I followed the sun

The Learning Futures Festival Online 2011 was titled, “Follow the Sun,” and billed as, “Three countries, three time zones, a non-stop global e-learning conference.” It was hosted by the Beyond Distance Research Alliance of the University of Leicester and the Australian Digital Futures Institute of the University of Southern Queensland.

The format was a different approach. Starting in the UK at 09:00 (British Summer Time) and running for 8 hours, moderation was then handed over for another 8 hours to the North American Team in Seattle, and then for a further 8 hours to the team in Toowoomba, Australia. The cycle then repeated for another 24-hour period. From Canada, my plan was to catch as much as I could with naps along the way. Looking back at the programme, I attended more in the UK and North American sessions, finding other demands for my time and a need for sleep in our evening hours while Australia was on. Fortunately, the sessions were recorded, and I can return to those I missed or wish to re-watch.

The good news for many whom could not participate is that the recorded sessions are now available to watch without charge, through the “Follow the Sun” link above.

Having attended many conferences, physically and online, this was the first at which I presented. I had the pleasure of working with PhD student colleagues from the BDRA, Brenda, Ali, and Natalia, to deliver, “PhD Students Following the Sun: How PhD Students Use and Perceive Technologies.” Hopefully this will be there first of many more, whether personally or in a group. While my part was about how I, and others, use Twitter for a weekly ‘phdchat’ discussion, I look forward to sharing about my research area in future presentations.

A special thanks to all whom made the conference come together and run smoothly. Next year will be my turn to step up and assist.

A.E. (Tony) Ratcliffe
PhD Research Student, BDRA

The sun sets on our successful e-learning conference

Our Learning Futures Festival 2011, entitled Follow the Sun, was a 48 hour global e-learning conference that was co-hosted by the Australian Digital Futures Institute and presented consecutively from three countries: UK (Leicester), USA (Seattle) and Australia (Toowoomba).

Screenshot of Adobe Connect 8
Terry Anderson delivering his keynote during North America Day 1

Watch the recording

The conference had over 280 delegates and speakers from more than 25 countries. Keynotes, papers, workshops and debates were streamed through the online conferencing platform Adobe Connect 8, provided by sponsors CollaborATE UK

Screenshot of debate about the lecture

With Gabi moderating, Donald Clark, Jim Morrison and Stephen Downes debate the usefulness of the traditional lecture in higher education during North America Day 2

Watch the recording of Donald Clark and Jim Morrison

Watch the recording of Stephen Downes

Events were also held in the 3D environment of Second Life. These sessions were beamed – with full sound capability – into the Adobe Connect platform by sponsors Let’s Talk Online. This allowed delegates who were new to Second Life to see the environment in real time and engage through transferred text chat with the avatar delegates.

Screenshot of Second Life projected into Adobe Connect
Scott Diener looks at virtual worlds during Australia Day 1

Watch the recording

The conference Moodle site for delegates was hosted by USQ Communities (University of Southern Queensland, Australia). This site hosted a successful gallery of posters submitted by delegates, and gave delegates the opportunity to engage in asynchronous discussion around the sessions.

More than 25 hours of live events were generated by Follow the Sun. As well as the very significant financial savings and a tiny carbon footprint, a key advantage of this kind of online conferencing is the ability to record all streamed events.

Within two-and-a-half hours of the conference finishing, the recordings of all sessions were made available on the festival’s public site:

http://tinyurl.com/followthesun

We worked very hard to give our delegates an enriching experience, and are very grateful for their appreciative comments, which included the following:

“I found the conference an eye opener and I want to be in the frontline in being a practitioner and champion of the power of e-learning in my career as a teacher and have decided to proceed to study for Masters degree in e-learning. I hope to integrate these trends in e-learning in creating powerful and rich environment to learn almost anything that is simple or complex.”

“I heard about these conferences last year when visiting the BDRA. Despite the obvious excitement people felt I had no idea just how fantastic it could be. This has been extraordinary and probably the best single experience in my 10 years in HE. So much breadth and depth and such a sense of connectedness. Congrat’s to all for conceiving and delivering this event. I’ll spend the next 6 months processing it and pointing our people to the content.”

[On Twitter] “@lff11 The technical aspects were handled expertly and the level of engagement impressive. Well done one and all you rock! Bring on lff12”

“I was particularly impressed by the programme and how you and the moderators succeeded in drawing in farflung contributors. All in all, LFF was a credit to all involved.”

“The conference was fantastic!”

The Media Zoo
PhD students Brenda and Ali (with Natalia in Denmark and Tony in Canada) deliver their paper from the Media Zoo during UK Day 2

Watch the recording

I plan to blog in greater detail in the coming months about how this innovative and exciting conference was planned and executed.

Simon Kear

Keeper of the Media Zoo

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