Debriefing: POT Mini-Conference

Monday we had our first mini-conference, a collection of on-campus workshops designed to overlap and give people more options for learning online pedagogy and techniques. Previously we have spread our workshops out over flex week and not had overlaps, so this was an experiment.

What Worked

  • The one-day format: despite the fact that the mini-conference took place on the Monday of spring flex (one of the least-attended days), the parking lots filled and we had many participants. People need to get used to the freedom to move from one workshop to another, but I think that will come with time. They still have that built-in habit that keeps them stuck in a room even if nothing is useful.
  • The signage: I put the same grid of all the workshops on each door, right under the door number, but with that room’s offerings highlighted. I saw a lot of people refer to those. In addition, our wonderful secretary Dana Ledet got out the markers and made signs that stuck in the grass to help direct people to the computer labs, which are hidden behind a recessed door. As far as I know, no one got lost.
  • The food: both breakfast and lunch, provided by the Professional Development Program for 40 people, vanished so quickly that many (including myself) didn’t get any.
  • The presenters and facilitators: they were brilliant as always! The evaluations are outstanding. People want more.
  • The selection of workshops.

    What to Change

  • Room distance: the presentation room (a Technology-Enhanced Classroom) was too far away from the labs, making it difficult to manage. I plan to move that to T-413, a building on the opposite site of the courtyard that fronts the computer labs. That would make the courtyard the hub for the mini-conference, which with its benches would allow for more cross-fertilization among attendees.
  • Assistants: normally I ensure that presenters have at least one assistant, either from POT or of their own choosing, in the lab with them. This time I neglected that, and at least one presenter was exhausted because she needed an assistant. One never knows the level of experience attendees will have. There are always novices who’ll need extra help. We’ll fix this.
  • Photographs: I didn’t take a single picture. Aaarrgghh.
  • Workshop lengths and passing time: Mine (Serious Play) was too long. Instructional Design Using Flash was too short. The ten-minute passing time between workshops in the presentation room was much too short. Presenters need time to get into the room and set up, check their tech. Perhaps 30 minutes would be better. It would also be good to have someone assigned to the presentation classroom to assist the presenters.
  • Water: like regular conferences, I’d like pitchers and glasses of water for presenters, at least in the presentation classroom if not in the labs.
  • Greater media/facilities support: Work orders were put in to have classroom doors and cabinets unlocked early and kept unlocked. This occurred, but not early, and the presentation classroom door got locked too early when I needed to get in to get rosters. I ordered Media Services too late and too unofficially, and as a result we did not have the kind of support needed for recording the presentations. What was confirmed was late for the first session. I will request earlier and more specifically from Media Services, and set a time that includes at least 15 minutes set-up, instead of providing the start time of the presentation.
  • The Showcase: although a good idea and heavily attended in the first of its two hours, setting this up was very difficult, particularly with so many faculty and trying to get confirmation on a weekend. Some didn’t show up. The open format took awhile for people to get, but for some it turned into one-on-one tutoring instead of a showcase. For next time, each faculty member will have 10 minutes to show one thing from their class as a presentation. Then they can open their classes and show them to individuals. I think this will set a better tone and organization, while still preserving the idea: seeing what others are doing.