Every year, Arizona State University (ASU) convenes a diverse community of changemakers to discuss the intersection of learning and innovation, as well as the complex challenges and resulting opportunities. This event called ShapingEDU Unconference has emerged as a place to help shape the future of learning in the digital age.
This year, attendees explored the Intersection of Technology + Humanity, where students and professionals had the opportunity to view learning in the digital age through the lens of human-centered everything – an idea that has never been more relevant than it is today.
The cornerstone: students
A huge part of the ShapingEDU Unconference is the engagement from actual students. Students can be nominated and are selected to help bring a diverse set of viewpoints to the table around what it means to be a student. Privy to the online learning space, two of ASU Online students were invited to attend this year’s Unconference.
Anita Daryanani is a student in ASU Online’s Bachelor of Science in Nutrition program and has a passion for all-things health and wellness. She’s an upcoming Spring graduate, and is an inspiring working mother who has been balancing a lot to steadily work toward her degree for the last 10 years. She said being invited to this event was a total highlight. Since she’s not based locally, this was her first trip to campus, and she enjoyed exploring the city. She particularly loved the meet and greet the first night and appreciated the organization's dynamic young women and noted how many inspirational people she got to see work behind the scenes in read time.
The other online student, Megan Eichelberger, is an Interdisciplinary Studies major with a concentration in Business and Data Analytics. As an Interdisciplinary Studies major, she has the opportunity to design her major around multiple interests, with a focus on answering questions, solving problems and addressing contemporary social issues from multiple perspectives -- so the conference gave her a really relevant lens for the rest of her coursework as she finishes up her degree and looks toward graduation this Summer.
After applying on a whim, both first-time conference attendees expressed their excitement at being hand-selected to attend, representing their fellow classmates on a student-led panel, and going into the experience with no expectations. Though they brought different perspectives, both Megan and Anita entered the experience with open minds. “I think I can speak for both of us and say that we both got a lot out of it and had similar experiences even though our personal and professional lives are so different,” Anita shared “It was so cool to see educators in a flexible setting, so actively engaged in their work to make the online experience better,” Megan added.
Read on as Anita and Megan share more through three takeaways based on their experience as online students onsite discussing the Intersection of Technology + Humanity.
ASU’s ShapingEDU Unconference allowed Anita and Megan to learn from - and share insights with - education industry professionals -- all through the lens of creating a more cohesive online learning experience for the future. Insights are gathered, connections are made, and ideas are unleashed in a space where all parties are heard and elevated.
When we asked them to share their experience and takeaways for fellow students, three themes shone through. Here are their top three takeaways from the event:
1. Be a sponge!
It’s a unique opportunity to be in the room with so many diverse perspectives and voices – be a sponge and soak in as much as you can! “Seeing such a breadth of perspectives was my favorite part,” raved Megan, joined by fellow student, Anita, who both had the opportunity to hear from professors and university leaders on the wide-ranging landscape of Technology + Humanity in the ever-evolving digital age of learning.
They loved the real-time collaboration from dreamers and doers from across the world to collaborate and discuss what kinds of thinking and potential solutions are needed to address the 10 Actions to Shape the Future of Education.
2. Engage & communicate!
In an environment where engagement is not only encouraged, but cultivated, the opportunity for students to share their stories was an enriching experience, particularly for two students who are pursuing the entirety of their degrees in an online setting and bring unique perspectives to the table as adult learners – balancing not only school but also things like full-time work and motherhood.
Megan and Anita both sat on the conference’s Student Panel, where they shared their firsthand experiences going to school in an online environment. After sharing their perspectives in an open setting, Megan shared it was abundantly clear how important it is for students, like herself, to speak up and share.
“It was nice to share our voices, as online students” with educators who value those diverse perspectives, she shared. “The voice of a student is so important, and this experience allowed us to have these deep and meaningful conversations about topics that involve us.”
Anita particularly liked how the entire ShapingEDU Unconference was an open dialogue. Even within a shared experience like online education, “there are just so many different ideas shared in an open format like this.” She shared she realized sometimes it’s not until you get together in a room to talk about it and actively engage with someone from the outside to help bridge all of the pieces together.
3. Spark connections and network.
The importance of sparking genuine connections was another key takeaway shared. Both students really drove home the amazing opportunity to network and the importance of making meaningful connections to fully take advantage of the opportunities at the event.
“You’ll be talking to people who are plugged in from all over the world – there were so many opportunities there for people to network!” They shared particularly in the relaxed, low-pressure environment curated by the unconference, the ability to network was seamless and fantastic to take advantage of – whether personal or professional.
Both Megan and Anita had a blast at this year’s ShapingEDU Unconference. “I don’t know what I expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed it,” shared Anita, who attended for the first time. “I really loved the flow. I also loved that it was a relaxed, smaller-scale event – it made it more intimate and meaningful for us,” reflected Megan.
ASU thanks both Anita and Megan for their participation in this year’s ShapingEDU Unconference and invaluable insights shared onsite!
Want to learn more about the Unconference approach and stay up-to-date on other events to help shape the future of learning in the digital age? Learn more at shapingedu.asu.edu!