Thursday, October 11, 2012

Workshops at the AMWA Annual Meeting vs. Home Study

by Mark Bowlby

As a newbie to AMWA, but as an experienced scientific meeting attendee, I’ve been curious as to how AMWA workshops at the annual meeting would compare to the home study courses. I’ve attended several of the essential skills workshops at this year’s annual meeting in Sacramento, and they’ve been a great experience—not just for the instructor’s knowledge that is on display, but also for the experience and skills that the audience brings.

Workshops combine the experience of home study, in the form of homework to be completed prior to the meeting, with a classroom setting which combines lecture, class discussion and group exercises. The workshop venue encompasses a mixture of new and experienced students, led by a passionate and expert workshop leader. The high quality of the leaders has not been a surprise; however, the knowledge and interest that the students all bring to the table has been a bonus. Indeed, the breadth of experience and diverse job functions that are brought together for this brief time is part of the key to this learning experience.

So how do the workshops compare to home study, of which I’ve taken 3 courses? They are similar in nature, but different in form. Home study allows a slower pace of learning, shorter bursts of learning, but also a very in-depth level of study. Workshops, however, are an intense 3 hour block with information coming at you quickly. Home study allows one to try out solutions on the side, look for resources that enhance learning, and they always have that motivator of the “scary” exam at the end. Workshops lack this latter motivator, but the engagement of the class and instructor keeps everyone involved and engaged. Last, of course, home study is an endeavor solely taken to master the course material and apply it to one’s work and passion. Workshops, however, are embedded in a larger AMWA meeting, and thus the networking, personal interactions, and other open sessions all combine to enhance the experience and build enthusiasm for being a better, more effective, writer.

Now which method of learning is better? That, of course, depends on how one learns best, your budget (dollars and time), and many other factors. Perhaps the best answer is to do both. Take a few home study courses first, then attend a local or national AMWA chapter meeting and try a few workshops. They’ll enhance your knowledge, broaden your thinking, and open you to new possibilities and ideas. What more can you ask for as a writer?

AMWA education program
AMWA workshop descriptions
AMWA self-study workshops
AMWA chapter conference schedule

1 comment:

  1. Good comparison, Mark. I would add that the self-study modules provide an excellent reference (as would the homework and notes from the sessions, but those tend to be filed away while the book sits on the shelf close by).

    One more point--There are very stringent attendance policies for the workshops. As a trainer, I'm fine with that, but at the 2012 conference, I suffered some food poisoning and sat through the workshop feeling as if I would prefer to die! Obviously, self-study would have been postponed until I recovered. It's just a risk of taking the workshops v the self-study when that is available.