Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Mini-conference

In a traditional face-to-face teaching environment where students are assessed partly on an oral presentation, the lecturer usually puts up a list of the available spots and students (or groups of students) sign up for a spot.  Some go for the earliest spots, so that they can get it over and done with early. Others sign up for later spots, so that they can see what others do before them. Either way, marks have to be tweaked to take the schedule into account.

Here’s an alternative, suggested to me by my colleague James Meek: the mini-conference.

Instead of holding oral presentations every week for the 13 weeks of the semester, bring the students together towards the end of the semester for a whole day (or two), and run the day like a mini academic conference, complete with plenaries, discussion panels, streamed presentations, and opportunities for informal networking.

This works equally well for traditional semester-long courses, intensively-delivered courses, online courses (except here you run it like an online conference, e.g. Follow the Sun: Online Learning Futures Festival), and short courses.