I attended my first virtual conference two years ago, and I've been hooked ever since. If you've never done a virtual conference (sometimes called unconferences by their whimsical creators), they're really worth looking into. Here's why!
How it Works
Virtual conferences work much the way a regular conference would: they have keynotes speakers and regularly scheduled sessions you can attend to learn about topics that interest you. Instead of physically travelling to the conference location, though, the conference occurs online. Most conferences use a virtual environment such as Blackboard Collaborate. This is basically an online classroom where you can chat with other session attendees and view the powerpoint of the presenter(s), as well as asking questions. So you basically get what you would out of a physical conference, except...
Why It's Awesome
Although there will always be a certain allure in large numbers of dedicated professionals getting together in physical space, there are many reasons virtual conferences are worth checking out.
The obvious reason is financial. Many of us can't afford to travel around the world (or even the continent) checking out the newest and best educational conferences, as much as we might like to. Virtual conferences remove that barrier -- most of them are completely free, and there's certainly no travel cost involved.
Unlike traditional conferences, virtual conferences almost always record sessions and store them on the website for future playback. That means that if you can't access a session at the time it's presented, you can easily view the recorded session at a later time. It also removes that conflict of two simultaneous sessions that capture your interest!
3. Creating Connections
Virtual conferences let people interact as fully or minimally as they see fit. The funny thing, though, is that within a chat room, most people seem to feel pretty liberated. There's a lot more audience participation than in traditional sessions (and if you're like me -- the person who dreads the moment the chirpy presenter says "Let's all get up and try it out!" -- you get an added bonus).
Many people who could not present at a physical conference due to time or cost constraints are very willing to present online. And it's not like you don't get the big names -- Quest Boise had Lee Sheldon as a keynote this year, among many other fantastic speakers.
Virtual conferences are very good about accommodating people of all technical levels and comforts. You can almost always find someone willing to help you out, and it's not hard to set up the virtual environment. Just ask -- someone is probably willing to walk you through the steps.
I'm Sold. What Now?
Thought you'd never ask!
Gaming in Education has their virtual conference kicking off tonight with two amazing keynote speakers (who I won't be able to see because I'm at a school event... how fortunate that they're recorded for me to watch later!).
You can view the entire conference schedule here. And you may notice that I'm presenting tomorrow night at 6:00 MST on using game design for assessment in the classroom. I'd love to see you there!
Question of the Day:
Have you ever attended a virtual conference?
As I said, I've attended a few -- most recently Quest Boise 2014, and of course I plan to take in some of Gaming in Ed!
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|Global Education Conference|