It’s happened before but it still surprises…

Recordings and presentations from the 2011 JISC Online Conference, Innovating e-Learning, are now available to view online. Looking at these again brings back memories of the event – one of the most enjoyable I can remember. And I am still surprised, even after many years of online conferencing, by the energy and inspiration the conference generates.

What is it exactly that makes these conferences special? First and foremost, that has to be the delegates, and the way the medium enables their voice to be heard.

In the last couple of years, presentations have been delivered live in Elluminate (now Blackboard Collaborate™), an online presentation and collaboration software which can take recordings of sessions for those who could not attend at the time. This clearly illustrates one of the key benefits of the online medium -flexibility.

But that’s only a logistical gain. On top, there is a quite extraordinary buzz created by the audience participation during presentations made possible by interactive elements such as delegate comment running simultaneously in the chat pane. Nothing can replace the experience of simultaneously listening to a presentation and being able to participate directly in the company of other delegates. One delegate this year described the experience as getting ‘a sense of the zeitgeist of the e-learning community.’

Then comes a more reflective stage – the asynchronous discussion – which extends the chat into more a deeply considered response. The one complements the other: “If you listen carefully to the presentations it often provokes ideas and questions that you want to know more about so to discuss afterwards is good. If you miss a session for whatever reason and watch the playback you still get the opportunity to participate in the discussions afterwards.” 2011 Delegate. Combined, you have very rich experience which is difficult to match.

Given its value, many people ask why we charge for this event. Concerns about delegate fees have to be responded to, even if it is as low as £50 per head.

This is something we consider very carefully. Many people assume that an online event incurs little in the way of costs. This unfortunately isn’t true. Even though it’s online, the conference takes a lot of organisation and skilled facilitation, in some ways more so than a physical conference. Organisers of a physical conference, for example, can assume that delegates will be able to find their way their way to the venue, operate the lift and know what to do in a session, while, even today, presenters and delegates at an online conference could be experiencing the technology for the first time and need skilled support. Those working behind the scenes can be as busy as anyone presenting upfront. Questions such as this are answered in the FAQ section of the conference webpages which are well worth a browse.

But back to the recordings. If you weren’t one of the 400+ delegates who attended in 2011, these resources provide an insight into the themes and content of the conference, and add to its potential as a vehicle for continuing professional development. But for me, nothing beats taking part in the live event. Have a look through the presentations first, but then mark off 20 – 23rd November in your 2012 diary! We hope to see you there. Here’s some of the feedback we received from the 2011 conference:

“I can’t remember ever having such stimulating discussions at a conference. And as a first-time online conference attendee, I’m a convert.” 2011 Presenter

“I think it is a brilliant return for the investment and consider this to be a major part of my CPD each year.” 2011 Delegate

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