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Experiences on Online Professional Development

During this last year, most of our efforts and involvement in terms of recruitment activities and events as well as connecting with prospective students, parents and schools has all been moved online. Not a big surprise – this has been the shift for the entire world.

Though my team and I have by now gotten used to attending online fairs, participating in zoominar events, and organizing virtual recruitment activities, this last week was a personal first – some professional development online.

One of the biggest conferences of the year in the Higher Education Admissions, Counseling and Recruitment world takes place every November. It is hosted by CIS – the Council of International Schools, and provides both university and school representatives the opportunity to connect, engage but also learn about current topics and trends in the industry. This year, this conference moved entirely online. It was a very different experience to not see all my colleagues around the world huddled in one venue, but to sit in my little home office wearing my slippers, and the hardest part of all, to learn how to engage, network and enjoy this opportunity when being online.

New Normal

The three days were packed with different sessions covering topics from student mental health and wellbeing, to the future of recruitment and using data driven approaches for internationalization, or how to find sustainable ways to move forward in the “new normal” and beyond. My personal favorite- a keynote speech by the developer of DuoLingo (a language teaching app) – that is a at the forefront of taking a student centered approach to access and testing – and shared with us how they have created an adaptive, digital, high stakes proficiency test – ultimately reforming admissions and lowering barriers to put students first. 

There were so many interesting options to choose from, it was impossible to do so. One of the advantages of moving these opportunities online is that everything is available to watch at a later date – so the picking and choosing becomes easier.

Detach

I have to say the hardest struggle was to really devote these three days to learning, and growing and connecting, and not getting distracted with emails, MS Teams pop-ups, and chats. It’s hard to “detach” from day-to-day tasks, when they are sitting right in front of you and you are available at any moment. For this reason, going away to a different location, helps to immerse yourself so much more into the topics that are being discussed. Nevertheless, the access a digital platform provides, and the fact that it is then not restricted by how many financial means an institution has to send you to a conference, or afford to be presently there is amazing!

Besides attending different educational sessions, rapid rounds and key note speeches, there were also the opportunities to connect with other members through virtual lounges. This was daunting at first. You did not get to pick and choose whom to talk to, but you were randomly put into different chat rooms. However, it turned out to be a great way to meet people you would have never met, talk about topics you would have never thought of, and network in circles you would have perhaps never walked to in an in-person environment. It provided me with lots of follow-up meetings with school counselors form around the world that were intrigued by LUC’s approach to Liberal Arts and Sciences, and to connect with other admissions and recruitment deans from universities around the world, to brainstorm on how to move forward post Covid, and what this means for our industry.

Yay or nay?

Online professional development – yay or nay? I’m still in between. I would say do not let go of all these amazing digital opportunities that may land on your desk, and do make the time in your agenda to sit and connect with others. It may seem impossible at first, but the rewards are high in the end. Will I attend an in-person conference when possible again? Absolutely! – there is nothing like face-to-face interaction which many of us crave for after so long – however this new normal of blended learning and connecting experiences is amazing, and I am intrigued to see what the near future brings!

Elizabeth Zeller is the Recruitment and Communications Officer at Leiden University College The Hague. Elizabeth is in charge of reaching out to students in The Netherlands and abroad. She is LUC's ambassador during Open Days, and Campus visits for students and families who wish to know more about the university. She was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, and later on moved to Germany where she did her BA in Integrated Social Sciences at Jacobs University in Bremen and also obtained and MA in Leadership and Management. 

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