Still, the coffee is usually better

Still, the coffee is usually better

It’s that time of year again, yes the JISC e-learning team are running their online conference again, and once more I will be blogging at the JISC Innovating e-Learning online conference, Shaping the Future.

So what is it about an online conference?

Well it has all the features you find when you attend a physical conference, but it is all done online. With the JISC Online Conference, you get live presentations (through Collaborate), an online platform for asynchronous disucssions and sharing (through Moodle). There is the innovative thinking space (again) and an opportunity to try out new tools and techniques.

For me the main reason for attending an online conference, as well as the excellent presentations, is the engagement between the delegates. Most physical conferences I have attended have in the main been passive affairs, I sit, I listen, I think, digest and reflect. Discussion and debate does happen at these conferences, but usually informally over coffee. At the online conference the debate and discussion takes place using a textual asyncrhonous discussion forum over the days of the conference. As a result it allows for reflection, it enables delegates to refer and check other papers and sources, and for all delegates to read that discussion and if they want to, add their own comment.

Other reasons why I like online conferences, is that I can attend the conference even when doing other things. I can still attend meetings, see people in my office, teach, even go to other places. At the last few online conferences I have had to go to London during the week of the conference, and have using 3G and coffee shop wifi hotspots continued to take part in the conference even though I am away from my desk.

Having said all that it is useful too to make time for the conference, shut the office door, work from home for a bit, wear headphones, move to a different office, work in the coffee spaces in the college or university.

You can see presentations again, you can ignore them and (virtually) walk out without feeling you may be offending someone as their talk doesn’t relate to you as you thought it did.

Unlike a physical conference, the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2012 Online Conference remains open for reading until well after the conference has finished to allow participants to catch up on what they missed. So unlike missing the train to a physical conference or falling ill, it is possible to still get a lot out of the online conference.

There are advantages to attending the conference, but reduced travel and accommodation costs, no travel time and no need to leave the office, are additional advantages that you really need to consider. The conference has always been outstanding value at just £50, but in these tough economic times, when even finding the funding for train fares to free events can be a challenge, there is something about paying just £50 for five days of presentations and discussions.

There are advantages to attending the conference, but reduced travel and accommodation costs, no travel time and no need to leave the office, are additional advantages that you really need to consider.

Combine that with the activity week, no need to miss too many meetings and you might need to start asking yourself why you’re not going?

Of course the real value of the online conference is the programme, one that will inspire and challenge you. It has variety and interest. In some future blog posts I will look at the programme in more detail. However I am looking forward to the opening keynote from Dr Sue Black.

Oh and the coffee? Well you and I both know that the coffee at conferences often leaves a lot to be desired, at least at an online conference you can attend while drinking a decent coffee in your local coffee shop, now that can’t be all bad?

So if it is proving difficult to attend all the conferences you want to, one you shouldn’t miss is the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2012 Online Conference, maybe you too can help shape the future. Register now.

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