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Thursday, November 08, 2007

VSS2007 - Final Thoughts

I trust that everyone who was in Louisville got home okay. Okay, I'm finally getting around to posting my final thought about this week's Virtual School Symposium. As someone more interested in research, my thoughts will focus upon that aspect.

One of the initiatives that we (i.e., the Research Committee) tried this year which I kind of took the lead in was these Researcher Sign-Up Meetings. It was kind of something that we added on shortly before the conference.

For those not in Louisville or those that simply did not hear about it, basically what we did was I took two sheets of paper and divided the days up in 30 minute slots, from 9:30am to 4:00pm on Monday and from 9:30am to noon on Tuesday. Each piece of paper had two columns, one for us to sign up in and one for the people who wanted meetings to sign up in. The system was promoted solely at the first timers meeting.

First of all, let me thank to the three researchers that signed up to meet with those who requested meetings, along with those who were willing to sign up if we had more people interested and all of the others that I saw who either helped me track down people to sign up.

We had three people, all doctoral students, sign up for four meetings. In talking with all three doctoral student after their sessions, all were very appreciative of our time and the advice/guidance that we provided. For me (as I met with one of the three students), I know that my meeting was a good one and I enjoyed the conversation. I think the doctoral student left with a better sense of how she could pursue a topic around virtual school teachers that she was interested in for her dissertation, plus more importantly a list of other researchers at VSS to track down who were more specialized in that area.

While the system we had in placed served the purpose this year, this was the first year that we have tried this, it was a last minute things and it was only promoted at the first timers meeting - so there are probably better ways to do this...

At another conference that I used to attend (i.e., the Qualitative Interest Group or QUIG), the qualitative faculty each set aside a half day of this three day conference for these meetings. Each faculty member has an individual sheet, so people can sign up specifically for their half hour slot with that researcher.

One of the researcher committee members made the suggestion that if there was a way for people when they register to indicate that they wanted to meet with one of us, and then have a series of boxes that had all of the different areas or expertises that they could check, in terms of what they wanted to meet about. That way we would know who is the best person to meet with them and that person could arrange things directly with them.

If you have other suggestions, I would love to hear about them...

One of the other things I have been reflecting on is how we structure out presentations. For example, there were some of the break-out sessions that only had one or had no research presentations going on, while there were other sessions that had three and four going on at the same time. This meant that some blocks I really had no choice where I was going if I wanted to focus upon the research currently being done, but others sessions I had to pick and choose between big names in the field and very interesting presentations. I'm wondering if there isn't a better way to try and even this out a bit.

Two weeks before VSS I was at e-Learn in Quebec City. In their planning, they categories the presentations (based upon the presenter's self selection) into the following categories:
  • Content Development

  • Evaluation

  • Implementation Examples and Issues

  • Instructional Design

  • Policy Issues

  • Research

  • Social and Cultural Issues

  • Standards and Interoperability

  • Tools and Systems

  • Other

In the printed program, there is a code for each of these so you know the thematic focus of the session (i.e., a session marked "RES" is going to focus upon research). It also allows the planners to spread out the sessions from similar thematic areas so that all of the SCI (i.e., social and cultural issues) are scheduled at the same time. This is something that NACOL might want to do to assist in both their own planning and in spreading out these sessions a little more.

Another model that could be used is one that the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) and the College and University Faculty Association (CUFA) uses. CUFA is the faculty group in NCSS. They have their meetings, which are largely research focused, the day before the NCSS main convention. All participants at NCSS are also invited to attend the CUFA meetings. This gives those involved in research a day where that is all that is done and those practitioners that have an interest in research have the opportunity to be immersed in it for a day.

Just some ideas, and I think we should discuss these and any others that people have. That way we can begin to work out some more bugs and have a better system available next year. BTW, the conference will be in Phoenix next year and will be held the weekend before the Presidential election (can't recall the date in my head now).

So, let the discussion begin...

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