This block post written by:
Dr. Darcy W. Hardy
USDLA Chair Emerita
Conferences. What is it about them that draws us to attend en masse? Why some more than others? What is it we get out of these events? Some people will say, “I learn new things,” while others might say, “I share my expertise.” Many will tell you it’s all about the networking, while still others tell you they’re looking for jobs. There are many, many reasons why people attend conferences. But let’s forget why people attend for a minute – let’s instead consider why a conference is established in the first place.
I’ve been involved in distance and online education since the late 1980s. I’ve attended hundreds of conferences and meetings over the past almost 30 years, sometimes searching for knowledge or information I need, sometimes seeking the solace of old friends in challenging times. Back in the early 2000s, USDLA didn’t have an annual conference, although we were starting to discuss the opportunity. Some of you old-timers may remember back in the day when USDLA hosted conference/trade shows called Tel-Con, but those ended in the mid-90s and were focused more on products and services as opposed to substantive issues (although there were some).
It was during the time that the Board of Directors was considering establishing a “new” annual conference that conversations about IFWE were born. I was USDLA president in 2003 and, along with some other women, proposed to the Board that even before we host an annual conference, USDLA should host a women’s conference – something to put us on the map that wasn’t “just another conference.” An event that would bring women together to celebrate the successes we’ve had in the field, and provide a forum for conversations around work/family balance, finding your voice at the table, and dancing on the glass ceiling. We would call it the International Forum for Women in E-learning (IFWE). It was during discussions with the Board that I was asked, “Will we also offer an event for men?,” to which I responded, “No, because then it would be IFME – and that’s not what we’re looking for.
We hosted the first IFWE in 2004, and it’s now an established event that takes place every two years the week after Thanksgiving. Around 120 women from across the country and around the world attend IFWE, and for many it has been a life-changing experience. IFWE is a sisterhood of e-learning professionals from all walks of life and from every constituency. It is a combination of knowledge sharing, mentoring, networking, and supporting. It’s where attendees can celebrate new opportunities and where they can also receive guidance when needed. Powerful keynotes and successful leaders’ stories are always a highlight, along with the infamous IFWE Pajama Rama, an evening where everyone can let their hair down, enjoy fun music and fun times while getting to know each other better.
IFWE sees return attendees (some have attended all seven!) and welcomes new participants as well. There is something for every woman at an IFWE event. If you’ve never been, your chance is coming in 2018. Stay tuned and plan to join us. I can personally promise you there’s no other event like IFWE.
USDLA 2017 National Conference
April 30 – May 3, 2017 in Indianapolis, IN
The USDLA 2017 National Conference is the premier event for professionals in the distance learning industry. This year’s conference celebrates USDLA’s 30th year and promises to deliver an action-packed agenda that will bring together distance learning practitioners from across the country and around the world.
*Click here for more information about this USDLA signature event.
Join the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA)
The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is a non-profit association formed in 1987 with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. The association reaches 20,000 people globally with sponsors and members operating in and influencing 46% of the $913 billion dollar U.S. education and training market. USDLA promotes the development and application of distance learning for education and training and serves the needs of the distance learning community by providing advocacy, information, networking and opportunity. Distance learning and training constituencies served include pre-k-12 education, higher and continuing education, home schooling as well as business, corporate, military, government and telehealth markets.