Tag Archives: jiscel10

Reducing the impact

So how big is your carbon footprint?

Last December I flew out to New Zealand to deliver the final keynote at ASCILITE 2009.

Though entirely possible to have delivered the keynote remotely, part of the reason for going was to attend the conference itself. I wanted to see and hear what was happening in that part of the world in the area of e-learning. I did consider the environmental impact of my journey as I am sure anyone who flies long haul for these kinds of events.

Any conference is going to have an impact on the environment. With hundreds of people travelling hundreds (if not thousands) of miles this will contribute to the carbon footprint of the event. Likewise once at the event there are all the “extra” bits of paper, bags and paraphernalia that you receive at a conference. Paper from the organisers, exhibitors and session presenters. Don’t get me wrong, some of this will be really useful, but a fair amount will end up (hopefully) in the recycling bin and some in landfill.

Yes I know I can hear you saying but I like reading from paper. That’s true, but it doesn’t have to be a one or the other scenario. You can print some of the papers, but not all of them. You can print the stuff you want to read “on paper” and leave the other stuff on the screen. Print what you need, rather than let others print everything! At this point I should say that many physical conferences are moving over to electronic materials, though there is still a fair bit of paraphernalia about at the conference I recently attended.

Now it has to be said that an online conference can help reduce the environmental impact of an event. If you are like me you probably have a laptop with you at a conference, so if you are staying at home or in the office and using the laptop at the online conference this will have a negligible impact on the carbon footprint as you would be using the laptop at both kinds of events.

We should though consider the impact of staying at home and attending the conference, you will be using lighting, heating (it will be November) and making coffee. If you are at a physical conference this energy wouldn’t be used. You might want to consider going into the office to access the conference (travel impact again, cycle to work perhaps) to lessen your personal contribution to the carbon footprint. If like me though there are already people at home, attending from home may be a better option. Also has the advantage you are less likely to be disturbed.

An online conference is not going to have a zero carbon footprint, but I would argue that the footprint will be a lot smaller than a traditional physical conference.

Now it’s not to say every conference should be online, there is something about the social and networking aspects of a physical event, but attending an online conference can not only be a stimulating and interesting experience, it can also have less impact on the environment. You will still be able to network and the social side of the online conference though not the same as a physical conference, it is there and is just different. It is still possible to make new contacts at an online conference, I know, because I have.

See the savings both in cost and in carbon footprint by having an online conference rather than a physical conference in this report by the Centre for Distance Education, Athabasca University: Online professional development conferences: An effective, economical and eco-friendly option.

So if it is proving difficult to justify all the conferences you want to attend from an environmental standpoint, one you shouldn’t miss is the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2010 Online Conference.

Social awkwardness

I am sure if you ask a lot of people why they attend conferences, in addition to the keynotes and sessions, one aspect that will come out is the networking and social aspects of the conference. Those moments over coffee where you discuss the omissions and errors in the previous presentation; or the conference dinner where you reminisce over past conferences and nostalgically reminding the person sitting opposite that they aren’t like they use to be; pr at the reception where you think there’s going to be something to eat only to find a few nibbles and a cheap white wine, resulting in a desperate attempt to find someone who didn’t eat before they came to the reception so you have a companion for dinner; or at the organised social event, where you turn up to find everyone else has gone off to FAULTY or something like that and there’s just you and that guy who has an ego the size of the Blackpool Tower who you have been avoiding all conference, and now he has you cornered….

Conferences are more than the sum of the presentations, the networking and social side can turn a conference from an interesting experience to an event to remember.

This November, JISC will be running another of their excellent conferences (and yes once more I am the conference blogger) and unlike other conferences this one is online.

So isn’t all this social and networking all lost with an online conference, I hear you cry!

Well in a way, yes! And in a way, no!

As you might expect the social side of an online conference is different from a face to face conference. But it is still there, and it is still possible to socialise and network. At previous JISC Online Conferences we have had a virtual conference dinner in Second Life, there have been lots of discussions over coffee in the social cafe area of the conference and the instant messaging component ensures that networking not only can happen, but does happen.

Just because a conference is online doesn’t automatically mean that it will be an individual isolationary affair. On the contrary it can as a social experience as you want it to be.

If you are a researcher, institutional manager or practitioner involved in technology-enhanced learning and teaching, Innovating e-Learning 2010 will be of interest to you. Delegates from further and higher education and from overseas are welcome. Proceedings take place in an asynchronous virtual environment which can be accessed wherever and whenever is convenient to you.

Find out more about the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2010 Online Conference.

Not quite free

Last week I attended two conferences, both in London and both “free”. Great conferences and certainly useful and interesting to attend. I got a lot out of them and will be bringing what I gained back into my work. However they weren’t exactly free, they had costs, costs that in these economic times may not always be possible to secure funding for those costs.

In order to attend the conferences I needed to travel to London, which if you want attend the start of the conference is often not cheap. Though I can travel to London and back off peak for about £55, to travel at peak times can cost £168! In addition there are tube costs and coffee to buy. And if you are going to buy a coffee, you will probably want to buy a cake too.

The other cost is travel time, about three hours each way for me, so I am spending a good part of the day (and evening) travelling. Yes it is possible to do some kind of work on the train, but generally it is not the ideal environment. Now these were just one day events, imagine the additional costs in terms of time and money if this was a four day conference.

So when you look at the £50 cost for the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2010 Online Conference you can see that this is not just good value, but is much cheaper than many “free” conferences. This makes it much easier to justify to your institution.

There are advantages to attending the conference, but reduced travel and accommodation costs, no travel time and no need to leave the office, is a key advantage.

Of course the real value of the online conference is the programme, one that will inspire and challenge you. It has variety and interest.

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 2010 Online Conference.

Find out more.