Reboot and Renew: The 2021 AIEC Conference

Last month, the Australia International Education Association (AIEA) hosted compelling, interactive and inspiring online conference: #aiec2021. The 1,200 remote attendees were treated to a great line-up of stimulating keynote speakers and 70 sessions that included presentations from more than 230 international presenters.

As seen in other recent conferences, topics centered around the numerous inventive ways that Higher Education professionals have overcome the barriers caused by the Covid 19 pandemic, and asked essential questions about the future of education and the best ways to ensure career success for tomorrow’s graduates.



Interactivity was one of the keys to the success of this conference. The different platforms for presentations, debate, networking, and idea-sharing meant that attendees were constantly invigorated as they moved through the various activities.


Inspire Sessions

Speakers presented research, ideas, innovations and future solutions during these sessions. Questions were encouraged and many lively debates took place.

Here are a few of our favourites:

  • Why Labour Mobility is an Employment Solution presented by Janelle Chapman (President, IEAA) and Russell McKay (Executive Director, TAFE Queensland). They discussed labour mobility opportunities as an employment solution for skills shortages in Australia and the Pacific, maintaining that the Australian VET qualification allows people to participate in a work placement to maintain the currency of their skills and then bring their experience back to the Pacific for industry and their communities.
  • Edtech, International Education and the Future of Work saw speakers share their views about opportunities and challenges of developing technology in education. Lydia Kavanagh (University of Queensland) believes that digital innovation leads to the creation of many learning platforms such as Zoom, and they form an effective way to communicate with students, especially international students overseas. Grey Winslett (University of Queensland) underlined the importance of maintaining the human element to support the student learning experience.
  • New Perspectives: How Market Dynamics Have Shifted Needs and Expectations. During this session, Rob Lawrence (Prospect Research & Marketing) discussed some of the key findings from 16 recent studies. He presented insights from multiple ecosystems that together prove integral in reshaping how international education can respond to meet the future higher education and VET. All in all, he showed that a compelling collection of diverse perspectives can help trigger creativity and ideas.


World in Focus

Country insights via the ‘World in focus’ video presentations provided a deep dive into each selected country in terms of the current state of the education systems in place, education’s response to the pandemic and innovations. Some favorites included Canada, the US, and New Zealand.



These ingenious and engaging meet-ups were topic-driven peer-learning and knowledge-sharing experiences. They were an opportunity to make meaningful connections and have insightful conversations with people who share the same interests. The Braindate ‘marketplace’ is a platform that assists delegates to find and start discussions with others. Ultimately flexible, they were either one-on-one or small group conversations and went a long way to personalise the AIEC experience.


Always time for fun!

Understanding the need for casual, non-focused time, the AIEC organisers added some great social activities.

  • Cocktail hour: Towards the end of the first day of sessions there was a virtual cocktail hour. Delegates had a list of items and ingredients to gather together and then took part in an online cocktail making (and drinking!) class, instructed by a professional barman.
  • Magic show: The next evening, children of delegates were invited to sit in front of the computer with their parents to enjoy a wonderful magic show.

Of course, we miss the old days of the in-person conference, but the highly engaging nature of AIEC this year might make us rethink the necessity of getting on planes and sleeping in uncomfortable hotel beds. And, it goes without saying that so many more people were able to enjoy the content because of the very fact that it was online!

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