Teamwork is a critical aspect of working as a midwife and, whether Bachelor of Midwifery students pursue work in an academic field or join the Australian College of Midwives, conference planning will likely be a part of their professional life.
The yearly Midwifery Student International Conference provides an authentic and engaging experience for students and staff alike. Students deliver the conference themselves, not only to staff in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, but to first- and second-year students who have been invited to attend as the audience. Following glowing feedback from this year’s conference, I chatted to Christine Catling and Vanessa Scarf from the UTS Midwifery team about the use of authentic assessment and the impact of a shift to an online conference program.
Linked to assessment items in International Perspectives, a subject for final year Bachelor of Midwifery students, the event is integrated into two assessments: Students provide their planning and abstract submission in one assessment; their presentation at the conference makes up the other.
In addition to the assessment tasks, students also select a committee to work on and, in small committee groups, organise catering, scheduling, abstract review, program development and event planning. Students work together to determine a conference theme (deciding on ‘Building Back Better’ for this year), and select a peer to act as mistress of ceremonies.
A smooth shift to online
While the conference has run as part of this curricula and this particular subject for some time, this year saw the conference move online due to COVID-19 – something shared with many other conferences around the world! Although an extension of the general move to remote delivery, this was the first time that students needed to plan and deliver their conference proceedings entirely online.
The conference organisers used Prezi to deliver the conference, which was extremely effective and successful. They asked their fellow students to record and submit their presentations prior to the day so the full presentation could be compiled for showing at the allocated time. This meant that due to the online format, the conference ran very smoothly and kept to time – something notoriously difficult in the conference world! The student committees worked on a contingency plan if Prezi malfunctioned and planned for questions to presenters via the chat function. Overall, the move online didn’t seem to impact the conference much at all.
Building back better
This year’s theme, Building Back Better, echoes the industry’s sentiments in Australia and internationally. The students researched and presented on the impact of midwifery in many settings around the world, which informed the program which was designed like a passport. They used the Prezi presentation platform to display a map of the world, which they used to situate the different topics for presentation:
Many of the topics included the impact of COVID-19 on low and medium resource settings which gave the students a vastly different perspective of maternity care, compared to what they experience in Australia. When asked which was their favourite, Vanessa and Christine couldn’t single out any individual presentations as the whole conference came together so smoothly and provided such high quality insights.
Great to gain an international perspective of our new careersStudent feedback
Students and staff love this event, and as Christine and Vanessa enthuse, it is great to see because the students take this on and own it – they take pride in the conference and work hard to make the event informative, meaningful and fun. It has real-world authenticity that ensures a conference-ready and globally minded group of students are moving regularly through the Midwifery program here at UTS.