Girl in striped shirt sitting at a desk and looking at a laptop screen

Improving connections for better online education

Simone C.O. Conceição has 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,” says Conceição, a 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 sits on a porch holding a book open.
Simone C.O. Conceição has spent the last three decades researching the online learning environment and how to keep students engaged. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)

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.”

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. Nearly 30 years later, she remains at UWM as an international authority in her field.

“It’s the American dream,” Conceição says.