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Post-conference discussions and reflection for Learning in an Open World Conference

Deadline: 29 June 2010

Please use this cloud for comments and feedback about any aspect of the ‘Learning in an Open World’ conference

Cloud created by:

Martin Weller
3 March 2010

  • The conference will be formally 'open' between 21st-23rd June 2010.
  • It is anticipated that there will be significant activity within Cloudworks during this time.
  • However we have also set up this Cloud as a space to continue the debate and for general reflection on the conference as a whole.
  • It will be formally faciliated until 30th June.
  • However of course feel free to continue adding to any of the clouds after this date!

Extra content

How was it for you? Feedback from the OU ‘Learning in an Open World’ conference

Please use this cloud for comments and feedback about any aspect of the ‘Learning in an Open World’ conference, which took place on 22 and 23 June 2010 (

Please be mindful that any comments are completely in the public domain. We are happy to receive negative as well as positive comments, but constructive criticism is always better received and more likely to be taken on board than abuse (and we do have the power to delete anything that is actually offensive or inappropriate).

You will need to have a cloudworks account to add comments (and be logged on to see the form to enter your comment).

We are interested in feedback from people who were not able to attend on the two days of live sessions as well as those who did.  It would also be helpful if you mention how you are connected to the Open University or if you are not connected at all.

Karen Cropper
14:27 on 17 June 2010 (Edited 14:31 on 17 June 2010)

Embedded Content


Joe Bennett
3:49pm 22 June 2010

An inspirational first day, particularly the #gsiemens session. I 'attended' from my sofa here in Bath using Elluminate and had no technical glitches at all - pretty amazing for 6 solid hours online. The 'fully open' nature of the conference was in itself an innovation and set a significant example to the sector.

The wider question that, for me, seemed to lurk at the heart of every session (and was occasionally mentioned explicitly) was this - why are Universities, supposedly at the heart of innovation, slower than almost every sector of society to take up web-related learning opportunities?

Andreia Inamorato Dos Santos
4:11pm 22 June 2010 (Edited 4:12pm 22 June 2010)

I thought the conference went really well today, day 1.  Even the minor technological problem of a speaker not being able to make their sound work was quickly and efficiently dealt with by moving around the speakers' timetable. There's a good number of resources worth exploring in the main conference website here in Cloudworks, and the replays, ppt slides and live blogging available make it difficult to miss the experience. 

Just a minor thing: I thought the break out rooms with specific points for discussion were great - really enabled people to share ideas and engage in the debate. The only problem is that we were pulled back  together to the main room without any warning, and this interrupted the line of thinking and the discussion of the group; and also did not allow whoever had the mic on to draw a conclusion to their point. It could be worth exploring ways in which the moderators could warn the break out groups (using voice or sound, not only chat) that time is running out - just a thought to improve this bit next time round.  

Overall, really enjoyable experience! Thanks to the OU team!

Giota Alevizou
5:00pm 22 June 2010

I too thought that the conference went really well today and the cross-channel interoperability and live-blogging were great too.

I agree with Andreia, the break out sessions were a good idea, but perhaps a bit more tricky to co-ordinate the 'come back together' in 'real-time'. Perhaps moderators can address this?

I like the synchronous chat on Eluminate, and it's a great tool for both presenters and participants to engage in meaningful discussions. The only shame is that very interesting chat stays within Eluminate; is there a way for inviting participants to engage in such discussions in Cloudworks?  I tried to paste discussion in Cloudworks, but worry about ethical considerations. I guess, on the other hand, that Doug's very efficient live-blogging captures most audience interaction/discussions :)

Finally, I wonder if many 'contributions' from those that do present in a synchronous fashion are in need of some commentary. I wonder if moderators can signpost discussions to some of those too?

Overall it has been an excellent and inspiring experience!

Joe Bennett
5:27pm 22 June 2010 (Edited 5:28pm 22 June 2010)

Here are some of my impressions of the first day, blogged for my colleagues at Bath Spa - I hope I've captured (at least a few of) the issues and challenges that were discussed...


Martin Weller
8:29pm 22 June 2010

@Joe - thanks for the blog notes. You are right this is a question at the heart. In some ways this slow change is a good thing - universities (and libraries) have been around for hundreds of years precisely because they don't bend to every change. As librarians retort when people ask why not let Google handle everything: 'how many businesses do you know that have been around for 200 years?'. On the other hand, it is also infuriating - we are surely witnessing the greatest communication change in society since, well, ever, and yet many in education think it has nothing to do with their discipline.

@Andreia - yes, that was my fault about the breakout rooms. I came into each one and posted a text message saying '2 minutes left' but that gets lost in the updates. I was a bit surprised that when I did 'return participants to main room' it did so without any warning. This was a bit confusing and a bit rude I think if you were in the middle of speaking. I need to find a way of doing it better.

@Giota - yes, one of the problems with elluminate is that it is very closed. I'd like to be able to pull tweets in and post comments out, it feels a bit restricted in that sense.

Gráinne Conole
7:26am 23 June 2010

I also thought the day went well and there was a good mix of activity in Eluminar, Cloudworks, Twitter and individual blogs. Lots of valuable stuff to come back to. It was great having such an international delegation list as well, just a shame there werent more OU folk there!

Gordon Wilson
5:10pm 23 June 2010

Hi Martin & co,

Many thanks for organising this event. You billed it explicitly as an experiment, so please take these comments as part of the construction of findings to help with the design of future events, rather than any implied criticism.

I also add the qualifier that I attended only the first day (I've alas been busy on other things until now today). Things may have been different today.

1. There appeared to be a singular lack of deep engagement with issues generically around knowledge generation through communicative exchange when mediated by technology. This was a shame, because there is a great deal of such engagement going on in the OU and other parts of the world. Thus it never felt like the kind of conference I am used to -- but then possibly I'm biased as an OU academic and many other types of conferences are different.

2. Possibly deep thinking was represented in some (many?) of the conference contributions via clouds, etc., but they 'did not rise to the top' (the expression of someone in a pre-conference interview, I think). There is a serious issue with allowing open contribution -- a danger of a tyranny of structurelessness.

3. The OU presenters tended to showcase what the OU is doing rather than encourage deeper engagement. This was partly a problem of conference focus. Being both an 'internal OU conference' and open to the world -- I'm all for it in principle -- meant that valuable time had to be spent explaining OU complexities (of what interest is the merger of OU2net with ?? to the rest of the world?). It reminds me, as an OU staff tutor in the 1980s, of being berated for talking too much about the OU when interviewing candidates for Associate Lecturer positions. I hope that future conferences are also open to the world but more thought needs to be given as to what this means in terms of design and focus.

4. The technology still carries transaction costs. The elluminate transmission cracked at times; I could not enter room 1 in the first breakout session. I packed in for a couple of hours then although I noted that Martin was heroically putting attendees with the same problem in the room. I'm sure that there are various reasons for the hiccups, but that is not the point. Any technology mediated communication carries with it the potential for unforeseen hiccups. Students know this and they will just turn off -- as I did.

As I implied at the start, I don't wish to introduce a sour note, but hope this is of some help in the analysis and design of a future conference.




Martin Weller
7:39am 24 June 2010

Hi Gordon

thanks for the comments, they are helpful. To respond on a couple of your points:

I'm not sure I'd agree about the lack of deep conversation, or maybe I'm not sure I see it much at 'normal' conferences (you probably go to better conferences than me). Certainly the OU ones I've been to have tended to be 'here is my project' + 1 question, then next speaker. If deep conversations do occur it tends to be in the bar or informal chats, which of course is a weakness with an online version. And as you say, some of that conversation takes place in here too (the equivalent of the bar chats?). I think we did get some good discussion, particularly in the breakout rooms (see below on this) and George Siemens session.

I'd agree about the technology - it's not quite there yet. It worked pretty well, but for instance some people couldn't get in, including a journalist from the Times Higher, something to do with proxy settings not being inherited by Java. And as you say, the movement to rooms didn't work well.

I agree though that we didn't build in enough time to allow some of these conversations to go further. If I were to do it again I'd probably have more discussion/workshop type sessions and perhaps have a different elluminate session for each, so for example we could have had three different URLs for one afternoon session, each with a particular discussion topic, which we might then feed into the following day (although maybe 2 days is rather long online too).

Thanks for the thoughts, I'm reflecting on a few things at the moment, so they were timely.



Karen Cropper
8:37am 25 June 2010 (Edited 8:38am 25 June 2010)

Useful advice for future online conferences for participants who are not comfortable with all of the multi channels of information (from

  1. "ignore all of the backchannels until the conference is over.
  2. concentrate on producing your own notes in three categories: find out about later, challenge this position, good ideas.
  3. take the opportunity to move and do aerobics while you listen (oh! maybe that is multi-tasking…)"

Karen Cropper
1:48pm 28 June 2010 (Edited 1:49pm 28 June 2010)

Comment from Ian Wright after filling out the questionnaire "...there needs to be some way in Elluminate in having more useful information about the people who are on-line (i.e. the virtual equivalent of the conference badge).

 Cheers, Ian."

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