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ASCILITE 2012 was held this year in Wellington on November 25 - 28. This is probably one of the premiere e-learning conferences in Australasia, and so having it happen in New Zealand (instead of Australia where it usually resides) was a bonus for Kiwis with an interest in e-learning. To be fair it isn't always in Australia - there have been two conferences in Auckland and one in Singapore. Nigel Robertson, the WCEL team leader, myself, and several other University of Waikato staff attended (Katherine Brown, Diane Forbes, and Noeline Wright - apologies if I've missed anyone).  

Having the conference at Te Papa, the national museum, made for an unusual venue with lots of things to see if you got a little weary of the presentation treadmill. 

One of the keynote speakers of interest for the conference was Dale Stephens the founder of Uncollege . Dale's basic thesis is that we can learn things for ourselves, and connect with other learners via the Internet. By learning this way, we can escape the exorbitant costs of an (American) university education.  While some of his ideas had some resonance for me, I often thought that his view of what is education was too limited (it's about getting a job) and that his examples were mostly USA-centric.

Having said that, his ideas were neatly summarised and replied to by Beverly Oliver in the final keynote of the conference. She acknowledged the validity of some of his points, and looked at ways that traditional institutions could change to meet those challenges. At the end of the day, jobs are still important and most people want a job. 

Apart from the keynotes, I enjoyed catching up with the elearning community - one of the strengths of ASCILITE (Australasion Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education) is the core group of practitioners that is very stable. Out of the 400 delegates at the conference, probably at least 200 were people who are active in the Society and already known to each other. 

And of course, coincidentally with the conference was the world premiere of The Hobbit. Some of the delegates were staying in the same hotel as Peter Jackson and some of the cast from The Hobbit - but no invites to the pre-release party! Next year's conference is at Macquarie University in Sydney. 

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