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Unconference 2020: Online Experiments in Physio Education

We had planned to hold the second In Beta Experiments in Physiotherapy Education Unconference on the 14th and 15th September at HAN University of Applied Sciences in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. However the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has made us pause and consider how we should proceed. As a result we have decided that the Unconference will be moved entirely online.

In Beta’s name reflects the fact that we are always in a testing phase with our teaching. Always looking for the problems in the old code and how to improve for the next iteration. The period of disruption resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging and uncomfortable for physiotherapy programmes who have undertaken an unprecedented paradigm shift to online and distance delivery of education. But disruption also provides a unique opportunity for change. Going back to business as usual after Covid-19 might not be possible, and even if it is possible, does that mean it is desirable?

An unconference is a perfect space to pause, to unpick, understand and share our learning and experiences in order to improve what we do next. Therefore the unconference will now have the theme; Covid-19: Where next from here?

How will it work?

We will still be building on the brilliant experience that we had at HESAV in Lausanne in May 2019 for our first face to face event by continuing to experiment with alternative approaches to the standard conference format, with a focus on creating a friendly and inclusive environment in which conversations and ideas can flourish. Except this time it will all be online.

Participants from the first In Beta Unconference in Lausanne

The Unconference format

The move online will change how we run things slightly. We will still run 2 full days of interactive activities aimed at physiotherapy educators. It will still be free to attend and it will still be based on the principles of an Unconference. This means that the agenda is set by those who are attending, there are no selected speakers and everyone is an active participant contributing their knowledge and experience. Everyone who attends will still be able to suggest ideas relating to physiotherapy education that they want to discuss and we will still vote as a group to decide which ones to begin working on together.

We will abide by the 4 rules of unconferences:

  1. Whoever shows up are the right people
  2. Whatever happens is fine
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time
  4. It is over when it’s over

The aims of the unconference remain to:

  • Facilitate meaningful interaction between all attending delegates.
  • Stimulate all delegates to think about aspects of their teaching practice and share their reflections with others in a collaborative learning environment.


Moving to an online unconference allows us to be more flexible with attendance. Participants will therefore be able to sign up for individual sessions rather than have to commit to the entire programme. To enable this, we will make decisions as a group about what questions, challenges, innovations or ideas to focus on and which type of sessions to run beforehand to allow people to plan their attendance.

We are working on our plans for how to move the unconference format online. We will experiment with a variety of online and distance approaches, drawing on the experiences of the Covid-19 response in the conference design as well as the topics under discussion. Activities may be asynchronous or synchronous, high or low bandwidth and might take place online or offline. Whatever happens; this won’t be a 48 hour Zoom marathon. We will be asking you to move away from your computer at times, maybe even to go outside as you think and collaborate.

If you have any other ideas for facilitating discussions and sharing ideas remotely that you think might work for the online unconference and you would like to try out, please get in touch

Social event

One of the absolute highlights of the first unconference was eating together and socialising as a group. Whilst we can’t promise an Alpine backdrop wherever you are attending from, we will arrange a virtual social event on the Monday night after the first day of the unconference that will be open to everyone to join.


In line with our principle that everything that we do as In Beta is free and open to everyone, there is no cost to participate in the unconference.

One of our the benefits of moving online is that we no longer need to feel conflicted about asking people to travel to attend a physical event, and will be able to significantly reduce our carbon footprint. We hope that this experience will inform our decisions for future events and help us identify what is truly worth travelling for and what can be achieved virtually.

We are however conscious that digital does not guarantee equality of access. We will therefore approach our design of unconference sessions with consideration of accessible learning design.


The empty classroom photograph is by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

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