Virtually Connecting is a volunteer, grassroots movement that seeks to enliven virtual participation in academic conferences, widening access to a fuller conference experience for those who cannot be physically present at conferences.
Using emerging technologies (such as Google Hangouts on Air), we connect onsite conference presenters with virtual participants in small groups. This allows virtual conference attendees to meet and talk with conference presenters, something not usually possible. Each session is recorded and, whenever possible, live streamed, to allow additional virtual attendees to participate in the discussion by listening and asking questions via Twitter. Whenever we present about Virtually Connecting, people tend to misunderstand what we do, and people often want to know how it looks before deciding to participate. At OER17, when a group of Virtually Connecting volunteers presented some research on Virtually Connecting in a brief session, many in the audience misunderstood what we were talking about (see Bali et al, 2016; 2017).
The purpose of this session is to demonstrate what a Virtually Connection session looks like, so that audience members can understand how it works, but also replicate the model in their own context if they wish to. Borrowing from the “Fish Bowl” teaching strategy, participants will be able to observe a live Virtually Connecting session. The “inner circle” of the fishbowl will consist of those participating in the live streamed Virtually Connecting session from onsite, and those participating in the Virtually Connecting session through the Google Hangout. The session audience and those choosing to view the live stream on YouTube will make up the outer circle of the fish bowl. This allows those who may not be comfortable with actively participating in a session to see how the sessions work, and glean a deeper understanding about how one might be able to participate in this type of hybrid conference experience. People observing in the outer circle will have the opportunity to step forward and join the inner circle if they wish to participate more actively, or to choose not to appear on camera at all if they prefer.
The topic of the virtually connecting session will be drawn from the conference themes – this year with an emphasis on learner voice, and we will try to bring in our own students onsite, synchronously or in some other form, and we may invite virtual guests whose students have benefited from Virtually Connecting in some way in the past. Participants will be invited to participate in Virtually Connecting sessions beyond the presentation itself throughout the conference, and to invite their students to join Virtually Connecting sessions in future.
Bali, M., Caines, A., DeWaard, H.J., and Hogue, R. J. (2016). Ethos and Practice of a Connected Learning Movement: Interpreting Virtually Connecting Through Alignment with Theory and Survey Results. Online Learning Journal. pp. 212-229.
Bali, M., Beckingham, S., Zamora, M., Caines, A., Hogue, R. J., & Weller, M. (2017). Breaking the physical presence barrier: Virtually Connecting as an approach to open, inclusive conferences. OER17, London, UK, April 5-6, 2017. https://oer17.oerconf.org/sessions/breaking-the-physical-presence-barrier-virtually-connecting-as-an-approach-to-open-inclusive-conferences-1460/