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The dog that didn't bark.

LiOW was a remarkable and interesting experiment. The technology worked well enough and the people...

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Stephen Swithenby
25 June 2010

LiOW was a remarkable and interesting experiment. The technology worked well enough and the people behind the technology were amazingly good – relaxed, self assured and expert. Well done to Martin and the team.

This was the first online conference in which I have immersed myself fully. Previous exposure has been limited to eavesdropping or presenting for a short period. It was exhausting.

As Simon BS has pointed out, Elluminate is good at transmitting information but the jury is still out on its relevance in creating or supporting communities. During the two days of LiOW, I learned quite a lot (an excellent list of external speakers) but I didn’t have any sense of building any new relationships. Maybe the conference provided me with entry points and reasons to contact people but I did miss the serendipitous conversations of the face to face equivalent. I suspect that the feeling of isolation increases with the degree of separation from the central community represented in the online conference.

I struggled too with the demands on my attention. Listening to less than perfect sound while watching static visuals demanded concentration. The ‘Chat’ competed, sometimes very productively – great to have elaboration of points, particularly in the discussion sections - but sometimes irritatingly. ‘Hi, everybody, sorry I am late.’ was one contribution. I saw the equivalent ‘back-channel’ working wonderfully in RELIVE 08 when a Twitter feed on the bottom of the auditorium screen was used to elaborate rather than compete with the speaker’s presentation. I think there are some issues of etiquette to be addressed.

A good turnout numerically but there seemed to be very few academics from outside the world of Ed Tech. I could have bene lonely! It would be helpful to have data on who did participate if we are seeing online conferences as a core dissemination mechanism. Of course, lack of engagement isn’t new. It is only when academics are making active contributions that they turn up.

So, two cheers for LiOW. We must persist with and refine the online conference experience and, coming from my position, we must make it more accessible and attractive to a wider range of academics. I am mindful of the tendency to use feedback from the most successful or vociferous students to refine courses rather than listen to those who dropped out. I hope we don’t make the same mistake in our reflection on LiOW.

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9:31pm 25 June 2010

Some people did engage in relationship building at the conference. Fifty-five people (43%) who twittered about the conference started to follow at least one other conference attendee on Twitter.

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