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May 11, 2010

Preparing for the mobile university

We're in the final stages of preparing for this year's Eduserv Symposium, The Mobile University, and now that the programme-setting, speaker-inviting, venue-finding, catering-arranging, badge-making, printing, courriering, hotel-booking and the rest of it are pretty much out of the way (I hope that isn't a case of famous last words) I'm hoping that I can relax slightly and look forward to the talks by Paul Golding, Christine Sexton, Andy Ramsden, Tom Hume and John Traxler as well as the lightning talks by Nick Skelton, Wayne Barry, Simon Marsden and Tim Fernando.

In short, I think we have a great programme.

We also have our biggest audience ever this year (around 280) and we are live-streaming all the talks as usual (done by Switch New Media as per last year) so I'm hoping that we will have a big virtual audience as well.  The stream is open to anyone, so feel free to watch and contribute - check your timings if you are joining us from outside the UK.

There are also a couple of minor changes to the way we have organised things this year:

  • In response to last year's feedback, we have set aside an area of the auditorium, designated as a 'quiet area', where we will ask people not to use laptops and where we will try and avoid capturing people in photos and on the video stream.  This dual use is slightly confusing I guess, but we felt it would be even more confusing to try and segregate people into separate 'no photos' and 'quiet' areas.  We'll see how it goes.  For info... about 20% of this year's delegates indicated that they would like to sit in this area, though it isn't clear whether the preference was primarily for the quiet or the lack of photos - my guess is that it is the former.
  • Last year we used both an online chat room and Twitter to encourage a symposium back-channel (with an emphasis on "use the chat room to ask questions" for remote delegates).  The back-channel was used both in the room and by remote delegates but we felt that the choice of virtual venues caused some confusion as to what was expected to happen where.  This year, we've decided to only use Twitter.  There's a cost to this (for delegates), in that everyone has to sign up to Twitter if they want to take part in the back-channel, but we felt that the time is right to make that particular move.  Again, we'll see how things work out.  If you want to take part in the back-channel, the hash-tag for the event is #esym10.
  • Last year (as in previous years) we set up a social network for the symposium using Ning before the event so that people could introduce each other. This year we sensed that people were feeling somewhat jaded about these kinds of meeting-specific social networks and so we decided against the use of one this time around.  To be honest, such networks rarely seem to get used for anything much in any case.
  • Finally, it wouldn't have been a 'real' mobile event without some use of QR Codes, so please remember to install a QR Code reader onto your smart phone before you leave home.  More info on the day itself.

From an Eduserv perspective the symposium has two objectives... Firstly, to help us understand the impact that 'mobile' might have on both our current services (single sign-on, licence negotiation, web development and hosting, and the data centre) and our potential future services. Secondly, to help the HE community in thinking about how it responds to an increasingly mobile world.

All in all, I'm really looking forward to the event on Thursday and I hope it proves useful to people.  I'll blog again after the event with my own thoughts on how it went and what it might mean.

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