Virtually Connecting is a connected learning community that is reshaping the ways we think about professional collegiality. In a traditional model of professional development, conferences have always been the key location to build conversations and connections. In the era of the conference hashtag and the meeting back channel, claims have been made that it is easier to keep up with conference conversations, even from afar. But, despite the fact that knowledge is often shared via presentation slides and keynotes are often livestreamed online, this online sharing is still a distant second to the in-person experience. What is missing is the key opportunity to network and converse with people in between the scheduled conference events, the hallway conversations. What is difficult to experience from a distance is that transformational learning that results from immersing yourself in a dialogue with co-learners who are talking about the very same things you care about.
A founding purpose of @VConnecting is to enliven virtual participation in academic conferences, widening access to a fuller conference experience by connecting onsite conference presenters with virtual participants in small groups. Using available technologies, virtual conference attendees can meet and talk with conference presenters. VC is a volunteer effort, and its ranks have grown considerably since Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue founded/ piloted VC in early 2015. Along with third principal member Autumn Caines, in just a couple of years, VC has grown a long list of “virtual buddies” who infuse this work with both energy and insight. Each VC session is recorded and livestreamed, to allow additional virtual attendees to participate in the discussion by listening and asking questions via Twitter. At the heart of this effort is a commitment to building and strengthening relationships. Virtually Connecting helps people not only make new connections, but also make nascent connections stronger. The @VConnecting manifesto highlights a key value to be inclusive, while also recognizing that inclusion is indeed an elusive and ever-present challenge.
There will be different Virtually Connecting sessions throughout the DML 2016 conference (including an onsite conference panel and other online-connect sessions) with a wonderful roster of onsite and offsite guests:
What is special about the emergence of Virtually Connecting as a new #connectedlearning community is the foundational commitment to equity and access when attempting to design new professional learning networks. Virtual Connecting is genuinely interested in lessening that gap between center and periphery, between local participant and distant observer. VC seeks to expand access to smart and dynamic conversations by including many kinds of learners. It is this kind of connecting that will make a difference by transforming our collective sense of collegiality, by opening up the entry points for new knowledge production, and by helping identify our shared purpose. The Digital Media and Learning Conference motto is: “Let’s Build. Let’s Design. Let’s Solve.” Virtually Connecting is a key facet of that DML commitment.
Banner image credit: DML Research Hub