I’m helping to organise a conference – sort of

One of the courses I’m responsible for next semester is EDU8719 Contemporary Issues Conference. The synopsis of the course is

The course will be structured around an online conference that will include several themes or strands that reflect current trends and issues in education. Students will prepare a proposal for a paper in which they will draw upon their prior study and experience to respond to one of the conference themes and will participate in anonymous peer review of submitted proposals. Using their reviews for guidance, students will complete their papers, present them online using an appropriate medium, and engage in discussion of their own and other papers.

So, I’m helping organise a conference.

The following is meant to encourage me to get to know the course better by retelling it in my own words, to save any vague ideas I get while learning about it, and perhaps get some good ideas for the course. In particular, I’d appreciate any

  • Pointers to similar courses that are more open than not.
  • Suggestions about how to enhance the learning experience.
  • Thoughts and experiences on online services for running conferences.
  • Suggestions for literature and people that provide good insight on the four main topics.

The course has been run numerous times before and appears to be fairly well set up. So, at the moment the intent is not to make any radical changes. There is another course I’m running at the same time to which I’ll be making more radical changes, only want to do one course at a time. Just looking to avoid any major pitfalls and make any gradual refinements.

Summarising the course

The course has four main topics/modules. The content in these is minimal, the interests of the students should drive what they actually look at.

  1. Engaging in professional networks.
  2. Locating, accessing and critiquing current professional discourse.
  3. Writing for professional audiences.
  4. Online presentation techniques.

The aim is to encourage students to deepen their reading and discussion of contemporary issues in education. The main task is to engage with a simulated online conference in a range of roles. Students need to

  • Prepare and submit a paper proposal.
  • Review and comment on proposals from two other students.
  • Review and comment on full papers produced from those proposals.
  • Complete their paper based on comments from the marker and two other students.
  • Present the paper using an online format of their choice.
  • Host online discussion of their paper.
  • Participate in discussion of serval papers during the conference period.

The idea is that as author they go into some depth and as reviewer they develop some breadth.

Assessment is summarised in the following table

Assignment Due Date Description
1 – 20% 14 Aug 2013 – Week 5 Abstract proposal
Proposal reviews
2 – 60% 18 Sep 2013 – Week 10
Just before mid-semester break
Draft paper for review
Paper review
Final revised paper
3 – 20% 23 Oct 2013 – Last week Recorded presentation
Conference contributions
Self-rating quiz

The weekly structure is something like the following table

Week Module Tasks
Weeks 1 & 2 1 – Connected professionals Module 1 readings
View sample papers and presentations.
Begin reading for paper preparation
Prepare and submit abstract with proposal
Weeks 3, 4 & 5 2 – Professional conversation Module 2 readings
Reading for paper
Begin drafting paper
Weeks 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
includes the break.
3 – Writing as a professional Wk 6

  • Module 3 readings
  • Consider proposal reviews

Wk 7 – Review draft and prepare for submission.
Wk 8 – Complete paper & submit ** different in specification and ICE **
Wk 9 & 10 – Read assigned papers and submit reviews
Wk 11 – Consider paper reviews, revise and submit final paper

Week 13-15 4 – Presenting online Wk 12

  • Submit to conference site and EASE.
  • Read Module 4 readings
  • Work on conference presentation

Wk 13 Complete presentation and load to study desk
Wk 14 – Deliver conference presentation and host discussion. Participate in others.
Wk 15 – Deliver and participate and finally assess conference participation of self and others.

Online structure/services

  • EasyChair conferencing system used to run the conference.
  • Forums
    • A tea forum for introductions.

      Not a lot in terms of replies and doesn’t seem to lead into further conversations.

    • Class bulletins.

      Announcements and responses. Seems a good place to find what issues there were with the course in prior offerings.

    • Course management and Broken links

      General forums for reporting issues problems, both empty. So, no problems or problems raised in other forums?

  • Other Moodle resources
    • A suggested resources Database activity that is empty. A place to share resources. Would social bookmarking work better?
  • Other resources
    • Link to prior conference papers – including 2010 hosted on an OJS site.
    • Links to prior conference presentations.
    • Large collection of ICE-based content.

Minor bugs, possibilities and questions

The following is an ad hoc collection of observations while looking through the course.

Bugs/issues

  • The “ezproxy” link for “Canter, D.V., Fairbairn, G., & ebrary Inc 2006, Becoming an author advice for academics and other professionals” in the specification is broken. May point to similar problems elsewhere.
  • Appears getting the reviews in is as much a problem in this course as in others.
  • There’s a chance that the ICE content will not match some of the details of the course including: staffing, due dates etc.

Possibilities

  • Short interviews/invited talks from external folk on various topics at appropriate times.
  • Replace the “suggested resources” Moodle database with a Diigo group?
  • A couple of simple screencasts to illustrate aspects of using EasyChair?
  • Be a bit more specific with some of the readings focused around the act of thinking about and preparing a conference paper.

    e.g. types of research papers, fitting with a conference theme, mechanical tasks of reference management/writing etc.

Questions

  1. Is there any formal or advisable pre-requisites for students entering the course and do all the enrolled students fulfil this?

    It would appear that the students would need to have a fairly good grasp of a particular issue and the some experience with writing. So this wouldn’t appear to be a good first course.

  2. Can I get access to prior uses of the easychair conferencing system? What else is involved in setting this up
  3. What’s the difference between a “real” conference and a “simulated” one?
  4. Is there some value in having a fixed online format to allow more of a conference community to form and perhaps to invite participation from others?
  5. EDU8117 also uses an online symposium idea, is there value in exploring connections between these two courses? At the very least using the same technology or approach to the conferences.
  6. How to make the purpose and process of the course easier to understand?

    Some early forums suggest this was a problem for some students.

  7. How to align some of the assessment detail between ICE and course specification?
  8. How to deal with issues of anonymity of submissions within such a small class