Faculty, instructional designers, academic leaders, and others in higher education are used to presenting at, organizing, helping to organize, or sponsoring academic conferences, but they may not have a good sense of whether or not their efforts are effectively reaching their audience and goal to advance educational equity. For Every Learner Everywhere, Arizona State University’s REMOTE: The Connected Faculty Summit serves as a prime example of how a conference can be a successful platform to build an audience in order to further your mission.
Every Learner has participated in REMOTE since it was started in 2020 as a response to emergency remote learning at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the free, virtual, annual conference is to bring together experts sharing highly actionable teaching and learning strategies for any modality. This year’s topics included equitable practices, engaging learners outside the classroom, and the effective use of adaptive learning.
As a major sponsor of the event in 2022, Every Learner facilitated 12 sessions with 25 speakers. Many of those presentations were developed and delivered by organizations that partner with Every Learner. Together, they had 3,693 views, and from them Every Learner developed 2,380 new contacts.
These results help Every Learner make progress on its goal of sharing resources with faculty at two- and four-year institutions who are working to create equitable learning for Black, Latino, Indigenous, poverty-affected, and first-generation students.
Here are six ways Every Learner has learned to maximize the reach and impact of our participation in conferences.
1. Get involved
Signing up for a conference will be effective if your organization gets involved in planning the event and develops a strong partnership with the committee. Emilie Cook, Communications Manager for Every Learner Everywhere, has helped organize our participation and explains that, “We work very closely with the planning committee. We draft our sessions with tactical strategies and audience takeaways and we are able to have that big presence throughout the conference because of that collaboration.”
2. Have a sustained commitment
Every Learner has been participating in the REMOTE conference consistently for three years. We have learned from the experience and optimized our effort, and the event’s audience has come to associate our organization’s name with high-quality presentations.
Working consistently with complementary organizations has advantages over trying to be at every event. “REMOTE has reach, it has that credibility, and it’s showcasing the equitable digital learning work colleges are doing,” says Cook. “It’s where, one instructor at a time, you can see that change is happening.”
3. Have a measurement plan
Develop goals ahead of time to ensure your participation in the conference results in the outcomes you want. After the event, Arizona State University provides data on participation, engagement, attendance, views, downloads, etc.
For example, in 2022, Every Learner Everywhere benefited from:
- 3,693 attendees of presentations we organized
- 625 visitors to our virtual booth
- 958 click-throughs by those visitors to resources on our website
4. Align speakers with mission
While finding engaging speakers is a top priority for conferences, it’s important to also prioritize selecting speakers who align directly with your mission. Every Learner Everywhere’s mission is to help institutions use new technology to innovate teaching and learning, with the ultimate goal of improving student outcomes for Black, Latino, Indigenous, poverty-affected, and first-generation students.
That often means centering student voices, so at most events we organize panels with students to share their experience, perspective, or research. That is often among the most popular presentations. In 2022, a panel of four students spoke on inclusive teaching strategies, and in 2021, students spoke about ways faculty were successfully engaging them in remote class settings.
Some of the other presentations attracting those 3,693 attendees included:
- Structuring Your Department for Equitable Outcomes
- Implementing Digital Learning Infrastructure To Support Equitable Outcomes
- Strategies for Supporting Online Adjunct Faculty
5. Prepare speakers to make it actionable
The quickest shortcut to an engaging presentation is to give practical advice that visitors can implement to address practical problems. Every Learner encourages presenters to think through concrete examples and to imagine how attendees can leave the session thinking of changes they can make to advance educational equity.
6. Have a promotion plan
A solid promotion plan — typically on social media platforms — is essential to maximizing the results of participating in a conference. For the month leading up to the event, Every Learner shared information about the conference weekly on our social channels, and it was also promoted to our newsletter subscribers.
Following the event, we continue to promote the video recordings, which we archive in a dedicated section on our website and which are mirrored on our YouTube page. (The playlist function is useful for organizing your organization’s YouTube page if it has a lot of material.) Those videos then continue to get views in small but steady numbers and over time help deliver our message and attract partners to work with us on our mission.
7. Reuse, remix, and extend
Be creative about ways to reuse the materials generated for conference presentations, whether they are recordings, slides, or other handouts. One effective practice is to refer to and link to them in other publications.
For example, if Every Learner wants to put together a list of recommended resources on equity-centered digital learning, we would naturally pull from the recordings of conference presentations. (In that case, the article uses material from ADAPT 2021, another conference we help organize and participate in.) Transcripts of the video recordings can be generated automatically, and those are helpful when reusing them.
Engage your new audience in your mission
The 2,380 new contacts mentioned above are potential new catalysts for change in Every Learner’s mission to advance educational equity. They’ll be invited to access our resource library and to participate in webinars, fellowships, expert networks, and other free professional development programming.
Educators and their institutions can make the most of their investment in conferences like REMOTE by thinking strategically about how to use it to build an audience. That can include committing long term to the event, working closely with its organizers, identifying engaging speakers who further your mission, planning an effective promotional plan, and making sure to share and reuse the recordings and other materials in a variety of ways after the event.See the complete REMOTE conference archive on Every Learner’s YouTube page