Posted on November 5, 2014

Cover Image


“Do you care more about your knowledge or your students?” This question echoed in the ears of over 1,000 attendees at the Online Learning Consortium’s 20th Annual International Conference in Orlando on October 29-31. In attendance were three Southern Seminary Online administrative staff, who made two presentations at the conference.

Presentation #1

The first presentation was entitled “From Spielberg to Screen Capture: Production Models for Creating Quality Online Videos” and was developed by Ryan Baltrip, Director of Online Learning, and Kristen Ferguson, Online Instructional Designer at Southern Seminary.  During this presentation, Baltrip and Ferguson identified aspects of quality online videos, discussed six production models for online learning, and offered an administrative triage system for determining which production model works best in different contexts.Presentation Image 3

A diverse audience of over fifty participants attended the presentation.  Administrators from Emory University, University of Miami, Arizona State University, among other schools, attended the session. “It was a privilege to present at the conference,” stated Ryan Baltrip, Director of Online Learning for Southern Seminary and Boyce College. “The highest compliment we received was from another Director of Online Learning at a larger university who had attended many presentations regarding online learning videos over the past several years.  He complimented us by saying that our presentation had the best research base and was the most well-done of any he had seen.  We were humbled by the compliment.”

Kristen Ferguson, Online Instructional Designer at Southern Seminary, commented that the presentation was evidently beneficial to conference attendees: “The questions directed to us during each presentation implied that the audience was really gaining information that they had not previously encountered and that they were considering how they could implement our ideas into their programs. This was my favorite aspect of the conference– to see that what we had done in our department is helpful for other institutions.”

Presentation #2

The second presentation was entitled “Simple Steps that Make a Significant Difference: Improving the Visual Design of Your Online Course(s).”  This presentation was made by Ryan Baltrip, Kristen Ferguson, and Brian Renshaw, another Online Instructional Designer at Southern Seminary.  In this presentation, Baltrip, Ferguson, and Renshaw highlighted how they have been working to improve the visual elements of online learning at Boyce College Online and Southern Seminary Online.  Between 2013 and 2014, the Online Learning Department conducted a major enhancement project that drastically improved the visual elements of all Boyce College Online courses (the department plans to make similar visual enhancements on Southern’s online courses in 2015).  Baltrip, Ferguson, and Renshaw discussed the steps taken to enhance the courses and demonstrated the difference to conference attendees.  Over forty conference participants were able to learn from Southern Seminary’s online learning staff through this presentation and discovered at least one way they could enhance visual appeal to help motivate and increase online student learning.

Presentation ImageBrian Renshaw, Online Instructional Designer at Southern Seminary, summarized the benefit of the presentation as follows: “It helped the people I engaged with think outside of what they were currently doing. I talked with various faculty members who had no idea how to begin fixing the visual design of their course.  We were able to give them ideas that helped.” The presentation was well-received by those who attended and many were able to gain new visual improvement ideas for their online courses.

 Final Reflections

Overall, it was clear that both presentations made by Southern’s online staff contributed to the collective learning experience at the conference: “I absolutely loved seeing faculty and administrators eager to learn more about how to improve their online courses,” Baltrip said.  “There was a great openness to new ideas and all the participants that we interacted with seemed to gain at least one new idea from the presentation.”

Apart from presenting at the conference, Southern’s online learning staff gained valuable perspectives from other presenters.  “It’s always great to exchange ideas and learn about what others are doing in the broader arena of higher education,” Baltrip remarked. Ferguson stated: “I believe we all gained valuable insights that we will apply to our context in theological education.” Renshaw commented: “It was great to both present at and attend the conference.  I look forward to attending again next year.”