Simone Conceição: A Career Focused on Virtual Learning

Simone C.O. Conceição, who will retire from the School of Education at the end of June, devoted nearly three decades of her career to researching and advancing online education and virtual learning.

Simone C.O. Conceição, who is retiring from the School of Education at the end of June, devoted nearly three decades of her career to researching and advancing online education and virtual learning.

It’s work that became more relevant than ever when the pandemic transformed schooling routines in 2020.

“Online education is the thing right now,” said Conceição, who was professor of adult and continuing education. In the summer of 2020, she and School of Education colleagues held workshops for K-12 teachers, sharing methods and tools she helped devise that could keep students engaged in the online environment.

Her latest book, “Designing the Online Learning Experience: Evidence-Based Principles and Strategies,” was published in 2021.

Conceição’s research examines aspects of online learning that are particularly critical right now, such as methods and tools for creating a sense of presence online. It’s important because when students have a sense of being there, as well as of being with others, it enhances their relationships with teachers and leads to a fuller learning experience. When students feel isolated and disconnected, it can lead to problems with retention and persistence.

Conceição has also looked at how teachers can manage their online workload. She’s collaborated with researchers and teachers in Chile, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Turkey and China, which reflects her preferred approach to research and development. “I’m a collaborator. I don’t like to do things alone,” Conceição says. “The final product is much more creative and unique when several minds work together.”

Her path at UWM has combined research, teaching and continued learning. The Brazil native initially came to UWM for a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and then earned her master’s degree in adult and continuing education leadership.

While earning her master’s degree at UWM, she worked in Social Welfare, then moved to the School of Education. At the same time, she pursued her doctorate in adult learning and distance education at UW-Madison.

Her career took an unexpected turn to virtual and online learning when she was working on her master’s degree in adult education in UWM’s School of Education. “I took a course about technology with Dave Edyburn (now retired from UWM). I loved it. It was a natural for me.”

In the School of Education, she quickly became involved in designing courses on the use of technology, teaching online and virtual learning as an ad hoc faculty member. With the encouragement of colleagues like Larry Martin, Barb Daley and Ann Hains, she continued to develop her skills and interest in virtual and online learning. She headed the school’s technology efforts before becoming a full-time faculty member.

“I started discovering and doing more and more. I had some excellent mentors here.”

With a colleague, Rosemary Lehman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension, she wrote a series of books focusing on how to do online learning well.

In addition to her books, she’s written 30 peer-reviewed articles and 23 book chapters on the topics of online and virtual learning and is the editor-in-chief of eLearn magazine. She does presentations and articles in English and Portuguese, and continues to research the use of technology in education, distance and virtual learning, and the use of online support services to help students.

“The umbrella topic of my research is the impact of technology on teaching and learning. That includes mobile apps.” A mobile app Conceição developed with colleagues at Children’s Hospital (now Children’s Wisconsin) and tech experts in Brazil that just became available is designed to help parents of children with chronic medical conditions better manage their child’s health.

Her ties to Brazil and interest in international education and culture are an important part of her life. Active in the Brazilian culture club and the university’s International Committee, she’s been involved in bringing Brazilian students to UWM and sharing that country’s culture through dance and music events.

She’s written for academic journals about the experiences of international students in American universities. Beyond her research, writing and teaching, Conceição has made time to serve the university and the broader community. She served as co-chair of the School of Education’s 2026 planning group with Marie Sandy, associate professor of administrative leadership.

In 2007, the UWM Alumni Association honored her with the Graduate of the Last Decade (Gold) award. In 2014, UWM students honored her as a “Remarkable Community Member” – the person who has helped them most in their college success.

She has served on numerous doctoral committees and mentored hundreds of graduate students. “As a professor, she has the ability to connect both virtually and in person with her students to inspire them as future educators,” said James MacGillis, who earned his master’s in 2017. “She is a subject matter expert in areas of adult learning and virtual learning methods both in research and in practice.”

After 30 years, Conceição has become an international authority in her field, and served as the chair of the Department of Administrative Leadership in the School of Education. “It’s the American dream. I started here as a secretary and rose up through the ranks to become a professor.”

Tips for Online Success

In the summer of 2020, UWM School of Education Professor Simone Conceição created a YouTube video to share helpful tips for finding success in online courses. The 7 Tips for Success in Online Courses From a UWM Professor video, included time management strategies and self-care suggestions. Here are some of her tips:

  • Create a space in your home dedicated to your online courses
  • Create a timeline of deadlines
  • Use a calendar to schedule your coursework
  • Stay a week ahead
  • Make a weekly checklist
  • Allow days off
  • Give yourself a break

Honoring Simone C.O. Conceição

In honor of Simone’s retirement, please consider donating to Simone’s designated scholarship fund. The Elsie Egan scholarship supports graduate students in adult and continuing education.

To Give Online

Go to
Select: Honorary/memorial gift
Choose: In Honor of Simone Conceição
Special instructions field (optional): For Egan/Simone Conceicao’s retirement or write a special note to Simone.

To Give by Mail

Make payable to: UWM Foundation, Inc., In check memo section write: Egan/Simone Conceicao.

Mailing Address:
Office of Development & Alumni Relations
P.O. Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201-0413