I just came back from attending my first D2L Fusion conference in Anaheim, California this year. This was an exciting opportunity where I had the chance to learn from D2L users, D2L staff members, and other partners. My experience at the conference provided me with valuable insights into the current state and future of edtech and the knowledge sector, which encompasses K-12, higher education, and corporate learning.
Now back in my home office, I am still excited about the momentum at Fusion and have had time to reflect on my experience. I came away from Fusion with three key takeaways:
Enthusiasm for Technology and AI in Education
Attendees were genuinely excited about the role of technology and AI in education and the knowledge sector. Whether during sessions, at the partner exhibition, or casual conversations, attendees discussed how they were leveraging AI and technology to enhance student engagement. They also shared how these tools allowed them to be more efficient in their roles, enabling them to focus better on their learners.
A standout moment for me was D2L CEO John Baker’s opening keynote speech at the beginning of the conference. He presented a 19th century drawing that depicted a vision of education in the year 2000. This drawing, created during the height of the industrial revolution, showed students seated in two rows of desks wearing helmets connected to a machine. The instructor, positioned at the front, was feeding books into the machine, which another person operated by cranking a lever, seemingly shredding the books’ knowledge directly into the students’ brains.
Although this image did not accurately predict education in 2000, it served as a reminder of what has changed and what has stayed the same. Yes, students often still sit at desks to learn, but learning has evolved to include students in the process as opposed to upholding the instructor as the wielder of all knowledge. This keynote set a positive tone for discussing the future of AI and technology in education throughout the conference.
There was a shared belief at Fusion that AI and technology offered numerous possibilities for improving the educational experience for all learners. Concerns and risks associated with the future of AI and technology were also discussed, but the prevailing sentiment was one of excitement and a willingness to learn and adapt.
Emphasis on Personalization
Another significant takeaway from D2L Fusion was the importance of personalization in education. Many individuals I spoke with acknowledged that their institutions’ current learner engagement approaches lacked personalization and painted students with a broad brush. They shared stories highlighting how existing tools often generalized students, resulting in student retention and success challenges. Educators understood that students desire and require a more personalized learning experience.
In one conversation I had at our booth, an educator from a higher education institution in Texas shared that the average age of their students is 32 and that their students had attended at least two other institutions, worked, had family responsibilities, and came from diverse backgrounds. We discussed the institution’s mission and how personalization could contribute to these students’ educational journeys and goals.
In another conversation, I spoke with a leader from a unique K-12 school in New Zealand. This school offers truly personalized distance learning experiences, where each student takes on an individualized learning journey with unique goals, areas of study, curriculum, and more. This approach allows their students to explore different opportunities, discover their interests, and, most importantly, stay engaged in their personalized education.
The emphasis on personalization was prevalent throughout D2L Fusion, showing its increased importance in education.
Challenges of Scaling 1:1 Human Connection
Lastly, the conversations I had at D2L Fusion highlighted the challenges educators face in scaling 1:1 human connection while implementing increased personalization, AI, and technology in educational settings. Educators and staff expressed their desire to maintain human connection in educational experiences for the benefit of students but scaling this level of connection proved to be difficult.
Educators, schools, and institutions face challenges in implementing scale to facilitate human connection, like tight budgets and change management, to name a few. Even though it is much more costly to scale human connection without technology, taking on new technology can still be difficult. At the same time, educators know that scaling human connection is key to helping students progress in their learning journey, fostering a sense of belonging, and facilitating improved student outcomes.
Educators also know that the implementation of new technology should augment, not replace, teachers, faculty and staff. Striking the right balance between adopting AI and technology, scale, and human connection was front of mind for D2L Fusion attendees.
Attending D2L Fusion was a valuable experience, and I am incredibly excited about the possibilities and opportunities in the education sector. As a former college advisor, I understand the importance of supporting all students throughout their educational journey. Having witnessed firsthand the benefits of AI and technology, I wish I had access to these tools to augment my ability to support students. Fusion attendees are already on track to embrace AI to help their students.
Today’s educators face an exciting road ahead, as AI and technology can greatly augment their abilities and help their students. At Discourse Analytics, we recognize the importance of leveraging AI to provide personalized experiences and lead to better outcomes. We are eager to continue building relationships with the individuals we connected with at D2L Fusion and to collaborate with educators to understand, engage, and activate their learners.