The Online Conference Experience

I have been participating in the Dysphagia in Older Adults online conference for the last week. This is my first online conference, and so far it has been a relatively ‘mixed bag’ of an experience. Let’s start with the good.

The Good

  • I was surprised to discover how much I don’t mind the pre-recorded lectures. While I like to see presenters, they did a nice job of having the presenter’s picture posted next to the slides. Even when there are multiple speakers, the picture switches whenever they take turns.
  • One of the biggest perks of a pre-recorded lecture is that you can watch it at your leisure. I can watch it in the morning, then pick up where I left off later on (though I do need to remember which slide I was on, but that’s relatively easy).
  • I love being able to pause a lecture, or rewind to pick up anything I missed. It makes it very easy to take notes. On the other hand, soemtimes it can make the whole thing last much longer.
  • Having the resources so readily available is wonderful. The slides are presented throughout the presentation, and they are also provided as downloadable PDFs. The ease of obtaining resources is vastly different from the experience of the 2012 ASHA Convention, where despite a large number of attendees wanting to go paperless, we were nearly completely unable to do so.
  • It’s rather charming to hear the presentations; I suspect that since they’re pre-recorded, the presenters likely didn’t have an audience (or if they did, perhaps an audience of one). It’s interesting how this changes the dynamics of a presentation; being able to look at attendees surely makes a big difference in how you present, and an engaged audience is always helpful. It must have been challenging to work up these presentations without that benefit, though hopefully they’re finding that we’re all an engaged and attentive bunch.

The Less Than Ideal

  • The philosophy of the online conference seems to be “watch all the lectures, then participate in live chats”. In theory, this isn’t a bad thing. However, it is quite limiting, as the live chats are scheduled at specific times, and depending on your time zone, they’re not necessarily convenient. In my case, literally every single live chat happens during my workday; since I work in acute care, my day is generally unpredictable and so this is a considerable inconvenience for me, as I want to participate as much as possible.
  • Relating to the structure of these chats, they state you can only get credit for attending the full 60 minutes of discussion. I was a few minutes late for one yesterday; I managed to finish an eval in time to start, but the conference website was slow to load. Hopefully I can still get credit for participation.
  • While I love that discussion is encouraged, I don’t much like the “I agree” and “Here’s a twist” style comment system. I also get bogged down in the “this was a great presentation” comments. Like many, I like to express thanks for a good presentation, but it makes having real discussion difficult when there’s so much fluff.

The Takeaway, and Hope for the Future

I’m very happy I took the chance and decided to participate in this conference. It is very applicable to me as a budding SLP, and I feel inspired to keep reaching for the stars and trying to learn as much as I can every day.

I would happily participate in another online conference in a heartbeat. My hope would be that for the future, the goal be to truly harness the power of online dialogue, which should be availability to participate and earn CEUs without specific time constraints. Given that the live chats are all typed and moderated, a moderated forum would be just as useful, if not more so, as it would be less restrictive of when everyone could participate.