Hello Lynn, Terry, Sylvia and others I've joined in SCOPE and CP Square. This topic could not be more relevant for me, as part of my job is designing, implementing, and facilitating online conferences for professional development of faculty. In fact, I am smack dab in the most crucial build phase of my 4th conference, so I didn't get the chance to listen to the recording until yesterday morning. (I ordered the book right after.) All of my conferences consider everything you mentioned in your presentation, but the most influential factor is consideration of learner/participant characteristics. Each conference is a little different as a result of that analysis. However, some things are true every time:
Delivery platform must be Blackboard (now in 9.0).
"Sessions" are written like course modules in one large conference shell.
@300 participants - 30+ administrative (supervising) faculty are required to participate; the rest - (adjuncts) are invited with a very modest stipend. Supervising faculty for each program determine which "sessions" and activities are required.
There is always a dual mode aspect. For two separate conferences, people chose to attend f2f in 3 separate locations and dates, OR online, with the online venue "replicating" the f2f as a 4th location. Our second online conference attracted f2f folks to enroll in the online version for more learning and discussion afterward, particularly the additional discussion available in the scheduled scholars area. Both of the first two conferences enrolled @ 75 participants.
Last time, and this, we are in reverse dual mode.
- The online conference offers the content.
- Academic program groups construct thier own discussion forums in group spaces of the one large conference shell.
- Some programs opt to meet face to face, then continue discussion and activities online.
Online always runs for three weeks, but people are left enrolled to access content for one year.
Topics and content are determined via surveys ahead of time (both supervising faculty and adjuncts).
Some structural aspects are in constant evolution as we try to shift (and reflect) pedagogical and technological trends to be more participatory, more interactive, more media-rich and engaging, more mashed up, and more towards developing our faculty as a learning community.
The challenge is finding and tapping technologically confident faculty with time to contribute to the conference projects.
What works well every time is searching among the disparate groups (through surveys and lots of relational PR) for representative expertise, determining their comfort vs. growth edges and figuring out which tool or task, or topic allows them to contribute without too much remote coaching.
Another challenge is segmenting the conversation space while still reaping the benefits of having the conversations available for reference. We used program group spaces last Fall for program specific conversation, but had a few topical forums running discussions all three weeks to collect examples of faculty practices - using a World Cafe model. Those discussions became unweildy even with @ 75 of the 300 actually posting. Most posted only once, and about 15 engaged regularly.
One thing that worked beautifully is that I took on a task to summarize each of three conversation topics at the end of each week. It was intensely time consuming, but was one of the most reportedly valuable structural features. Many people said they only had time to scan the summaries, which are now part of our archived knowledge.
Keeping people enrolled in the conference "shell" for a year has also helped to reify our shifts in practice. Statistics show people return to them for months.
I think both those practices share a value of having recordings, but the recordings need transcripts and/or slides too. Because you had the SlideShare, transcript, AND mp3 all available for me here in Scope, I was able to participate here when I got the chance.
I've learned so much from my CPSquare colleagues about applying community of practice principles: legitimate peripheral participation, making paths for transferrance of custom from old-timers to newcomers, and newcomer knowledge informing the oldtimers. In addition, the technology stewardship practices discussed by authors Ettiene Wenger, Nancy White, and John Smith in Digital Habitats are useful as I go about planning such large collaborations with my team.
Thanks for providing this information on what is involved in the design of your conferences ( and thanks for ordering the book). I commend you for taking the time to summarize weekly conversations. In doing the interviews with conference organizers, I only came across one other who took the time to do that. She also said that her efforts were highly valued by the conference participants.