Image credit: CC-BY-NC-ND Jon Mould

Virtually Connecting with the Community during #OER17

A Guest blog post from Autumm Caines and Maha Bali about the Virtually Connecting community project

There are few things more affirming than to participate at a conference whose ethos intersects with our own at Virtually Connecting. With a bedrock in open participation at its core, we knew that OER17 would overlap with our values but with a theme like the “politics of open” the intersections abound. We are holding eight virtual connecting sessions throughout it to encourage hybrid conversations around this important theme, as well as doing a presentation on our own research into improving the inclusivity of our practice.

Virtually Connecting is a hybrid open connected learning movement that aims to enliven  the virtual conference experience, broadening access to those who are unable to attend for financial, social, logistical or health reasons. Some organizers livestream formal sessions (and it’s great when they do it for free, as OER17 intends to do for keynotes, plenaries and sessions in the main hall). This does increase access and provides a virtual option for one aspect of the conference experience. However, Virtually Connecting focuses on the informal experience of the conference that happens in between sessions. We broaden the knowledge being shared at the conference by virtualizing the conversations and connections that happen in the hallways and corridors. See, for example, our session from last year’s OER16 Conference with Jim Groom and Catherine Cronin.

The planned 8 Virtually Connecting sessions at #OER17 will involve a selection of onsite participants (we put out an open call) who have agreed to join us and you can too – no matter if you are on site or not. Here is the schedule of Virtually Connecting sessions (all sessions are scheduled during conference break times and such), and include all Lucy Crompton-Reid, Diana Arce, Catherine Cronin, Laura Czerniewicz, Muirreanne O’Keefe, Lorna Campbell, Helen Beetham, Martin Hawksey, Sheila MacNeill, and many more! We are also doing a walkby session Wednesday afternoon (1600) with no specific guest, so you will find a group of us and you can pop by to for a minute or two to try it.

Ways to participate virtually

  1. Join a session and talk to onsite people via Google hangouts – check out the schedule on your timezone, and sign up for sessions you are interested in being part of using this form. One of us will send you a link to join the Google hangout 15-30 mins before we go live
  2. Watch a session live or recorded on YouTube. All videos are embedded in our blogpost. Recordings become available minutes after the broadcast ends. Feel free to tweet along (using @vconnecting #oer17) to the live or recorded session.

If you have questions, feel free to post a comment on our blogpost, email [email protected], or tweet to one of our Virtual buddies: Ken Bauer, Nadine Aboulmagd, Helen DeWaard, Simon Ensor, Alan Levine.

Ways to participate onsite:

  1. If you see a session in progress feel free to watch. We would love it if you would take pictures and tweet with the conference hashtag and tag us @VConnecting.
  2. If you would like to join a session and speak to virtual participants, tweet to @vconnecting or speak/tweet to any of our onsite buddies: Maha Bali, Autumm Caines, Martin Weller, Sue Beckingham, Teresa Mackinnon, Christian Friedrich, Rajiv Jhangiani, Kate Green

Besides our Virtually Connecting sessions, we are also presenting about Virtually Connecting. As a movement that strives towards equity, we care very strongly about being inclusive, and although we succeed some of the time, we are always striving to do better. VC is a pretty simple concept but it becomes politicized because we believe this experience is beyond monetization and we strive to build a network of volunteers who are committed to learning together through conversation. Of course we have expenses and we have accepted comped registration and had a small fundraiser but for the most part our volunteers (whom we call buddies) are self-funded. Through building this network of people we also have challenges with inclusion. A group of us (namely both of us, our co-director Rebecca J. Hogue, Martin Weller, Sue Beckingham, and Mia Zamora) are exploring these challenges through research that we are presenting at OER17 on Wednesday, April 5th at 13:30 in Seminar 6 (if you want to see a Vconnecting session in progress, we plan to hold one in that room immediately before this presentation, from 1300-1330, you’re welcome to peak in). We have also been having an ongoing conversation online about this research starting with this post on the Paradox of Inclusion by Autumm Caines.

And for some even more fun, we have contributed this video to the #oer17 media challenge. We (Autumm Caines, Maha Bali, Helen DeWaard, Ken Bauer, Joe Murphy) met to brainstorm it and each of us contributed part (joined by Simon Ensor for voiceover). Helen DeWaard did the final editing, which resulted in this (enjoy):

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