This post is the first in my new “Conference Countdown” series! Every week in March I’ll be posting about a different conference-related topic to help students, first-time attendees, and other conference-goers get the most out of their AOTA Annual Conference experience!
As a first year OT student with big plans for the future, I plan to make the most of my time at the 2015 AOTA conference in in Nashville. And while I’m sure that Nashville will be beautiful when I get there in a few weeks, the month of April is not always such a beautiful time of year for those of us who are in school – especially graduate school! The approach of April means that I, like many other OT students, will be juggling multiple assignments, exams, and projects as the spring semester draws to a close.
After giving it some thought, I’ve come up with a few strategies to help students who plan on going to conference get organized and keep up with their classwork while they are enjoying the many opportunities for learning that happen outside the classroom at Conference!
- Review syllabi and calendars before departing and check due dates for assignments that will be due while you are away or immediately upon your return. Add these dates to your phone or planner and do as much work as you can to complete these assignments before you leave. And keep in mind any time zone differences that could impact your submission of online or other assignments by specific deadlines.
- If there are a large number of students missing class to attend conference, consider sending a student or two to talk with your professors about making slight alterations to the class schedule. Consider asking your instructors if conference attendees can get a brief extension on papers or projects, turn assignments in online, or Skype in for a lecture. Many professors are amenable to having students complete a little extra work or giving an extension of a day or two for students who are attending professional development events like the annual conference. Even if you’re the only one going, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can get a little more breathing room with your assignments while you’re away. However, in case your instructors are not willing or able to offer extensions, take heed of tip #1!
- Coordinate with group members on work to be done for projects while you are missing. Exchange contact information and create clear guidelines and deadlines for how and when your parts of the work will be completed. If possible, complete your part of the project before you leave and have one less thing to worry about while you’re in Nashville!
- Be realistic about what you can get done. You don’t have room to bring all six of your hardcover OT textbooks, and long days at conference will likely make you more tired than you already are during the semester! If you’re paying to go to the conference, odds are that you actually want to be there and enjoy it, and not spend most of your time in the hotel with your nose in a notebook. Plan to do a few assignments or readings in your free time in Nashville, but spend the majority of your time taking advantage of the many programs, events, and opportunities the conference offers!
- Check into ebook options or scan readings before you leave. Many of the new, hard copy textbooks I purchased for my classes (including the classic Willard & Spackman’s Occupational Therapy) came with a scratch-off code in the front that allows you to access the ebook version of the text. Simply download the texts you’ll need before you leave and use a tablet, laptop, or phone to read them during breaks or while you travel. Alternately, if you have classmates who already have access to ebook copies, consider asking to use their login information for a couple of days to access the books. Additionally, you can try scanning or making copies of any readings you have to complete and accessing them this way.
- Coordinate with classmates to create a shareable reading or study guide. If many of your classmates are going to conference, work together to divide up reading assignments before or during the trip and contribute to a group Google doc you can all use to review material and study while you’re away. This makes it easier for everybody involved, and provides a useful study guide that can also be used later.
- Take notes on how material you are covering in class appears at conference. Whether you’re watching presentations, checking out posters, or exploring at the Expo, there will be tons of things that you see that will be relevant to what you are learning in your classes. Whenever you have a chance, jot down a few notes about the techniques, tools, and information you encounter or write down your opinions and questions about the things you see. When you return to school, you’ll be able to support the sometimes removed or “ivory tower” discussions of OT that tend to happen in class with real-world examples and clinical case studies.
I hope this information helps, and that you find time to have fun and get your work done while you’re enjoying the week in Nashville! Check back next week for the next “Conference Countdown” post about how to network like a pro!