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Notes from the 2021 Virtual Alliance Annual Conference

We were still early in the pandemic when it became clear that the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions (ACEhp) Annual Conference would not be able to be held in its typical in-person format. The conference is held every January, and there was simply no way enough people would be vaccinated to make it safe for a few thousand people to travel and gather in ballrooms and breakout rooms. The decision was made to not just go online, but to completely restructure how the conference would work in 2021. Instead of an intensive four days in person, the conference was rebranded as the Alliance Experience and consisted of three segments. The Virtual Alliance Annual Conference was held last week and was a typical online conference consisting of numerous webinars and an active chat box. February through April will feature the Alliance Learning Labs. July brings the Alliance Connect, when attendees will finally, hopefully, be able to meet in person.

Last week's virtual conference had some advantages over our normal in-person conferences. There were no breakout sessions, so all attendees were always in the same room. Instead of just whispering with the others sitting at our tables, we were able to chat with everyone. But those were also disadvantages. Because there were no breakout sessions, there were no options on what topics to hear, and every session was a webinar in which the only people seen were the presenters. Overall, though, it was a good conference. The presentations were well selected for the broad audience in attendance and left us with a lot to think about.

Key Takeaways:
  • 1.) An individual's resilience is dependent on multiple variables, many of which are outside of their control. This ties into the concept of moral injury. Health care providers are not burned out because of things they are or are not doing to take care of themselves. They are suffering moral injuries because of systemic problems in their workplaces and our country. The symptoms of moral injury are similar to those of lower resilience. Some sources of resilience are similar to actions that can help address moral injury—diversified workplaces, access to health care, and good relationships with colleagues
  • 2.) We are still stuck in "traditional" formats of education, even though we know that's not the best way for people to learn. We need to move away from the hierarchy of an infallible expert spouting knowledge to a two-way exchange in which learners no longer feel inferior to the instructor
  • 3.) New online activities need to be designed with the learner in mind. This seems obvious, but we can get caught up in making something awesome and flashy and not stop to put ourselves in the learner's shoes. Have the appropriate supports been designed into the activity, both tech support and extra resources to supplement the education? Have learners been told in advance what they will need in order to participate? Do they know how to use the camera on their laptops? How will they be able to connect with the presenter? Is the presentation accessible to learners with disabilities?
  • 4.) Cognitive dissonance can be used to promote learning. By using an audience response system (ARS), learners can see how their thoughts and beliefs compare to their peers and to the research. The subsequent cognitive dissonance piques curiosity. A key to making this be effective, though, is that the level of difficulty must be appropriate to the audience so that learners don't tune out because they are bored or overwhelmed
  • 5.) 2020 was quite the year. We learned new ways to work together over Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and any other number of applications. We pivoted and started hating that word, not because of what it meant but because we heard it so many times. And while these changes were intended to be temporary, there are enough advantages that some may continue. Hybrid conferences will likely continue. And perhaps workplaces will become hybrid as well, now that we know we can work together even if we aren't always in the same place. 2020 may be over, but its impact will reverberate for years

Image credit: Ziko van Dijk. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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