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Conference time

January 14th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Pontydysgu is sponsoring the Mobile learning: Crossing Boundaries in Convergent Environments 2011 conference being held in Bremen on March 21 – 22. And as I did with the PLE2010 Conference last year, I will be writing the occasional bog about how we are organising the conference and why.

We held a meeting of the organising committee today. The committee is small, Klaus Rummler, Judith Seipold, Eileen Luebcke and myself. The advantage of such a small group is that meetings are informal (and generally productive) and we can all meet face to face. The disadvantage, of course, is that there are not many people to do all the work. Informal is key for me. Long gone re the days when conferences could only be organised by the great and the good, and organising committees were full of Professors with many letters after t5heir name. This is one of the democratising effects of social media. In the past it was necessary to have such grand committees in order to get word out of an event. Now we use twitter and facebook and viral info0rmation flows. In additio0n I think researchers are changing their attitudes towards events. In the past it was the authority of the organisation running the vent which was key – were they and their organising committee respected academics with many publications to their name. Now people are more interested in the subject of the conference and on the possibilities for fruitful exchange of ideas and knowledge.

Of course there remain issues. It is often difficult for researchers – and especially students – to get funding to attend a conference. for that reason we have tried to make the event as cheap as possible. We are only charging 50 Euros, and even though we have no sponsorship, we are confident we can break even. I was disappointed last year that the conference on Open education in Barcelona was charging something like 500 Euros to attend.

We rely on the goodwill and input of the community to organise the event. The hardest job is reviewing. We are sending all of the submissions for the conference to two reviewers. With something like 50 submissions that means 100 reviews. the open source Easychair system helps in organising this but is by no means perfect. And I remain sceptical about how review systems work. However clear the instructions, different reviewers seem to have very different perceptions of submissions. however, I have no ideas of a better system for quality. And at the end of the day, the success of the event depends on the quality of the inputs.

One of the more bizarre problems in organising such events is collecting the mo0ney. It is extremely hard to get systems for universities to accept money in (and often just as hard to get the money out again. Furthermore, an overview of who has paid is vital and university finance systems are rarely geared to providing such information on demand. however Paypal makes setting up your own payments system fairly easy.

We started  talking about the programme design today. One thing we are keen to do is to separate between the submission of a high quality research paper and the traditional academic form of presentation. Endless paper presentations do not stimulate discourse and ideas, and seldom lead to the generation of new knowledge. Thus we are looking at different forms of presentations, including cafe type sessions and debates. It is also very heartening that we have received some excellent proposals for workshops with real interaction with participants. And once we have got an outline programme we will be looking at add different unconferencing sessions.

Submissions for the conference officially closed last Friday. But if you do want to make a last minute proposal email it to me by Sunday. But even if you haven’t got a proposal in their will be plenty of ways to participate. Hope to see many of you in Bremen in March

One Response to “Conference time”

  1. Would have loved seeing you use our new Scientific Event Management tool for PLE_SOU. With it we are trying to face the issues with EasyChair… Maybe next time or for another event this year 😉

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