtrics for Academic Advising (TT, D)
    Kellin Treadway

    Qualtrics is a powerful survey software allowing dynamic content structuring. When used for advising, Qualtrics takes on the front-end work of helping students fill out advising forms, directing students to relevant websites, providing information on campus services, and enumerating university policies. It ticks the boxes for us, relieving some of the burden of the more tedious aspects of advising and allowing more time for that which is most essential: one-on-one human interaction with the student.
  • Previously Developed Course Takeover: Goals, Objectives, and Engagement (CDI, PR)
    Jennifer Humber & Anneliese Bolland

    We will introduce strategies for success for faculty assigned to teach an online course that was developed by someone else. Regardless of your interest or ability to make pedagogical changes to the course, we will discuss opportunities that allow adding personal touches while simultaneously ensuring that students feel connected and engaged, plus additional opportunities to provide authentic and engaged learning experiences. If change is necessary, we will provide recommendations and outline protocol to suggest course improvements through the appropriate channels.
  • Exploring Learn Ultra (CDI, D)
    Rachel Thompson

    Explore Blackboard Learn Ultra’s features, opportunities, and challenges for faculty and students. This demonstration highlights the innovative capabilities of Ultra for students and instructors. It also examines capabilities found in Original that are handled differently in Ultra.
  • 10+ Years = 10+ Tips (CQI, PR)
    Chloe Gooden

    From new tricks that worked great to strategies that were a major flop, I’ve learned quite a bit over the years about what works and what doesn’t work for the online classroom. In this session, I’ll give you 10+ tips for planned success, how to show true concern/interest for your students’ success inside and outside of the classroom and how to make your class not only engaging just for your students, but also yourself!
  • Increasing Student Engagement with Social Annotation (RSI, PR)
    Becky George & Nathan Loewen

    How can you increase student engagement and active participation with existing course readings without overhauling your teaching strategy? Adding the Hypothesis annotation sidebar on top of your readings in Blackboard creates a space for active discussion, enabling students and instructors to start conversations and clarifying student questions in the margins of texts. This session will dive into best practices for using collaborative annotation in a variety of disciplines and discuss its impact on improving student engagement and building community.

Electronic Poster Sessions

  • Flow, Mindfulness, and Mindlessness in Online Learning Communities (CDI, EP)
    Miranda Webster

    This session explores research on how distance students experience flow, mindfulness, and mindlessness in online learning communities. Csikszentmihalyi’s (1990) definition of flow and the concept of mindfulness from ancient Buddhist philosophy meet a technological twist: Levy (2016) offers “mindless tech” whereby individuals who use technology on a regular basis often interact mindlessly with their devices, unaware of actions, frequency and duration. What are the implications for these students who have become entangled in technology for personal, professional, and academic use?
  • Using Creative Commons and Franchising to Meet the ACCESS Mission (TIOC, EP)
    Nellie Christian & Rachel Walker

    Do we always meet The University of Alabama’s mission to “advance the intellectual and social condition of the people of the state, the nation, and the world through the creation, translation, and dissemination of knowledge” and the core value of public outreach? ACCESS provides one model through a combination of adapting high-quality Creative Commons-licensed content and sharing the courses with stakeholders through a franchise model. Presenters will provide quality Creative Commons resources, examples of adapted work, and feedback from stakeholders.

Session Key
Session Tracks:
CQI – Course Quality Improvement
TT – Technology Tools
RSI – Regular and Substantive Interaction
CDI – Course Design Innovation
TIOC – The Inclusive Online Classroom
Session Type:
EP – Electronic Poster
W – Workshop
PA – Panel
PR – Presentation
D – Demonstration

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For Faculty Development and Training Contact:

 Email Cheryl Bosarge

Phone:  (205) 348-4860