This October we had planned to travel to Glasgow to present at the international Lean in Higher Education Conference. As it came closer, it was obvious that the conference could not be held as a traditional face-to-face event. For our part it was both disappointing not being able to visit Glasgow, and at the same time invigorating to experience a novel way to take part in a conference. Many questions presented themselves as we planned for the event. Would it feel like a conference, how could we deliver an interactive workshop online and would we be able to network and meet colleagues in informal ways?
Over the last two years, we have learned how to deliver workshops online, knowing full well that we have to take a different approach compared to a face-to-face environment. To some extent, online facilitation and workshops can be just as fruitful as “the real deal”. It is for instance far easier to use digital tools, creating live output.
Our main concern was how the online conference could deliver value when it came to networking and connectivity. After the full three days, we were amazed. On my part, I was clearly entering the “conference bubble” when it came to learning and inspiration – and for large parts also for the networking (both the formal and informal parts). The brilliant people participating aside: The main reasons for this were:
- the thorough professional preparation from the conference team at Strathclyde University, with John Hogg at the wheel, and
- The use of a professional online conference platform.
Conference and learning sessions aside, my reflections quickly turns to our own organization. Would we be able to deliver an online conference experience as good as this one? I believe we couldn’t as of now. I do believe we have the capability to do so when it comes to having dedicated and innovative people, but I also believe we are in dire need of a professional online conference platform to cover the needs for the next few years. It is simply not enough to use MS Teams or Zoom solemnly, to deliver high quality online conferences.
-Svein Are Tjeldnes