Strategies for Attending Virtual or Face-to-Face Conferences
Pedagogy in Practice
By Catherine Ford
I was in the back of an Uber on my way to my first face-to-face conference in two years. Admittedly, I was a little nervous even though fully vaccinated and masked. I had read and reread the conference protocols for Covid-19 safety, and I did not take for granted how particularly fortunate I was to be able to attend and present about the good works happening in Minnesota State to a national audience with my colleague Ken Graetz. Not only did I look forward to sharing, but I was especially looking forward to learning and figuring out my conference plan.
Aside: In the short ride to my hotel, I shared with the driver that I was in town from Minnesota for an education conference. Without skipping a beat, he asked to confirm if I was part of “MNSCU,” and I immediately knew he had Minnesota State connections. It turns out that he did with a bachelors from Metropolitan State University and a masters from St. Cloud State University. What were the chances? What a small world! I love being reminded how connected we all are and the lasting impacts we each can have on our students. He had only wonderful things to share about his experiences with Minnesota State and attributed his success to his institutions and support. Wow.
Once I got checked in at my hotel, I opened my laptop, pulled up the conference website, and opened my notebook. How was I going to navigate this conference experience? Maybe you too have ask this question or a variation of it for face-to-face, online, or hybrid conference.
Thomas Tobin (UW-Madison) in “How to Make the Most of an Academic Conference” and Elizabeth Wilcox (UC Berkley) in “ Getting the Most Out of a Professional Conference” have some practical strategies for attending and navigating conferences regardless of the format that are worth sharing as you make future plans for conference attendance (virtual or in-person). Here are a few of their suggestions:
- Review the conference agenda and conference sessions in advance. Does the conference offer tracks or paths? What sessions are important to you? Why do those resonate with you?
- Identify your conference goal. Tobin suggests that this goal should be more than self-promotion. Are you hoping to learn more about a particular topic? Are you experiencing a challenge or dilemma that a session or new connection may provide insight or suggestions for tackling it?
- Plan (tentatively) the sessions you’d like to attend and then identify a back-up. Check on the location of the sessions, so you don’t lose time or become frustrated in searching for a room location.
- Give yourself grace. Don’t forget to schedule down time. Be flexible.
- Be Present. Especially if attending a virtual conference, block time on your calendar and turn on your out-of-office auto reply. Most instructors are annoyed when students are on their phones or clearly not paying attention while in class, so why do we do this to our peers when they are presenting to us? Can you write down a 1 sentence summary or your biggest takeaway of the session when it is over? Practice active listening.
It struck me that these strategies have resemblance to the same strategies that we ask of our students when they sign up for our courses:
- Develop or engage with prior content knowledge
- Identify the relevance of the experience or learning
- Create a plan for learning (even a tentative one)
- Sometimes we all need grace and flexibility
- Be present
We should not be surprised at the similarities as conferences are places for sharing, learning, growing, and exploring just like our classrooms and programs. Be it an in-house institution professional development day or a national event, attend your face-to-face or virtual conference with purpose and a plan to make the most of your experience.
Addressing Digital Equity Gaps
Academic Technology Tips
By Brock Behling
Minnesota is currently behind the national benchmark (Download 25 Mbps/ Upload 3 Mbps) for sufficient broadband speeds; however the state’s universal goal is to reach this mark by 2022. More details about the current progress can be found on this map of Minnesota showing what percentage of households were meeting this baseline speed from data reported on Dec 31, 2020.
About 7 percent of the state does not have access to this base-level internet service. Physical location is one potential barrier to access and financial circumstances can be another. To help address these barriers, there are some federal and state supplemental funding opportunities for those who qualify for assistance and need access to internet service. Many internet service providers are aware of these programs are often support the application and verification processes for new or existing customers.
Here are a few links to the federal broadband benefit program, consumer lifeline-program, and a Minnesota financial help page to help with obtaining or improving internet connectivity across the state.
How Can Minnesota State Educators Help?
Following universal design for learning principles by offering multiple means to engage, represent, and express content, can help ensure equitable access.
Why Should I Do This?
Taking some of these steps to ensure shared content is accessible to all can enhance the learning experience and success of individuals who may not have equitable internet access. Using these techniques as well as offering alternative formats, can be beneficial for the entire learning community. Thanks for working together to help close equity gaps.
D2L Brightspace Product Development Feedback Sessions
Did You Know?
By Scott Wojtanowski
Last month, representatives from Minnesota State including college faculty, university faculty, and staff hosted its first semi-annual meeting with product development staff of D2L Brightspace. During these meetings, representatives from D2L Brightspace presented the product developments that have occurred within their platform over the last 18 months and provided insight as to what the next 12-18 months of their product development might look like. This also provided time for representatives from Minnesota State to provide direct feedback to those who develop D2L Brightspace on areas that are cumbersome and inefficient for the students and faculty who use the service. Finally, Minnesota State representatives were able share their perspectives with D2L Brightspace staff on functions they would like to see included in future updates to the product.
If you missed this opportunity to provide feedback and input, reach out to your bargaining union or student organization representative of the Learning Environment committee of the Academic and Student Affairs Technology Council or contact Educational Innovations.