I believe my own work with feature more virtual options both because it’s been experienced by a greater number of educators in the past 9 months but also because when done correctly, provides great benefits.
Learning in-person will become more about connections and relationships, rather than content.
People will naturally be excited to be together and it should be honoured as such. That means providing people with an opportunity to be with each other beyond the breaks should take priority. I would also suggest that we emphasize the social side of this as much as any professional side. In the past, this would have been seen as frivolous or time-wasting, that mindset has to change. If you’re just worried about delivering content, then it may be better served online. I think this shift will be a challenge for many and like the return to school, it’s going to be easy to revert to previous models.
This all reminds me of something Shareski wrote a few years ago about connections over content:
I’ve been saying for a long time that the old adage, “If you leave a conference with one or two ideas you can use in your classroom right away you’ve done well” is not nearly as good as “if you leave here with one or two people you can continue to learn with you’ve done well.”
Responding to this, David Truss suggests that the future needs to be more interactive.
To expand on this idea, I don’t see things like pre-presentations or assignments and tasks being given before a conference (read as ‘not homework’), but I do see opportunities for conversation, interaction with the presenter, and with other conference attendees. I see icebreakers and teasers. I see feedback to the presenter about what the attendees want. I see presenters providing clear learning intentions and a framework for their talk. I see presenters providing a personal introduction so that instead of the first 5-10 minutes of a 1 hour presentation slot being “This is who I am”, the presentation starts with an activity, engaging people with other people who have already connected online. I see interactive presentations that rely on participants being involved and engaged with the material.