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EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative 2008 Online Spring Focus Session

Real-World and Technology-Rich: Learning by Doing, Learning in Context

The 2008 ELI Spring Focus Session is now being conducted as an online event. The program and registration for the event are now live and accessible via links in the left-hand navigation menu. Please note that registration for this online focus session will close Sunday, March 16.

“Students learn how to do things by doing them.” —Russ Edgerton

Students tell us they learn by doing—not by being told. They say real-world problems are motivating—that they want to make a contribution, not do busywork. And both employers and recent graduates say colleges and universities should help students better develop teamwork, critical thinking, and creativity. When students describe the education they would like, it involves learning through real problems (learning in context) and doing things that prepare them for future work (learning by doing). They want to learn with colleagues from multiple disciplines, supported—in physical and virtual environments—by information and communications technologies.

Such learning might be termed “authentic learning,” incorporating elements of student-centered approaches, active learning, problem-based learning, case-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and reflective learning. Integrating authentic activities with today’s technology-rich information, communication, and simulation environments, students can adopt the role of professionals to think critically, collaborate, and solve problems that have real-world relevance.

Join us March 18–19 for the 2008 ELI Online Spring Focus Session as we explore an approach to learning that puts the emphasis on students’ learning by doing and learning in context. This online event will bring together a variety of professionals to examine how today’s technologies can support authentic activities where students engage with the content, with each other, and with experts—in and out of the classroom—exposing them to the reality of professional practice.

We will focus on:

  • What it means for students to “learn by doing” and “learn in context”
  • The value of using authentic activities and information technologies to support student learning
  • Projects that model best practices
  • Assessment strategies tailored to these experiential learning environments

Is This Event for You?

If you are interested in developing or expanding initiatives at your institution to help faculty and instructional staff rethink instruction to use more active learning strategies, you will find the online focus session a valuable experience. The event has been designed for:

  • Information technology professionals
  • Learning technologists
  • Faculty
  • Administrators
  • Librarians
  • Others functioning in related roles

We encourage you to participate in this online event as a team. Team participation can help your institution advance a current or upcoming project or encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration. Team members find that active discussion and engagement with each other during focus session activities builds rapport, solidifies plans, and enriches collaboration. By sharing a common focus-session experience, participants can reflect on the implications for their campus. Suggestions for participating as a team are posted in the Campus Guide to the Online Focus Session.


As a result of the focus session, you should expect to:           

  • Explore authentic activities across a variety of disciplines
  • Identify the role IT can play in the delivery and evaluation of authentic activities
  • Develop strategies to help faculty introduce and sustain authentic activities in their courses
  • Engage in dialogue with a community of professionals focused on how to integrate and evaluate authentic learning across the curriculum

Meeting Preparation

Participants will be asked to complete readings and a premeeting survey in preparation for the online focus session.