The power of connection

I recently attended a six day, online conference put on by the University of Manitoba. There were 1,000 participants including people from Tashkent, Australia and Brazil. Most of the discussion was through a Moodle (an online discussion forum) archived here http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/course/view.php?id=9 Everyday there was a live presentation on Elluminate (PowerPoint, voice, chat). About 200 people participated in the Elluminate sessions.
One of the most interesting aspects though was the opportunity for ongoing discussion. When the online conference started, I had just returned from a weeklong medical school conference in the US. I had come back frustrated by the lack of connection I felt at that conference. Workshops provided very few opportunities for discussing what had been presented. After the workshops, I tried to engage people about the conference, but found myself in social chit chat about the weather and politics.
At the online conference, I learned so much on so many different levels from new technology tools to new theories about how learning occurs to assorted ha-ha moments. People happily provided links, virtual tours and criticism about ideas they didn’t agree with.
The trip to the US cost my university $2,000, while the online conference cost the university $0.

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