iMoot is a slightly strange conference in that it doesn’t require attendees to scrabble for affordable hotel rooms anywhere within three hours’ drive of the conference centre. You are spared this hassle because it takes place entirely online. Now a lot of conferences have extended into the online space, and this is great for those who can’t attend as it allows them to get a taste for the event and keep in touch with the latest thinking, but obviously the focus is on those who are there – maybe there is some interaction via Twitter which those present can react to, but the online world are observers, not really participants.
There are conferences which take place entirely online. FETC holds a virtual conference which I attended a couple of years ago and was very impressed by. They provided a good mix of exhibitors who provided digital media covering their products, speeches, blogs and forums; all of which contributed to an interesting and informative experience. Not all online conferences reach this level though. The idea is still in its (relative) infancy and is by no means universally accepted by participants. Maybe this is due to ignorance or a bad experience, but one thing is sure – online conferences are here to stay and will only become more pervasive.
Which brings me back to iMoot…
I’ll start with the disclaimer that I am presenting at iMoot this year, so some readers may infer a certain bias in this post. Yes, obviously I think it’s going to provide a good service to attendees, otherwise I wouldn’t have proposed a presentation, but iMoot is in the unusual (and possibly unique) position of offering an online conference using the software that is the subject of the conference – Moodle.
Now I’ve been using Moodle to provide online teaching for eight or nine years and it provides the backbone for my distance learning material, but how will it hold up as a structure for a decentralised conference?
To answer my own question – I’m pretty sure it will do a good job. From the start, Moodle has been open for anyone to create plugins to extend the functionality and a huge number of developers have done just that. Currently there are over a thousand plugins in the official directory which have been downloaded 7.8 million times. It’s used by multinational corporations, universities, single teachers, and everything in between. It’s free!
We’ve reached the fifth iMoot and the motto for this year is “Everyone matters.” This is a concept that fits in well with eLearning as good eLearning design can help a teacher to reach out to a wider range of learners with a wider range of learning issues. I’m not going to repeat the key focus of iMoot in detail as they have done it very clearly here.
To me, iMoot looks like a great option for someone starting out with Moodle and doesn’t yet feel completely self-sufficient. There is a good spread of presentations focusing on the needs of teachers looking to refine their materials. Admins are also catered for, with issues like security and customisation taking centre stage. You can check out the programme of over 60 presentations here. Alone from the list you can see that there is a lot of organisation (not to mention computing power) driving this event, so it’s no surprise that this event isn’t free. It’s obviously up to you to decide whether the costs are justified, but bear in mind how much even one good idea can save you in time and money and the costs involved start to look like extremely good value for money! Added to that, every presentation has time built in for questions from the attendees which means you really do have direct access to experienced Moodle practitioners.
If you are a teacher who would like to get into Moodle but wonders if this is something that can be done alone, then my case study, “Moodle for the Lone Ranger” will look at the single teacher building a site which can compete with a commercial set up.
I look forward to seeing you there!