Reimagining SEDA Conferences and Events: Lessons learned in changing context

Dr Mary Fitzpatrick, SFSEDA, MCIPD, Head, Centre for Transformative Learning, University of Limerick
Prof Pam Parker NTF, PFHEA, SFSEDA,  Professor Educational Development, Department of Learning Enhancement and Development, City, University of London

Reimagining the traditional SEDA Spring and Autumn conferences was an opportunity afforded in recent years.  The traditional two-day conference with keynotes, multiple parallel sessions and networking opportunities was not possible and so a move online was required.  While operational and logistical challenges prevailed initially, a change in the way of working was something that resulted in an efficient, streamlined and accessible option for increased engagement with stakeholders particularly international colleagues (Rubringer et al 2020). 

In terms of structure, events are less intensive with sessions scheduled with breaks during the day and opportunities for keynotes in a variety of formats such as the traditional keynote, keynote debate, dual keynote; panel sessions with student and teacher representation, lightening talks and a maximum of two parallel sessions at any one time.

Whereas the traditional conference relied on a proposal submission and review process, the initial online events were reliant on the positive response from invited speakers to contribute to specific sessions where they could share their expertise on the conference theme.  Students from various institutions and contexts were invited to speak at panel sessions on pertinent issues related to the conference themes.  This has provided an opportunity to focus in depth on some key themes. The Spring Conference 2023, which will also be online, did return to a call for abstracts for both lightening talks and papers and there was a good response which will enable the conference to continue to offer opportunities for engaging discussions with colleagues. 

Bookings can be made here for the Spring 2023 conference, which will take place online on Friday the 19th May.

In future we will continue to offer two conference events annually.  One event each year will take place online to allow for increased accessibility and engagement with international speakers and audience. A second event will be a face-to-face community event with the overall focus on problem-solving workshops and sharing good practice. We recognise the value of colleagues being at the conference in person and the networking opportunities this offers but we also recognise the increased opportunity to engage with international colleagues as well. Therefore, offering the two modes for future conferences supports both of these.

The move to online has also enabled us to reimagine our one-day events and be more responsive. Previously these one-day events were all held in person however, in the future we plan to offer these also in both formats. The in-person events will focus on themes that colleagues are grappling with and would value the opportunity / space to discuss.  Here the focus will be on discussion and problem-solving.  The online events enable a much more proactive response to live situations and issues as they arrive as we saw with the response to AI and ChatGPT where colleagues needed to learn more quickly and have an opportunity to hear from those who are at the forefront of the activity.

We look forward to meeting colleagues at all future events.

Dr Mary Fitzpatrick is Head of the Centre for Transformative Learning at the University of Limerick.  She led the establishment of the Regional Teaching Excellence Award process across three institutions in the mid-west of Ireland in addition to an inter-institutional peer observation network.   She established a level 9 accredited programme on teaching, learning and scholarship within the University and has led a number of funded regional and national projects.    She contributes to the international context through her leadership and participation in thematic peer groups in the European Universities Association and is a Senior Fellow of SEDA  and co-chair of the Conference and Events Committee.  She is a chartered member of the CIPD.

Professor Pam Parker is the Director of the Learning Enhancement and Development Directorate at City, University of London. Pam has many years’ experience of staff development activities focused on supporting staff to provide high quality education using contemporary pedagogical approaches. Pam is the programme director for the PhD/MPhil Professional Education Programme and has over a number of years led the MA Academic Practice programme and Advance HE accredited CPD route for four categories of fellowship. Pam engages in a range of scholarly and research activity in areas such as staff development, assessment and curriculum. Pam is a National Teaching Fellow, an HEA Principal Fellow and a Senior Fellow of SEDA.

@1PamParker @MMFitzp

Rubinger L, Gazendam A, Ekhtiari S, Nucci N, Payne A, Johal H, Khanduja V & Bhandari M (2020) Maximizing virtual meetings and conferences: a review of best practices International Orthopaedics 44:1461–1466

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