Instructional Design Conferences

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Nothing beats the energy and excitement of thousands of people descending on the same site to learn together. Conferences are a wonderful opportunity to not only do some networking but to learn new things and extend your knowledge. I’ll happily declare that DevLearn is my favorite elearning conference, but there are many wonderful instructional design conferences to attend and to present at! Most of these listed here are national conferences that tend to be very pricey both for registration and for travel costs, but if you face a limited budget, check with your local ATD or other instructional-design-adjacent organizations to see if there are local events available as well.


Who: ATD – Association for Talent Development

What: This international conference is astounding in its scope and attendance. Topics discussed cover everything under the instructional design, elearning, and educating sun. If you are not familiar with the phrase, “Talent Development” generally refers to the training department of any given organization. The target audience here seems to be trainers, but this amazing conference has something for everyone.

Why: You may know ATD from the many high-quality publications they publish, especially their books. This conference features speakers that are also authors for ATD. Basically every speaker is a total professional not only knowledgeable on their topic at hand, but very polished in their presentations. You can’t go wrong at this conference no matter what session you attend!

When and Where: Earth, once a year


Who: AECT – Association for Educational Communications and Technology

What: This national conference is a favorite for K-12 and public sector educators. It’s low key, a little more budget-friendly, and puts the focus on learning and learning from your peers.

Why: Less corporate and more education: the Association for Educational Communications and Technology puts on an annual conference for instructional designers and educators in K-12, higher education, libraries, museums, hospitals, Armed Forces, and more. AECT is also much less expensive than DevLearn or ATD.

When and Where: Every year somewhere in a major U.S. city.


WhatDevLearn (of course!) is put on by The eLearning Guild. It’s pricey but there is a discount for nonprofit/academic (free registration if you are accepted to present!).

What is The eLearning Guild? “A member-driven organization [that] produces conferences, online events, online and blended training courses, eBooks, white papers, research reports, and Learning Solutions Magazine—all devoted to the idea that the people who know the most about making eLearning successful are the people who produce eLearning every day in corporate, government, and academic settings.” (From About page).

Why: DevLearn is more corporate than education – it brings together thousands of instructional designers, program directors, etc. These are my people, and I love this conference! I’ve been every year since 2014. It’s a great conference to talk about specific technologies and latest trends in educational technology.

When and Where: Every year in fall in Las Vegas!

Distance Learning & Teaching Conference

Who: UW-Madison’s Continuing Studies’ Distance Education Professional Development team

What: Distance Teaching & Learning conference. Small, budget-friendly conference that is higher-ed focused.

Why: “The conference program emphasizes evidence-based practice, educational innovation, practical application, and peer to peer networking and collaboration. The goal is to provide a transformative professional development experience at an affordable price.” Sounds like it will probably mostly draw attendees from the regional area, but Madison is a great city to visit (except it is very white, FYI) and if you are local-ish or don’t mind the travel, “affordable” and being able to learn from elearning professionals sounds like a great reason to attend!

When and Where: Every summer, Madison, WI

EDUCAUSE Annual Conference

WhatEDUCAUSE Annual Conference

What is EDUCAUSE? “EDUCAUSE® is a higher education technology association and the largest community of IT leaders and professionals committed to advancing higher education.” (From About page).

Why: This conference has a focus on higher education IT, which includes edutech. They have a HUGE expo with hundreds of technology providers. There are programs for those in leadership positions, and several conference “program tracks” for attendees to follow.

When and Where: Fall, location changes


WhatISTE conference

Who: International Society for Technology in Education. “The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is a membership association serving educators committed to leveraging technology to solve tough problems and advance learning. ISTE serves more than 100,000 education stakeholders throughout the world.”

Why: “The ISTE Conference & Expo is recognized globally as the most comprehensive educational technology conference in the world. For more than three decades, educators and education leaders have gathered at the ISTE conference to engage in hands-on learning, exchange ideas and network with like-minded thinkers seeking to transform learning and teaching.

The annual event attracts over 16,000 [emphasis mine, holy cow that’s a lot] attendees and industry representatives, including teachers, technology coordinators, administrators, library media specialists, teacher educators and policymakers. Attendees also enjoy world-class keynotes, hundreds of sessions in a variety of formats and a massive expo hall.”

I kind of want to attend this one, but it sounds a little too big for me!

When and Where: Early summer, international location changes


WhatOLC Innovate/Accelerate

What is OLC? “The Online Learning Consortium is the leading professional organization devoted to advancing quality online learning providing professional development, instruction, best practice publications and guidance to educators, online learning professionals and organizations around the world.”

Why: OLC puts on a lot of conferences, nationally and regionally, focused on higher education. “Topics may include: Teaching and Learning Innovation; Leadership and Change Management; the Education-Workforce Continuum; Processes, Problems, and Practices; Effective Tools, Toys and Technologies or Research Highlights and Innovations.” So, more big-picture stuff.

This conference focuses on educational innovation and seems to emphasize hands-on workshops for attendees. Here’s more info on OLC’s various conferences!

When and Where: Spring and Fall, location changes

TCC Online Conference

What: TCC Hawaii

Hawaii?!? Don’t get too excited, this is an online-only conference. No need to go to Hawaii., though I guess if you did go, you could attend from the beach.

So why should I bother? “TCC is a three-day, entirely online conference for post-secondary faculty and staff worldwide. This event features presentations covering a wide range of topics related to educational technology and emerging technologies for teaching and learning.”

What does TCC stand for? Teaching Colleges and Community Worldwide Online Conference

Why: This is a neat international conference with sessions running practically around the clock. It’s budget-friendly, fairly intimate, and an amazing opportunity to learn how educators in other countries and culture get the job done. TCC also sets aside presentation slots for graduate students, so it’s a great chance for them to practice presenting.

When and Where: Your personal device, April every year

What else you got?

That’s it from me, but of course, there are many more! Check out this infographic from EdSurge that features dozens of interesting conferences.

Any suggestions for more conferences? Put them in the comments below.