The Launch: A Lightning Symposium

The ILSDI was launched with a lightning symposium [under an initial title of Illinois Learning Sciences Design Laboratory]. The symposium aimed to gauge capacity and interest across campus, showcase the depth and breadth of expertise of Illinois faculty and research groups in this domain, build networks and collaborations, and initiate the planning process for an ILSDI seed-funding program.

call for proposals was issued to campus around three grand challenges: (1) Advancing the scientific understanding of learning; (2) Designing tools, environments, and platforms to improve, deepen and/or accelerate learning, and learning processes and outcomes; and (3) Designing tools to analyze big data with the aim of transforming uniform learning platforms into adaptive personalized learning environments.

Campus response to the call for proposals was overwhelmingly positive. The symposium was held on February 27, 2015 at the Hyatt Place, Champaign (8:00 AM – 2:30 PM). 


The program featured 60 lightning talks, and interactive posters, round tables, and demonstrations. Presenters were 122 faculty, students, and staff from across the Illinois campus, representing:

  • 7 colleges
  • 3 schools
  • Beckman and NCSA
  • 37 academic units, centers, and institutes.

The lightning symposium demonstrated an enormous capacity across campus to tackle grand challenges associated with inventing the next generation tools for learning across contexts and the life span. Nonetheless, symposium participants articulated the need for a structure and mechanism, as well as resources to bridge the work of faculty and students across campus, and initiate and sustain collaborative research and development efforts, thus, generating an Illinois advantage for becoming leaders in transforming learning for the future. The ILSDI would serve these purposes.