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A Global Virtual Learning Experience

Nearly 900 people from 40 countries representing all six inhabited continents participated in the AG Bell Global Virtual Listening and Spoken Language Symposium, July 9-10. Attendees came together in a virtual learning environment to hear from leaders in the field of listening and spoken language through a variety of online learning formats.
Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK) hosted a happy hour session (at midnight, UK time!) on adjusting to uncertain times with humor.
Top left to right: Anita Grover, Estelle Gerrett, Frances Clark
Bottom left to right: Louise Ashton, Emma Burton, Noel Kenely

Written By: Melody Bertrand

Nearly 900 people from 40 countries representing all six inhabited continents participated in the AG Bell Global Virtual Listening and Spoken Language Symposium, July 9-10. Attendees came together in a virtual learning environment to hear from leaders in the field of listening and spoken language through a variety of online learning formats.

The AG Bell Global Virtual LSL Symposium encompassed two days of learning, growing, exploring, and connecting with colleagues all over the world. “[It] was an incredible experience of global learning,” said Susan Lenihan, AG Bell’s incoming board president. “The quality of the presentations was outstanding, blending research and practice. The energy and enthusiasm of the worldwide participants was clearly evident through the Question and Answer and Chat features of the sessions. The opportunity to view online presentations in the weeks following the symposium provides an innovative way to expand the learning. As an organization, we learned new ways to meet the needs of our dedicated members.”

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, AG Bell was not able to move forward with an in-person meeting. However, the decision to transition the same educational content experienced by attendees to past symposia to an online platform was an easy one to make. “It was important to me that we not cancel this learning opportunity. Instead, we looked at ways to create a virtual experience that I think resonated very well with all who attended the live sessions,” said Gayla Guignard, AG Bell’s Chief Strategy Officer who led the effort to build the virtual symposium.

Producing a virtual learning environment that mirrors in-person sessions created unique opportunities for learning and sharing. Participants who attended the live sessions were able to actively discuss the presentations in the chat feature, respond to polls from the presenters to help them direct the session’s content, and ask questions directly to the presenters. The chat rooms became quite lively, with participants offering their own experiences to supplement the presentations. As the lead moderator for the sessions, AG Bell Public Policy Consultant Joni Alberg noticed the increased audience participation. “The audiences for the sessions I was in were engaged and so appreciative of this learning style,” she said.

In particular, a highlight for many were the happy hour sessions. Although topical, the presenters took great delight in responding directly to the participants’ chat texts and very successfully created a social environment for attendees. Other session highlights included overviews of NIH-funded research into hearing technology and its effectiveness in providing opportunity to develop listening and spoken language. Concurrent sessions also became less of a lecture format and more interactive as well.

From research-focused keynote presentations to hands-on training to happy hour sessions, there was a little bit of something for everyone to benefit from. Because of the unique learning platform, AG Bell was able to offer live English and Spanish oral and captioning translation as well as Portuguese captioning. The ability to communicate presentations in multiple languages really created increased opportunities for people all over the world to learn more about listening and spoken language development and best practices.

Although the live sessions included chances for direct interaction via a chat component in the learning environment, the virtual symposium itself is not yet over. Those interested will still have an opportunity to learn about best practices in the field of listening and spoken language, information that can easily be applied directly to practice.

The technology available in the online learning platform provided AG Bell the opportunity to record most sessions. Later in July, AG Bell will launch its “On Demand” virtual symposium. The recorded sessions will be available to view for three weeks through the learning platform, and registrants can earn continuing education credits (CEUs) for the AG Bell Academy, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and the American Academy of Audiology (AAA). AG Bell will announce the opening of the “On Demand” virtual symposium through its social media channels.

In 2021, AG Bell will collaborate with Hear and Say to bring its global symposium to Brisbane, Australia. Yet the virtual learning will not end with 2020. Plans to include a virtual component as well as ongoing learning webinars will take focus as AG Bell moves forward in a COVID-19 world.

“With the success of the symposium and the virtual learning format, I look forward to beginning a new era in AG Bell’s long history,” said Emilio Alonso-Mendoza, AG Bell’s Chief Executive Officer. “Creating opportunities to learn about listening and spoken language in an interactive, virtual format will increase our ability to provide this information to every corner of the globe.”

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