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10 ways to enhance online conference participation

At BCcampus we always attempt to offer some kind of experience for individuals or groups who are unable to attend meetings and events in person. Sometimes this is simply a shared recording of one or more selected presentations. Other times we live stream, but don’t plan for other ways to engage the online participants. Occasionally the engagement just happens, initiated by participants through twitter.

The Opening Education event on Oct 17, 2011 had some intentional planning around engaging distributed delegates, and for me it felt like a nice balance. I certainly didn’t feel completely involved; my attention wandered throughout the day to other projects I’m currently working on. But in many ways, that is the advantage of participating from your office. You participate according to your own time and interest.

Here are some observations from my participation in the event:

  1. A big monitor brought me closer to the activity in the room. I wouldn’t have felt as connected using a mobile device.
  2. The split screen for viewing presentation slides and presenters simultaneously makes a big difference.
  3. Good microphones, and remembering to use them, is a bonus!
  4. Quality of the stream does matter. It’s fun to watch spontaneous broadcasts from handheld devices, but it’s not something you want to do all day. The live streaming done by SFU’s Teaching and Learning Centre was exceptional.
  5. A pre-determined and simple hashtag #opening11 helped to bring together participants on twitter quickly and efficiently.
  6. Having a designated person to monitor the twitter stream (Tori Klassen – multi-tasker extraordinaire!) to respond, prompt, and also bring forward questions and comments to the place-based audience made a huge difference.
  7. When participating from a distance it does help to know some of the people in the room.
  8. Stating name/affiliation before speaking is a good practice, and especially helpful for those listening in. Sometimes the camera doesn’t make it to the individual in time.
  9. The sync.in page “OPENING EDUCATION: How do we create educator engagement with open education?” that David Porter fired up for the final session of the day was a great idea. Delegates on location formed small groups, and there were some who contributed to the sync-in page. (Designating scribes might have been better.) Online participants typed away. The real-time-ness of that activity made it especially compelling.
  10. Attention to the details, like adding a time zone converter for the live webcast participants counts for a lot.

— This post is modified from Sylvia’s original post on her blog, Webbed Feat. Here’s a video Sylvia put together illustrating her online conference experience:

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