NITLE Symposium: Inventing the Future

Call for Proposals

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” —Alan Kay, NITLE Fellow 

How do the tools, methods, and communication practices of the digital age enhance liberal education? What innovative models and practices demonstrate how to improve learning, help faculty and students be ambitious in course work and scholarship, and lend more effective support to the academic mission of liberal arts colleges? How can digital modes of communication complement face-to-face learning? How can technology enable students to work creatively, allow them to make sense of massive amounts of data, help them ask and answer interesting questions, and empower them to break down barriers as they pursue answers and solutions via highly collaborative processes?

To explore these and related questions, NITLE invites proposals for our 2012 NITLE Symposium: Inventing the Future, which will take place April 16-17, in Arlington, Virginia. The Symposium will focus on innovations extensible to other liberal arts campuses, such as new learning resources and models, organizational structures, digital modes of scholarship, and other topics relevant to the future of liberal education. We especially encourage submissions on inter-institutional collaboration that advance innovation.

Focused on the intersection of liberal education, inquiry, and information technology, the NITLE Symposium provides a unique opportunity for open, cross-professional, national exchange among faculty, technologists, librarians, and administrators from liberal arts colleges and universities in the NITLE Network. A small event of 100-150 participants, the NITLE Symposium offers strong opportunities to network and connect with potential collaborators. Through this event, NITLE aims to bring innovators together to think about the future of liberal education and engage in frank, stimulating discussion about practical solutions. For one and a half days, these innovators will take advantage of an intense, focused forum to help invent the future of liberal arts colleges.

Suggested Topics | Formats | Additional Opportunities 

Suggested Topics

NITLE encourages proposals that highlight innovation and are focused on the intersection of liberal education, inquiry, and information technology, including (but not limited to) the following:

Learning Models
  • Emerging learning models, e.g., studio model, flipped classroom, etc.
  • Undergraduate research in the digital environment
  • Learning in a global, networked context
  • The significance of place for learning
  • Online and blended learning in a liberal arts context
  • Applied, project-based, community-based, and/or service learning in a digital context
  • Inter- and intra-campus collaborative teaching and learning
  • Partnerships among faculty, libraries and/or IT
  • Learning in the workplace (i.e. applying what we know about learning to the operations of various faculty, staff, and administrative organizations on campus)
Learning Resources
  • E-books, electronic textbooks, and alternatives, and the implications of electronic text on reading, learning, etc.
  • Openness: open access to scholarship, open educational materials, open source software
  • Gaming, games, and gamification, including alternative credentials (badges), virtual scenarios, etc.
  • Mobile learning resources
  • Big data: data collection, analysis and curation
Scholarly Resources and Communications
  • New modes of scholarly communication
  • Evaluation of digital scholarship for students and faculty, including new models of peer review, assessment, and grading
  • Future of libraries in the digital age
  • Digital humanities, i. e., digital methodologies and new media in research and teaching in the humanities and humanistic social sciences
  • Scholarly collaboration among faculty, technologists, librarians, students, and the community on campus, between campuses, and beyond
  • Organizational strategies and staffing for enabling digital scholarship and learning

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To support different modes of inquiry, knowledge-sharing, and conversation, the NITLE Symposium will feature several formats.


Each 15-minute paper should discuss a practical challenge or problem, how it was addressed, what was learned, and how other institutions might adapt the solution. Each session will include up to 4 papers and leave ample time for questions and discussion.

Panel Discussions

Whereas papers will offer a practical description of how a problem was solved, the panel discussions offer a format for pursuing more open-ended, provocative, and exploratory inquiry. Proposals should include 3-5 panelists and descriptions of the topics they will address.


Posters will focus on specific projects, particularly those that are still in progress. The poster session, which will be open to participants in both the NITLE Summit and Symposium, will allow presenters to engage in focused discussion with those interested in their work. Prior to the Symposium, presenters are encouraged to make a 2-3 minute video showcasing their work; these videos will be aggregated and shared to stir up interest in the posters.

All accepted proposals will be published in online proceedings of the Symposium, with presenters encouraged to share slides, links, and other related materials to the extent possible. 

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Additional Opportunities

To encourage timely discussion in the unconference mode, the Symposium will also feature these formats:

Lunchtime birds-of-a-feather sessions

To enable groups with shared interests to come together in informal conversation, the Symposium will devote the lunchtime slot to birds-of-a-feather sessions (up to 8 topics). Two weeks prior to the Symposium, we will invite participants to suggest and organize these sessions. Online forums and voting will help us determine the most popular topics, which will be announced and posted the morning of April 17.

Lightning Talks

Three-minute impromptu presentations about ongoing projects, compelling questions, big ideas, collaborations seeking partners, or Symposium take-aways. The lightning talks session will be the last of the Symposium and will serve as an “end of the day market” for new ideas. The sign-up for lightning talks will be opened up a day before the symposium begins and continue during the symposium.

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