Today I was in Taunton for the RSC VLE Forum. This forum has been running for five years now and is an opportunity for VLE managers, VLE administrators, practitioners and other interested parties to get together to talk, discuss and watch a few presentations.

Over the years the forum has seen presentations from many people including myself. The VLE Forum was the first place I ran my copyright workshop and more recently I ran a workshop on Web 2.0 which people seemed to enjoy.

One feature which has been common across the forums over the years has been a set agenda with either presentations or occasionally workshops. Though delegates can provide feedback which may be used in future forums if there was something you found out which you wanted to find more about or discuss in greater detail you either had to wait a few months for the next forum or try and discuss it over lunch or tea.

Today saw a new idea. Based on feedback from previous forums the majority of the afternoon was spent with the group broken into smaller groups. These groups then discussed and debated ideas, concepts or technologies drawn from the group as a whole. One group discussed teacher engagement, another discussed Sharepoint. I worked with a small group looking at audio and video. I demonstrated podcasting, capturing video and audio using various tools and technologies.

I thought the concept worked really well. Lyn from the RSC was concerned that the idea may not work. After the event we talked about it. She was pleased about how it went and what the delegates got out of the discussions.

I find it interesting that event and conference organisers are like teachers and feel that delegates (like students) need to have a formal structure and be assigned content and can not organise themselves. Today’s event showed that if you give delegates an open structure and guidance that they will organise themselves and choose topics that interest them or what they want to find out more about. They will also learn and gain from the event.

Practitioners can do something similar with their students, give them guidance and what you expect from them in terms of a learning outcome they may well just surprise you.

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