A Conference for the Web-Addicted Instructor

Johanna Harness
Lewis-Clark State University

After teaching computer-assisted writing for nine years, this reviewer is thrilled that web-addicted teachers finally have a professional conference appropriate to their teaching methods! For the last two years, the TCC Conference has been offered free of charge on what seemed an experimental level. This year, the conference was taken to new heights. Although registration fees were charged for the first time, presenters and attendees received a top-rate conference experience for a price that could barely provide conference organizers a daily stipend for bologna sandwiches.

Educators attending this conference must realize, just as our students realize with our online courses, that online participation is not lesser participation. When attending a F2F conference, we expect the experience to be exhausting and demanding. Most of us wouldn't dream of trying to maintain our regular teaching and family responsibilities while attending such an event. Yet most conference attendees this year (myself included) were completely unprepared for the time commitment required to best participate in the myriad of professional activities.

Over 100 conference papers were posted for reading by conference attendees. The quality of the papers was impressive and the online format allowed either cursory or in-depth perusal of ideas presented. Unlike F2F formats, where attendees are forced to choose between presentations, this web format provided almost too much choice for participants to filter. Theoretically, it would be possible to read each paper and comment, but this new-found freedom leaves us both heady with excitement and overwhelmed with exhaustion. Advice for the new-comer: one MUST filter.

In addition to scholarly presentations, papers were placed into eleven appropriate categories (all concerned with online teaching) and discussion groups were formed for each. I subscribed to only five of the groups and found myself flooded with e-mail. I understand that some eager colleagues actually tried to participate in all eleven! Advice for the new-comer: one MUST filter.

So attendees have read papers of interest, discussed them in appropriate discussion groups, what else? Authors of papers also were scheduled for chat sessions to discuss their ideas. As with a F2F conference, every hour of the three-day conference was filled with presentations and discussions. Online, this was achieved through synchronous chat in MOO sessions. Although awkward for many participants not familiar with the bovine-based environment, the sessions I attended were fast-paced and well-received. For the faint of heart, the TCC staff provided pre-conference training in how-to-moo. The only complaint: I could not possibly keep up with my e-mail and still get to all the MOO sessions I wanted to attend. Advice to the new-comer: one MUST filter.

What about keynote speakers? We had those, too, followed by lengthy discussions offered in discussion groups. Local tours? Although a bit stilted in the web format, tours of local attractions still lured participants to daydream of vacation destinations. Just want to unwind and talk to other online instructors? The Coconut Cafe was open all hours for informal chat. With all this available in a three day forum, it's difficult not to be overwhelmed. Advice to the new-comer: one MUST filter.