Educators settle for ‘unconference’ after coronavirus cancels event

Organizers of the Educause Learning Initiative canceled their event outside Seattle, Washington, citing health concerns. Would-be attendees are now planning a digital version, instead.
empty conference room
(Getty Images)

The Educause Learning Initiative conference was set to begin Monday outside of Seattle, Washington, but growing concern over the spread of coronavirus instead forced organizers to cancel the event.

“With the coronavirus kind of reaching out and embracing Seattle, we made what was just an excruciatingly difficult decision this weekend and canceled the meeting,” Susan Grajek, Educause’s vice president for communities and research, told EdScoop.

In years past, the annual conference provided an opportunity for educators to explore and share innovative technologies for key issues in higher education, like learning equity and student success. Instead, would-be attendees have had to get creative.

Despite the in-person conference attendance being cancelled, event organizers and participants are working together to come up with new ways to share information that was to be presented at the event.


“We’re scrambling to try to help people think about how we can stand up alternative ways of getting the wonderful content that our members had planned to deliver,” Grajek said.

But those who’d planned on attending the event have already come together to create what they are calling an “unconference,” taking place via the video conferencing platform Zoom, with some attendees still choosing to meet in person if they are able.

Nate Angell, director of marketing at edtech company Hypothesis, and Michael Greene, associate director of learning technology services and strategy at Duke University, spearheaded the rebuild of the conference and a new agenda is almost compete.

Educators shared excitement on on Twitter to see the resilience of their peers and their willingness to collaborate despite the looming crisis.


Washington state announced Monday that a total of six people infected with a new strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, have died. Nationwide, more than 100 cases of the disease have so far been confirmed.

Betsy Foresman

Written by Betsy Foresman

Betsy Foresman was an education reporter for EdScoop from 2018 through early 2021, where she wrote about the virtues and challenges of innovative technology solutions used in higher education and K-12 spaces. Foresman also covered local government IT for StateScoop, on occasion. Foresman graduated from Texas Christian University in 2018 — go Frogs! — with a BA in journalism and psychology. During her senior year, she worked as an intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and moved back to the capital after completing her degree because, like Shrek, she feels most at home in the swamp. Foresman previously worked at Scoop News Group as an editorial fellow.

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