This week I’ve spent some time in the JISC Innovating e-Learning conference; as I write, Elliot Masey is talking to the conference attendees about his ideas on different approaches to learning, turning some of our habits upside down and taking new, refreshing approaches. Elliot is also demonstrating his ‘one slide’ approach to presentations (which I happen to like!).
The whole conference has been conducted online, using Elluminate, and supported with a range of other tools, including pre-requisite reading materials, a conference blog (ably managed by James Clay), sessions in Second Life – all of which are brought to life by the enthusiastic conversation taking place in the chatrooms while seminars are taking place, and online through the Twitter back channel. The closing session is currently populated by over 100 delegates; quite impressive, in my view. What is far more impressive than the numbers is the sheer level of knowledge in the conference rooms – you cannot afford to miss out on such an opportunity; and there’s no excuse given that no travelling is involved!
This week is the first time I have really seen some great use of Elluminate over a long period and covering a really substantial agenda. When I first wrote about Elluminate, I had some concerns; it didn’t really meet up to my expectations because of some usage issues I had at the time. I think I’ve learned to live with those shortcomings for the time being.
What has surprised me is the sheer amount of content that has been delivered through Elluminate during this conference; presenters have incorporated video and audio to support and emphasise their message. Many have also made really great use of the in-built survey tools for quick polls, again to support the message – not always with the expected results! It is this level of interactivity that I find missing among the comparative activities that might be taking place in the VLE in ours (and perhaps other) organisations. In addition to the materials that formed part of the presentations, equally impressive was the stability of Elluminate in conference sessions that included many tens of attendees, numerous webcams and audio feeds and a really (really) active chat window. In fact, the chat window is the only feature I really found myself having some difficulty with. It works really well; clean and simple, nothing complicated about it. The problem comes when you have really confident conference delegates who are more than happy to share their questions and opinions openly. Sessions I had previously attended never exhibited this level of conversation. When the conversation builds in pace, I found myself unable to keep up with the thread (or threads), nor was I able to identify with everyone in the room through a visual avatar – something that is notable in its absence if you are familiar in following users through Twitter.
From here on, I’m going to be looking forward to participating in more Elluminate sessions, and will be particularly pleased when I am fortunate enough to attend more where such enthusiastic participation is evident (even if I can’t always keep up).