I was just reading a posting from Terese Bird on the Beyond Distance Research Alliance Blog, from the University of Leicester: Online Seminars: Better than being there… She wrote of a recent hybrid seminar, and I was smiling as I read the start of the second paragraph:
“Before the seminar started, people came into the room pretty much on time, spoke politely to those sitting nearby, sat down and individually quietly prepared for the seminar. In the Wimba online room, people logged in as much as 45 minutes early, and, using the chat, introduced themselves and talked to each.”
First, I have to wonder if they remembered an essential rule for the physically present group: adult learners need their coffee. Honestly, from years of teaching and attending courses, seminars, and the like, I found that coffee seemed to change the room when stranger first come together. Perhaps it was the smell, and more likely it was the gathering at the coffee pot, but it was essential to ensure people started to mix. That aside, the post was a great example of the socialization that can occur online. She wrote more about the pre-seminar and seminar communication that is worthy of reading, including the back channel that some of the non-virtual attendees also participated in from their laptops.
I would like you to note the project that resulted in podcasts being made by both group present and online, ultimately shared so all could see. After being at a another hybrid conference where the virtual audience was not integrated with the ones at the conference centre, this is a welcome approach noted by Terese. She concluded, “we have demonstrated that e-conferencing offers special benefits: more and freer discussion, faster engagement with the presentations; access to all other computer- and internet-based resources close at hand during the session, and money, time and carbon saved from avoiding travel.”