Engineering Education Strategies for Next Generation Conferences and Events

This is not your Grandma’s conference learning strategy.

Traditional conference strategies of attendees sitting passively, listening to a talking head is out. Seeing your conference attendees as participants, co-creators, experts and advocates is in.

In the digital age, people are learning in new ways that are both communal and autonomous. They contribute to Wikipedia, comment on blogs and teach themselves programming. They follow links and discuss issues in online chats. All of these acts are collaborative and democratic, and all occur amid a worldwide community of voices. So how does this affect the traditional conference or event?

Research from MIT, Duke University and the University of California illustrates that learning itself is the most dramatic medium of change. Technology has not created this shift. The ability for people to engage in shared and interactive learning that is built within the structure, organization and model of the Internet has created this societal change. The Future Of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age [PDF] discusses this dramatic shift and addresses ten principles for future learning.

On June 16, 2010, 10:30-11:45 am, at PCMA’s Education Conference at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, I will facilitate a discussion about these changes and their impact on conference education. We’ll discuss these six principles of designing next generation sessions for today’s conferences.

1. Conference education should transition from passive listneing to participatory learning.
It relies on collaborative practices. Small group discussion, peer learning, person to person interaction, not just listening to talking heads.

2. Conference education must transition from presumed authority to collective credibility.
The knowledge gap between the presenter and attendee has shrunk. Sometimes attendees know more than presenters. Move to democratic, communal type formats.

3. Conference education must transition from vertical, authoritative to horizontal structures.
The corporate world is emphasizing collaborative, teamwork, multitasking and problem solving. Standardized, one size-education presentations don’t address current corporate world’s needs. Focus is on peer to peer sharing and dissecting of presenters’ main points.

4. Conference education should provide a variety of formal and informal learning opportunities.
Adult education has moved from push, broadcast of information to pull methods. Industry novices do better with traditional conference formats of spoon-feeding information. Industry veterans prefer self-directed, collaborative, reflective education methods.

5. Conference education should transition to networked learning.
Learning is social. It is about mobilizing networks and enabling them to meet others who can help them meet their needs. It emphasizes flexibility and outcomes and less facts and figures, which can change fast. It’s about conversations and partnering with others.

6. Conference education should be interactive and without walls.
Information is best shared with everyone and not just those within the conference walls. It’s about moving information from many that are present to the multitudes that are not present.

I hope to see you in Montreal at PCMA’s Education Conference 2010. Come join the discussion. Bring your questions, concerns and ideas. Let your voice be heard.

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  2. Kin Lane says:

    I think you will definitely see a convergence between conferences / events and academia to create more real-time and education on demand in the future.

    Great post. Thought provoking.

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