From the student intern’s desk: Reflecting on the Learning and Teaching conference

people attending a conference
Photo by Helena Lopes, Pexels, CC0

In this post, Ada Bayramoglu, Learning and Teaching Conference Support Intern at the IAD, reflects and shares her story about being involved in organising the Learning and Teaching Conference 2023↗️ at the University. This post belongs to the Learning & Teaching Enhancement theme: Learning and Teaching Conference 2023↗️.

I first found out about the Learning and Teaching Conference when I saw the description for Conference Support Internship on the Employ.ed↗️ webpage. I was immediately interested because this year’s Conference, titled, ‘Investigate, inquire, innovate: exploring research-informed teaching practice’ aimed to celebrate diverse learning and teaching practices by adopting the lens of SoTL (Scholarship of Learning and Teaching). I applied for the Learning and Teaching Conference Support Internship position immediately. I knew that this experience would provide me with an understanding of the various transferable skills necessary to organise an event of this scale within The University of Edinburgh.

I was also excited about the conference itself, where I hoped to meet academics from various disciplines. I have always wanted to take part in an event where I could witness the production and exchange of information between scholars in a real-world setting. I believe that, as students, we need to gain an understanding of how knowledge is produced and distributed within academic institutions. It is usually not enough to passively consume the information that is given to us as part of our courses.

I started working at the Institute for Academic Development (IAD)↗️ at the beginning of June as a Learning and Teaching Conference Support Intern. Everyone in the office was so supportive and I felt welcomed into the IAD. I met many colleagues, all from different backgrounds and disciplines, coming together to organise this event that celebrated learning and teaching practices at the University and beyond.

The adjustment period went by quickly and by my second week, I was fully immersed in my conference planning tasks! My pre-conference tasks ranged from creating annotated floor plans for the Conference venue (the Nucleus building↗️) to updating the Conference website and making name badges for delegates. I collaborated with different IAD colleagues for each of these tasks, and I began to see the importance of cooperation when organising an event of this scale.

Experiencing behind-the-scenes tasks leading up to the Conference made me appreciate how much work people put into the smallest details to make sure that the experience is as smooth as possible for all delegates – from making sure the spelling is correct on name badges to coordinating the catering. These details might go unnoticed by most people, but are as important as the major tasks like planning the talks and workshops for the conference.

“Gaining hands-on administrative and operational experience has made me appreciate the ‘invisible’ details that go into event planning”.

After several weeks of pre-planning, the time finally came for the Learning and Teaching Conference 2023 at the Nucleus building! The first day of the Conference was in-person at the venue. When we realised that we forgot to bring in some materials an hour before registration, I raced against the clock, driven by the desire to ensure a smooth and successful registration process. Learning to cope with last-minute crises enabled me to hone my problem-solving skills under time pressure. We also experienced a major internet outage on the first day. It was inspiring to see IAD colleagues deal with this issue as promptly and calmly as possible.

Although I was on the organising team, I had the chance to listen to all of the keynotes and some of the breakout sessions. It was stimulating to be surrounded by experts from different kinds of research fields. Throughout the day, I had the chance to meet academics and fellow students from UoE and other institutions. I am extremely grateful that I was able to discuss my understanding of learning and teaching with these people who are passionate about education.

The second day was online, and I contributed by moderating two sessions. The hybrid delivery method of the two days made the Conference more accessible to delegates. It also demonstrated experimentation in how knowledge is shared in modern-day academia.

I believe that the transferable skills that I gained through this internship, such as adaptability, time management, teamwork, planning and organisation will prove to be essential for my future career goals. I also have a clearer vision of what goes on behind the scenes of event planning in the University. It is important to understand that the collaborative efforts that people put into events such as the Learning and Teaching Conference should not be taken for granted.

Photograph of the authorAda Bayramoglu

Ada is a third-year undergraduate Sociology student from Istanbul, Turkey. She currently works as Learning and Teaching Conference Support Intern at the Institute for Academic Development. Her research interests include the intersection of urban planning and crime, comparative politics of the Middle East & North Africa, and the role of cinema as a contemporary cultural form that reflects and influences social phenomena.

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