Here’s Your Chance to Experience the Potential of Flipped Conference Learning

How about a little homework before you attend the upcoming ASAE Annual Meeting in Nashville? I promise it won’t take much time at all. Plus, by trying out flipped learning (your homework), you’ll get into the right mindset for sessions. Now, this won’t be a properly designed flipped learning exercise but it will enhance your ASAE Annual experience and maybe even encourage you to add a flipped learning element to your conferences, courses, and educational programs.

How flipped learning solves a perennial conference problem

Think about the most enjoyable and effective conference sessions you’ve attended. They probably did not involve a speaker or two talking non-stop for 45 minutes while most people in the room zoned out, felt compelled to check their phones, or headed for the door.

Speakers like this obviously don’t know the first thing about adult learning principles. Otherwise, they’d give you the opportunity to interact with fellow attendees, discuss what you’re learning, and practice applying it together in work-like scenarios. They rob you of the chance to make connections with other people in the room—a benefit of attending a conference in person.

Benefits of flipped learning

We can thank two high school science teachers for flipped learning. They wanted to take better advantage of their time with students in the classroom and improve the effectiveness of the learning experience. They asked students to prepare for class by reading and watching videos online at home. In the classroom, instead of wasting valuable face-to-face time delivering that same information in passive lectures, they had students practice and apply what they learned in hands-on, deeper-dive activities. You can take the same approach with conference attendees.

Flipped learning prepares attendees for the learning experience. As long as everyone does the pre-work, they show up for the session with the same minimum level of knowledge. Speakers don’t have to waste time going over the basics. Attendees are prepared to go deeper in discussions and exercises with the instructor and with each other.

Instructors are more prepared too. They can track attendee progress through the pre-conference content and ask for feedback. They get a better sense of their audience’s needs and interests, problem areas, and questions, and can tweak session content if necessary.

Flipped learning is a more effective learning experience because it’s spaced learning. New information is not squeezed into a 45-minute session. Attendees have a month or more to digest and reflect before they meet in person. They can spend session time on deepening knowledge, strengthening skills, and discussing and putting information into context.

Although flipped learning can be a solo venture at home, you can invite participants to pre-conference events where they can get to know their peers while discussing session content.

flipped conference learning

Introducing flipped conference learning

Start with a pilot program involving a few sessions and speakers. Look for hot topics for which you have existing content or you can get speakers to quickly pull together content, ideally a mix of reading, podcast episodes, and videos.

Pick topics suited to this two-phase learning experience: background or introductory material to digest at home and deeper exploration material for in-person activities. The in-person sessions could feature small group discussions and exercises, case studies, role-playing, problem-solving, and large-group facilitated discussions.

Speakers must be familiar and practice adult learning principles—this program from Leading Learning can help. Don’t allow them to stand up in the front of the room and lecture. They must design large and small group activities that help attendees explore and better understand the topic. This assignment may require compensation for the additional time speakers spend on pre-conference work. Or you could offer an additional discount on registration or a promo code to use on association product or program purchases.

Introduce flipped learning sessions in conference marketing campaigns to targeted member and non-member segments. Promote these sessions as an opportunity for pre-conference networking with peers. Encourage participation by offering continuing education credit for the number of pre-work hours.

Require attendees to preregister for these sessions. In the session description, include the prerequisite of completing the pre-work before the conference. If sessions are a hit, you could consider charging more for these enhanced sessions or workshops.

A few months before the conference, create an online course for each flipped session where participants do the required pre-work: read articles, watch videos, listen to audio, and/or participate in online community discussions. Send weekly notifications to participants to spur them on and highlight additional resources or interesting community discussions.

Have attendees take a self-assessment quiz before and after the prerequisite work. Staff and instructors can gauge the effectiveness of pre-session content and know which attendees might not be ready for the session.

Ask the speaker to participate in community discussions and answer private messages when they can. Remind speakers not to reteach pre-work content—that’s not fair to those who followed the rules by preparing for the session.

Flipped learning and hybrid conferences

When we last wrote about flipped learning in 2017, hybrid conferences weren’t on anyone’s mind. But now that you’ve been introduced to flipped learning, you can see how it could become part of the hybrid experience.

For example, in a hybrid conference setting, virtual attendees could get the full experience—live streaming and on-demand recordings of conference sessions. The virtual experience could end there, but you could add an in-person element where, like our flipped conference learning experience, at a later date, attendees go deeper into content in small and large groups in person.

flipped conference learning

Get a taste of flipped learning before ASAE Annual

To be clear, ASAE is not offering flipped learning. We’re just pretending they do by matching some of their sessions with content you can read on our blog before Annual. This experience will provide an introduction to the session topic or a different perspective to take with you. Our goal is to whet your intellectual appetite.

Session: Learning Innovation to Create Nondues Pathways, Products, and Programs


•    Veronica Diaz, CAE, Senior Director, Professional Learning and Development, EDUCAUSE
•    Tracy Petrillo, CAE, Chief Learning Officer, CASBO  

Description excerpt: Design an association-wide learning strategy that engages your community within a dynamic ecosystem of programs and services that is personalized to your members’ evolving needs and career goals. Explore revenue-generating programs, such as virtual mentoring, competency-based modules, and stackable microcredentials that can be adapted and scaled to several sizes and budgets with immediate ROI.

Flipped learning assignments:

•    Learning Pathways: How to Fill Your Industry’s Skills Gap
•    How Two Associations Created Career Pathways for Their Members & Market
•    It’s Time to Integrate the Meetings and Education Teams at Your Association

Session: Using Futures-Thinking to Make Better Decisions Today


•    Kristine Metter, CAE, President, Crystal Lake Partners
•    Melody Jordan-Carr, Vice President, Membership, American Trucking Associations  
•    Lindsay Currie, CAE, Executive Officer, Council on Undergraduate Research  
•    Donte Shannon, CAE, Strategy Advisor

Description excerpt: Hear from four experienced association executives who have benefited from embracing and integrating futures-thinking throughout their associations.

Flipped learning assignments:

•    Become the Most Interesting Person in the Room: Your Association’s In-House Futurist
•    How to Think Like a Futurist
•    How Could Your Association’s Learning Business Shape a Better Future for Your Industry?

Session: Associations’ Role in the Future of Work


•    Jane Oates, President, WorkingNation,
•    Heather Wetzler, Co-Founder, Cue Career  
•    Van Ton-Quinlivan, CEO, Futuro Health  
•    Cassidy Leventhal, Vice President, Achieve Partners | NYC

Description excerpt: Associations are the pioneers of lifelong learning but are overlooked during discussions of workforce development. Three of the foremost thought leaders on the future of work will participate in a panel discussing associations’ role and how associations can stake their claim in discussions on workforce.

Flipped learning assignments:

•    Provide Skills Training to Help Industry Employers and Professionals Succeed in a Changing Workplace
•    Convince Industry Employers to Eliminate Unnecessary Paper Ceiling Requirements for Hiring
•    How to Help Understaffed Member Companies Become More Competitive in the Talent Marketplace

Session: Extending Professional Development with Digital Badging—A Case Study


•    Michelle Gross, CAE, Senior Director of Credentialing/Account Executive, Metacred Inc  
•    Benjamin Yzaguirre, CAE, Senior Director of Faculty Development and e-Learning, American Dental Education Association  

Description excerpt: The pandemic has influenced the way we learn and interact, necessitating that associations provide new opportunities to both motivate the professional development of members and provide avenues for sharing member achievements. Digital badges are a tool that can help address these challenges through a variety of applications.

Flipped learning assignments:

•    How to Design a Digital Badge Strategy (one of our all-time most popular blog posts)
•    Associations Have the Advantage in the Digital Badges Market
•    Associations: Solving the Skills Gap with Digital Credentials

If you want something different to offer your conference attendees that will answer their quest for conference value and memorable experiences, flipped learning sessions might be just the thing.

flipped learning
conference education
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