Online Conferences for Professional Development
Christiansen, Jo-An S.
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Online conferences (OCs) offer a compelling set of economic and pedagogical benefits for teaching, learning, personal, and professional development. In this chapter, we provide examples and a model to guide development of this professional development application of e-Iearning. The cost-effectiveness of oes, coupled with the capacity to provide time-flexible participation on a global scale, convinces us that OCs will continue to playa vital and increasing role in quality professional development activities. Similar to faceto- face conferences (F2FCs), effective oes must focus on relevant and timely information dissemination, provide opportunities for interaction leading to knowledge creation, and support the development of learning communities. In their broadest sense, OCs and F2FCs have two major goals. The first is to create knowledge through personal, organizational, and community learning. The second is to develop social networks that can later be used to create valued collegial relationships and extend learning beyond the conference. The method used by OCs to achieve these goals is an intense network-mediated interaction. The interaction takes place over a limited period of time using a comhination of synchronous, asynchronous, and illlmersive technologies on a global scale. OCs are economically and pedagogically attractive because of their "anywhere and anytime" characteristics with low production and participation costs. In this chapter, we review characteristics and qualities of OCs, provide examples of successful OCs, and outline a model of relevant qualities affecting OC learning outcomes. The unique and promising role of this form of professional development in the current and emerging networked society is explored.