NASPA
2019 NASPA Annual Conference

Consider the NASPA Virtual Ticket

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I was not always a champion of online learning.

That may be a strange thing to hear from the individual who oversees the NASPA Online Learning Community. One might think that such a person must have been an early advocate who always believed that quality education could come just as easily from a computer as a classroom; who had taken part in multiple MOOCs and has dozens of Lynda certifications under their belt; who would whip out a phone on the subway platform and get some quick lessons in on the way to a coffee date.

Such was not my case. As an undergraduate, I found myself horrified by the idea of online education. With jumps in access to high speed internet and innovations in technology, distance education was starting to become more mainstream. As ads for these kinds of programs proliferated, I held fast to the idea that my in-person education was a far better method of learning. I was dead-set against the idea of ever participating in such a program. How could someone ever hope to get the same kind of experience from a set of videos and online chat rooms as one would from a physical classroom?

The answer to that question, as I’ve come to understand it, is that you won’t. The experiences are, undoubtedly, different.

What I have learned in the intervening years is that different does not mean less valuable. And, in fact, if we zoom out and allow ourselves to think critically about systems of education and access to them, figuring in differences in learning styles and working habits, some of those variances actually make online education more valuable in certain aspects than its brick and mortar counterpart.

Considering this dichotomy within the NASPA universe, I reflect on the NASPA Annual Conference. What part can online education play in either supplementing or (gasp) replacing attendance at our premiere professional development event?

No question about what first comes to mind – the expense. We all know budgets are shrinking. Professional development funds are usually the first thing to be cut. And yet, the need for “pro-dev” does not diminish as our dollars do.

Or how many times do we joke about introverts needing to “survive” the conference? Or the sheer exhaustion that we feel about attending such an intense event for three or four or five days? Or what about timing? What else may end up happening in our lives (work or personal) that putting a pause on everything and flying off to Philadelphia may not be a possibility?

I have a way to overcome these challenges for your consideration: the NASPA Virtual Ticket. While I’m not trying to diminish the importance of the in-person conference, there may be reasons that attending #NASPA19 virtually is a better option for you.

Consider our friends, the introverts. The ones who have jokingly requested in the past that we create “no hugs” buttons to distribute on site. Imagine being fully engaged a session when you never have to worry about making small talk with someone you met once two years ago. One perk of virtual sessions for those who are shy or unable to speak up in person is that they are far more comfortable contributing via text. It opens the door for greater participation.

There is also your budget to think about. We believe that the NASPA Annual Conference is more than worth the cost of attendance, and in fact, is one of the lowest registration costs in our field; however, it is simply not possible for an institution to send every staff member. For less than it would cost to register one person for #NASPA19, your team can participate in both live and on-demand sessions, with one year of access following the event.

I invite you to explore the incredible value of the NASPA Virtual Ticket, and utilizing some of the other great online opportunities that NASPA provides.

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