Thursday, April 21, 2016
A couple of years ago I was not able to participate in #et4online (now #OLCinnovate) because the school I work for didn't have the funds to "send" me virtually. I have to say that I really missed the opportunity to participate, even remotely, at this professional development conference. I kept an eye on the twitter stream but things didn't make as much sense. The reaction, and #OLCsnark didn't connect with me because I was missing a piece of the puzzle. I wanted in!
Flash forward to this year, through a fluke (well financial issues which came up this year at the university) I was not able to register for the conference as a virtual. My colleagues did get a day-pass that we have projected in a conference room so many of us can attend with one virtual pass, but it's not as convenient (although I may crash that party today ;-) ). Even though I am not signed up to attend the vast majority of the recorded and virtual sessions at OLC Innovate, I find that I am not missing it as much this year, and that's thanks to friends and colleagues over at virtually connecting, and presenters who are virtually-connecting friendly.
We had a blast yesterday during the Hybridity presentation. The on-site buddies (and fellow co-presenters) did such an amazing job at including us virtuals (Alan, Maha, and I) that I really felt that I was part of the conversations (big thanks goes to my on-site buddy Autumm who was awesome!). At my table there were a total of 8-10 discussants (including me and Autumm). Due to the narrowness of the field of view of the camera I was only able to see 2 people at a time, and every time Autumm turned the laptop my reaction was "OMG! There are more people at this table interested in talking! Awesome!").
There are, of course, logistical issues with this approach (i.e. how does this scale to 100 or more registrants? Do you 'dual-layer' a conference to make it more manageable? etc.), but it was a pretty fantastic experience. The funny thing is that I was on Google Hangouts on my Mac, which was positioned in one part of the room and I could see the room from the podium, and I was on skype, on my ubuntu box, participating at the table discussion. Initially I would glance over at my Mac and try to compare where Autumm, Andrea, and Rebecca were talking to and from in order to ascertain my "position" in the room. Which table was I at? How close was it to the podium? Who was at other tables? It was an interesting experience.
The other way of being included is in Matt Crosslin's presentation on Dual Layer MOOCs. It seemed that Virtually Connecting was integrated into this (again, thanks Autumm for being my legs in the room! :-) ) and not only did we see the presentation, we participated as well, along with the in-room participants.
While I do "miss" not registering for OLC innovate, these 2 sessions yesterday were more fulfilling and satisfying than any other virtual conference participation experience to date. It's not the quantity that matters, but the quality of interaction.
sidenote: for the people at the table during the hybridity session - feel free to connect on twitter and linkedin :)