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For its 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago, the AAG is welcoming abstracts and organized session proposals on topics exploring the multifaceted dimensions of geography and online education. AAG (www.aag.org), Esri (www.esri.com), and the National Center for Research in Geography Education (www.ncrge.org) are co-organizing this special thematic track. Context: It’s sometimes said that online learning “transcends geography.”  It’s true that the online modality increases access to higher education that might otherwise be limited by a student’s location. However, location, and the spatial relationships among peoples and the communities, regions, and world in which they live, still matter. The 2006 National Research Council report Learning to Think Spatially made a compelling case for the importance of spatial thinking in “the information-based economy of the twenty-first century,” and therefore across K-12 school curricula. The argument applies just as strongly in higher education. Furthermore, the special circumstances of online learning—in which students often participate from varied and dispersed locations—pose special opportunities to leverage location awareness and analytics. Opportunities for “geo-enabled online education” include:

  • Location-aware social media: Students in online classes can easily plot their locations on a shared Web map. Whether they choose to plot themselves precisely or approximately, interesting conversations and teachable moments are sure to follow. Furthermore, students and educators travel, and sometimes cross paths. Classes engaged in location-aware social media could be more likely to meet up for advising sessions, peer study groups, or social get-togethers.
  • Place-based learning: Student projects and other assignments are often place-based. How much might such activities be enriched if they were situated in an interactive, multivariate geographic context? Innovative and creative approaches to place-based learning demonstrate how all online learning doesn’t always have to take place in front of a computer screen.
  • Education administration and research: The use of location analytics to target prospective students, manage enrollments, customize instruction for local contexts, and investigate spatial variations in student performance and access is expanding as spatial analysis tools are integrated with existing administrative workflows.
  • The future of maps in next-generation textbooks: One of the most interesting and potentially consequential trends in online learning is the convergence of online courses and “the object formerly known as the textbook.” Though printed texts won’t disappear completely any time soon, publishers are already developing “next generation” products that resemble online courses more than books.  Integrating interactive, multi-scale Web mapping with these next-gen texts and the interactive assessment tools they provide enables course authors and instructors to include thematic maps and map analysis among their educational objectives. A role for geographical and spatial thinking stands to rise from triviality to importance in many texts, and for the students and teachers who use them.

For each of the activities below, we seek a diverse group of individuals representing a range of experiences with online education in geography. If interested, please follow the specified procedures, and attach your current c.v. or resume to your message.

Research Papers

AAG staff will be organizing several paper sessions on research topics related to geography and online education. To present in one of these sessions, please submit your abstract at www.aag.org/annualmeeting. When you receive confirmation of a successful abstract submission, please then forward this confirmation to Mark Revell at the AAG (mrevell [at] aag [dot] org). Put “Research Paper: Geography and Online Education” in the subject field. The abstract deadline is November 5, 2014.

Illustrated Paper Sessions

AAG staff will also be organizing practice-oriented illustrated paper sessions intended to disseminate information about effective approaches to designing an online course or program, teaching an online class, connecting students internationally in virtual learning environments, and other topics. An illustrated paper is a short oral summary of problem, data, method, and findings presented in poster format, followed by a one-on-one or small group discussion with interested listeners. Each presenter will post illustrations and other relevant materials on a poster board supplied by the AAG. All oral summaries will be given at the beginning of each session before participants disperse to the poster boards around the room. To present in one of these sessions, please submit your abstract at www.aag.org/annualmeeting. When you receive confirmation of a successful abstract submission, please then forward this confirmation to Mark Revell (mrevell [at] aag [dot] org). Put “ISP: Geography and Online Education” in the subject field. The abstract deadline is November 5, 2014.

Panel Sessions

AAG seeks panelists for sessions addressing key questions about geography and online education, such as:

  • What are the key challenges and opportunities afforded by online higher education?
  • What is the status of online geospatial education and its impact on traditional educational offerings?
  • How might location awareness and analytics enrich online learning across disciplines?

To participate in one of these panels, please send a message indicating your preferred topic to Mark Revell (mrevell [at] aag [dot] org) by November 5, 2014. Put “Panel: Geography and Online Education” in the subject field.