On October 24th the Exploring Learning Technologies community group held its fifth annual “unconference”. This event brought together faculty and staff from colleges, centers, and departments across the university for a morning in the College Commons, a space in the College of Education Education and Human Ecology.
For those unfamiliar with the unconference model, the primary distinction is that the agenda is not planned in advance. The first activity of the unconference is creating the agenda for the day, based on the interests of the people who attend. Our unconferences have all been a break-out session format, providing four open spaces each hour for the sessions. We typically have more topics than available slots, and through the process of creating the agenda some topics get merged and some unfortunately don’t make it onto the grid.
The breakout session on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) had the biggest attendance by far; reflecting the current high interest in this topic. Some of the other participant-generated topics included Intellectual Property issues, open source collaboration, faculty support, collaborative learning spaces, and distance and blended education. You can see agendas of all of our past unconferences online.
A hallmark of our unconference has been community-generated session notes and resources. For the first several years, we provided computers and projectors, and created an open CarmenWiki page for each session. We encouraged someone from each session to be a scribe for that session to capture some of the discussion. This year we simply provided the pages and links, and whoever was willing to contribute notes could do so from their own devices. This approach was still successful- nine of the twelve scheduled sessions had notes contributed to them. For this unconference, we used CarmenWiki as the launch page, but used Google Docs for each of the session pages, as that platform is a little better at simultaneous editing of documents.
In keeping with the participant-focused concept of unconferences, there are no traditional keynotes. The unconference concludes in the same way it opened, with the participants coming together in a large group. Participants share their take-aways and their feedback on the unconference. The feedback we receive in these sessions is actively used to make changes from year to year- to see what worked well and what could be improved. A common theme in the feedback we receive is how space affects the experience of the unconference. The College Commons is the third location we’ve used, and is well suited for supporting break-out areas while still retaining a sense of the overall group.
The Exploring Learning Technologies community formed in the summer of 2008. Known by the initials ELT, we are a grassroots organized group focused on enhancing teaching and learning by increasing awareness of emerging technology being used at OSU. We welcome faculty, staff, and students. Meetings are typically held the third Friday of each month from 10 to 11:30 in the PAES building. For more info and to see information from past meetings, visit http://go.osu.edu/elt