The North West Further Maths two-day conference has been running for many years now. We have always wanted to promote and support the teaching of A level Further Mathematics and allow as many people as possible to access their choice of session. As usual, the conference had been advertised and had already received some bookings to take place at the end of June.
After contacting the delegates who had booked, we got the impression that trying to move the conference online would be welcome, and that trying to organise this before half-term as much as possible would work best!
The response to the sessions that we scheduled was overwhelming – so much so that all of the sessions were overbooked and needed to be repeated. Not only were more teachers than usual able to book on, but also teachers could book onto more than the four sessions they would have been restricted to on the two day face-to-face conference. In fact, we probably had nearly three times as much participation as usual.
Apart from the administration, the obvious challenge was how to transfer what we had previously delivered face-to-face to our online platform, BigBlueButton. As an organisation, the AMSP has a lot of expertise in running both tuition and professional development online and so we drew on that. We decided that having an extra moderator in the sessions to deal with any of the audio and technical problems and monitor the chat box would be useful, although many of the later sessions ran without this extra person. We made sure that we put in extra slides to write on, step-by-step solutions when we weren’t going to write these ourselves, and opportunities for regular activity (which could also be used as breaks). We practised using polls, uploading presentations, sharing screens, and finding ways to continually check that people were with us. We also decided that it would be useful to share some resources beforehand that teachers could refer to during the sessions.
The conference has now finished, after nineteen sessions, most of which had fifteen or more people booked on. The attendance was better than I would have expected and the interactions in the sessions were really positive, whether that was speaking, via the chat box, or even writing on the screen. We asked for feedback mainly so that we could learn and get suggestions for how to improve what we were doing, and it was really excellent – I have to say this was helped by the enthusiasm of all of the teachers who took part and their willingness to engage.
The success of this conference has made the AMSP North West AMSP regional team consider planning a similar conference covering A level Mathematics topics in the Autumn Term. If there is anything you would like to be included, or if you have suggestions about when the sessions would run, then please get in contact.
By Abi Bown