By Michael Bilfinger, AACRAO Communications Intern
Although the pandemic has improved across much of the U.S., it still impacts our lives daily. Therefore, as part of AACRAO’s ongoing commitment to ensuring an equitable experience for all higher education professionals interested in attending AACRAO events, we introduced our first-ever hybrid Annual Meeting this year in Portland, OR. In addition to the usual in-person events and activities, many of the sessions were also live-streamed.
Attending virtually comes with some drawbacks, many inherent to the format. For instance, it means missing out on the chance to network with fellow professionals who may share your passion for helping students. Personally, the in-person event was something I especially missed since joining the AACRAO Communications teams as an intern in January of this year; I have never physically met some of my colleagues.
Advantages of Virtual Attendance
Despite these challenges, there was still plenty of value in attending virtually, especially with the mindfulness of inclusivity for online participants. AACRAO implemented a “Q&A Portal,” allowing virtual attendees to engage with the sessions and submit their questions. At the beginning of each live-streamed session, moderators made a point to acknowledge the virtual audience, mention the “Q&A Portal,” and remind participants to fill out the post-session surveys. In addition, the moderators repeated any questions from the audience to ensure that online viewers could hear.
These steps ensured that attendees lost little by attending virtual sessions. For example, the Monday session, “FERPA in the Real World,” presented by LeRoy Rooker and Jonathan Helm, was a great example of maintaining accessibility for all attendees in a hybrid format. The session was a series of multiple-choice questions sourced from AACRAO members throughout the year. The audience answered using a QR code, and the presenters displayed the responses. As a virtual attendee, I had no trouble participating and learned quite a bit during this session.
Hybrid isn’t going away, and AACRAO remains committed to ensuring an equitable environment for all members looking to enrich themselves by attending AACRAO events. Going forward, we will continually look for ways to improve and support professional development for our members while staying safe at the same time. We look forward to seeing as many participants as possible at the Technology & Transfer Virtual Summit, held from July 12-14. This summit offers access to innovative ideas and solutions to help institutions develop and refine their programs, policies, and initiatives to impact institutional success.