TCC Online Conference Chronicle

aka Teaching in a Community College Online Conference

April 2-4, 1996

by Judith Kirkpatrick
Assistant Professor of English
Kapi'olani Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii or

MOO Mai Tais in the Shade of the Coconut Cafe

aka The Birth of the Coconut Cafe at DaMOO and Other Stories
A virtual conference with MOO as a mediator.


In looking at the nature of academic conferences, Michael Salvo asks the question of whether or not academic conferences really help us to confer. Conference attendees usually agree with Salvo that most formats could use some work. What we practice in our classrooms is not being played out yet, at least to any great degree, in what we do in our conference presentations. In developing an academic conference that was delivered totally online, the conference planners began taking notice of where the possible interactions lie; this resulted in the Evolution of the Coconut Cafe.

The academic conference of the 1990's wears different clothes than its predecessors though it may sport similar materials. The image of the fabric of a conference might linger or it might fade, dependent not only on the organizational structure of the event, but on its participants, their idiosyncrasies, their predispositions, their finesse or lack thereof with the tools the conference uses to make itself memorable, effective and unique.

Most conferences found in the Internet in 1996 pay deference to online announcements, a call for papers, and the more bold even provide facility for online signup and collection of money. Others offer abstracts, schedules, preconference readings, and listserves or newsgroups for asynchronous discussion preemptory to the physical, face to face conference.

Academic Conferences . . . Online

  • Web Developer's Virtual Library: Conferences
  • Conference Announcements
  • Conferences Out of Australia
  • ERIC Database of Conferences
  • Yahoo - Education:Conferences
  • Horizon Home Page
  • Education Conferences, Calendars and Announcements
  • Yahoo - Education:On-line Teaching and Learning:Conferences

    Even bolder attempts are surfacing through more sophisticated use of web tools, giving conference participants opportunities to read, respond, question and engage in dialogue with the conference presenters and other online conference participants both before and after the physical conference. Most of these affairs, however, are preemptory or following the obligatory face to face (f2f) academic conference.

    This f2f venue has been criticized over the years due to the nature of the reading of academic papers by tired voices to weary conference goers. Instead, the active conference attendee wishes interaction, no longer tolerating very well the passive, listening mode. Where the really memorable moments of academic conferences usually lie is in the hallway or lounge conversations, the fleeting moments where we make time for eachother in between doing what the Conference program bids us to do. In fact, we often wish we could read the papers at our leisure and just get together to do other things such as question, react, explore, extend our thinking.

    As the Teaching in a Community College (TCC-L) listserve grew in popularity, the notion of a virtual conference, start to finish, turned into a reality from April 2-4, 1996, when James Shimabukuro, listowner of the TCC-L and the OCC-L (Online College Classroom listserves), and Associate Professor of English at Kapi'olani Community College, eliminated the physical life aspect of the academic conference altogether and created the first TCC Virtual Conference. The conference presenters were asked to propose papers by submitting abstracts. If accepted, the abstracts, papers, and presenter biographies were placed on the web and all conference registrants were given the WWW address and made part of a conference mailing list which was also archived on the web in hypernews format. The discussion was supposed to take place asynchronously in email, over the three day period. As the conference registrant numbers grew exponentially during the last month before the conference, the plan to contain most of the discussion in email remained.

    Some of what is remembered and appreciated about a conference is the human interaction, and with that in mind, Shimabukuro and his colleague, Judith Kirkpatrick, agreed to work some MOO sessions into the conference. The design of the sessions, left up to Kirkpatrick, proved irresistible to those conference attendees willing to experiment with a medium that all but a few had had no experience with. Despite that rather obvious but significant fact, the invitation to meet the presenters in the MOO was mailed to the 800 TCC Online Conference in late March 1996.

    The Coconut Cafe, An Afterthought . . .

    While Kirkpatrick was constructing the final schedule for MOO Presentations over a three day period, a lounge for TCC conference participants was built with the promise of a party and celebration when the event was over, at 2:00 p.m. Hawaiian time, at the Coconut Cafe, a newly arranged lounge in the Daedalus MOO. Mai Tais were promised and the time and date announced and placed on the schedule.

    By the third day of the conference, the usual glitches of using the new technology of MOO space were subsiding and people were actually starting to *talk* to each other.

    The party at the Cafe was like a beginning rather than an ending and promises to continue exploration of the new medium were pledged. Much like a body of like-minded colleagues anywhere, the personalities of the group emerged slowly over the three days of the conference. A beginning commentary was perhaps the beginning of the articulation of the newly found mode of community building, well expressed by Diego Granada as he expressed similarities to The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in describing his first experiences in a MOO.

    The discussion in the TCC Virtual Online Conference was and has been dominated by those who attended the MOO session, building on a theory of where the intersections of conferences lie. The logs can be viewed of all email discussions in Hypernews on the web; the MOO interactions became the focus of discussion and debate. The group has reinvented itself, meeting for the past month on Thursdays at the Coconut Cafe at a new MOO, DaMOO with the support of Jai and Gofy, two creative MOO experts who have offered support for this group in a webbed MOO environment. The Coconut Cafe logs show a creative group of educators, discovering possibilities and applications for their own professional contacts as well as for their teaching in the near future. Kirkpatrick, a veteran MOOer from the earliest days of MediaMOO's well known Netoric group, has found herself busier than imagined, as she chronicles the growth of a community which began knowing nothing of this medium we call MOO space. The creation of a virtual meeting space for TCC'ers is in progress. The building of rooms is the challenge of the week. Stop by on Thursdays or any time at DaMOO and take a look around at the growing web of space and energy that is interweaving itself at the Coconut Cafe. Kick off your shoes, pour yourself a Mai Tai and enjoy the company.


    What did the Conference Look Like?

    Who were the presenters?

    Who were the Keynote Speakers and Greeters?

    What was expected out of the 800 or so who signed up for the conference?

    What does this have to do with MOO space?

    Please send comments or additions/corrections to: