Lessons Learned from the Educators in VR Conference

Lorelle VanFossen, one of the organizers of the wildly successful six-day Educators in VR 2020 International Summit, recently wrote up a very detailed blogpost outlining the experience of setting up and running a virtual conference on AltspaceVR and four other social VR platforms.

Here’s a link to the entire article on the Educators in VR website, and I would very strongly encourage you to read it in full. However, I will highlight just a couple of things that the Educators in VR group co-founders Daniel Dyboski-Bryant and Lorelle VanFossen, and their hard-working team of volunteers, learned along the way.

Their original plan was only to have 40 to 60 speakers, but that ballooned to 170 speakers in over 150 events spread over 6 days (happening at time zones around the clock for a global audience). Because everybody volunteered their time and energy for this free-to-attend event, the total costs for the entire six-day virtual conference were only around US$300! (Try doing that for a real-world conference!)

Most of the events were held in AltspaceVR:

As our home-base is currently AltspaceVR, we worked with our Educators in VR team and the AltspaceVR events team to ensure our event spaces would be safe and high performance to accommodate a variety of devices. While other virtual social and event platforms are usually limited to 20-50 attendees, AltspaceVR could be easily coaxed to larger room numbers and features the Front Row tool that allows for the mirroring of events spaces, allowing hundreds to thousands of attendees to view the experience from separate identical event spaces, improving overall user and device performance. Accordingly, we hosted the majority of our events in AltspaceVR.

In fact, the team behind AltspaceVR learned so much from hosting this conference that they just announced a slew of new features, including links to Patreon and EventBrite to allow for ticketed events in future!

I’m sure that many new users were introduced to AltspaceVR because of the Educators in VR conference, and both parties benefited from the partnership! The summit also gave ENGAGE, Rumii, Somnium Space, and Mozilla Hubs an opportunity to show off their platforms to those who never experienced them before, too.

Other conference organizers were quick to take note. HTC decided to have its annual Vive Ecosystem Conference in ENGAGE. And both Mozilla Hubs and AltspaceVR were used for the recently concluded IEEE VR 2020 conference, which, for the first time, was held entirely in virtual reality (and opened up for free to the general public) due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Hearty congratulations to Lorelle and Daniel, and a special shout-out to Donna McTaggart, the tireless Summit Coordinator and Manager, and her team of 75 volunteers!

I leave you with a one-and-a-half hour YouTube video where the organizers share what they learned behind the scenes, a must watch!

Lorelle ends her article by saying that they are now taking what they have learned from running the Educators in VR Summit and making that expertise available to others as consultants:

We’re developing training courses to help you produce your own virtual events of all sizes. The Educators in VR team is already providing consultation services to companies exploring virtual meetings and conferences, and negotiating production of virtual conferences and workshops for a variety of companies globally. We planned on taking our time, but with the demand for alternatives due to the COVID-19/coronavirus, we’re stepping up and into this as part of our range of services for working with business and academia to integrate virtual technologies.

If we can assist you, please contact us for more information.

The 13th Annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference Will Take Place in Second Life from March 26th to 28th, 2020

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming…”  If you are looking for my blogposts about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, please click here. I have returned to the original purpose of this blog—covering “news and views on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse”.

The long-running Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) conference will take place in the virtual world of Second Life from March 26th to 28th, 2020. (Last year, over 1,000 people from 30 countries attended the 2019 VWBPE conference.)

The keynote speakers are (thanks to Inara Pey for the details!):

  • Thursday, March 26th – Dr. L. Robert Furman: Dr. Furman is an educator, leader, scholar, speaker and author; he is also a contributing Educational blogger for The Huffington Post as well as Ed Tech Review. 
  • Friday, March 27th – Dr. Michael Thomas: a Professor of Education and a Principal Fellow of the HEA, with a focus on digital learning, social justice, social mobility and the student experience. The title of Dr. Thomas’ keynote is Virtual Worlds and Social Justice: An Impact and Civic Engagement Agenda.
  • Saturday, March 28th – Lorelle VanFossen and Daniel Dyboski-Bryant : Lorelle and Daniel will share their experience creating and running the first-ever Educators in VR 2020 International Summit, which was a resounding success with 160 speakers over six days on five different social VR platforms, and a model for future virtual conferences. The title of Lorelle and Daniel’s keynote is Lessons Learned from the 2020 Educators in VR Conference.
Lorelle VanFossen and Daniel Dyboski-Bryant, Educators in VR

Here is the complete conference program. If you are interested, you can view previous years’ VWBPE conference sessions on YouTube.

See you there!

The Educators in VR 2020 International Summit Opens Today!

Just a reminder that the Educators in VR 2020 International Summit opens today, and will be running events pretty much around-the-clock for its global audience until it wraps up at noon Pacific Time on Saturday, February 22nd. The conference opens at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time today. Among the speakers on the first day are virtual reality pioneer Tom Furness, as well as Alvin Wang Graylin of HTC China.

The complete schedule is at the link above. Many of the events will take place in AltspaceVR, but events will also take place on four other social VR platforms: ENGAGE, rumii, Mozilla Hubs, and Somnium Space. The entire conference is free and open to the public. You do not need a virtual reality headset to attend! The conference events will also be livestreamed to YouTube at this URL.

I will be one of the speakers on the final morning of the Summit, giving two talks: one as a librarian (Social VR and Libraries: A Look Back and a Look Forward) and one as a blogger (Four Lessons Learned as a Social VR Blogger). Here’s a link to the event on the ENGAGE website.

I had my first technical and speech run-through in ENGAGE’s beautiful virtual recreation of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford yesterday:

See you there! I plan to attend as many presentations as possible, before I give my own talks on Saturday. This will be a conference you will not want to miss!

The 2020 Educators in VR International Summit Needs Volunteers (and Donations)

(“We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming…”  If you are looking for my blogposts about the Wuhan coronavirus/2019-nCoV, please click here. I am taking a one-day mental-health break from covering the situation, but I expect to be back at it tomorrow.)

The 2020 Educators in VR International Summit runs from Feb. 17-22, 2020

As you might already know, the largest immersive, all-virtual conference ever is taking place very soon!

The 2020 Educators in VR International Summit, running February 17th-22nd, 2020, features over 160 speakers from around the world presenting across over 200 hours of virtual events, with many live streamed and recorded for future airing on our Educators in VR YouTube channel. Instead of in a physical, real-world location, the Summit will be held across many different social VR platforms: AltspaceVRENGAGErumiiMozilla Hubs, and Somnium Space.

Lorelle VanFossen of the Educators in VR International Summit team has put out a call for more volunteers:

We need volunteers of all skills. Even helping to moderate for an hour or two during the six-day event is helpful. Or an hour or two a day. Or longer. Join this historical event by filling out our Volunteer Form.

The form states:

We are seeking volunteers to assist with the free, open-to-the-public Educators in VR International Summit February 17-22, 2020. This application takes approximately 5 minutes to complete thoroughly.

We are seeking volunteers familiar with moderation, hosting, and filming/live streaming in AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and other social and educational platforms. Your participation will help ensure this 6-day event will be a success.

Educators in VR is an open, global, cross-platform community of educators, learners, researchers, teachers, and trainers exploring and collaborating with and in virtual and augmented reality.

The Educators in VR International Summit is a free and open to the public virtual conference featuring tracks on basic VR training and experiences, virtual language arts, corporate use, computer science and math, computer programming, medicine and science, coaching and personal development, and research into spatial technologies in education.

You may request to volunteer with a specific track, but such a request may not work out, so we appreciate your flexibility.

Experience in event moderation, hosting, or filming and live streaming in VR is highly recommended. Presentation “hosts” may be asked to introduce the presenters, facilitate Q&A, and run slides. Educators in VR will offer training rehearsals for moderation and hosting in the month prior to the event, and you would be required to attend at least one of these events.

Events will be hosted in AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and other social and educational virtual reality platforms. Access to these requires registration for each platform, sharing your username for presentation and moderation privileges, and installation of the software and apps if you are selected to volunteer.

All virtual platforms permit desktop/2D Windows access and most HMDs including Oculus Go, Quest, and Rift, Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, Value, and most devices with access to Steam or the Oculus Store. Volunteering maybe in 2D with quality headphone and microphone or 3D HMD. As a volunteer, you will be responsible for ensuring your device is fully charged, you have backup device access, and you will be able to stay for the full length of the assigned event, unless other arrangements are made.

An active Discord account will be required as all event coordination, discussion, and some event moderation will be managed in our Discord channels for text and voice communications.

I hope that you will be able to volunteer. Here is the volunteer form.

Here is the invitation link to the Educators in VR Discord server.

Here is a link to the final conference schedule, if you want to volunteer to moderate, host, or film a particular session.

My presentation on social VR in libraries will be on Saturday, February 22nd, 2020 from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time, on the ENGAGE platform. You are all welcome to attend! It will be livestreamed from ENGAGE to AltspaceVR, where most of the events are taking place.

My speaker’s badge

If you can’t help out in person, but want to help out financially, the organizers have set up a GoFundMe 2020 Educators in VR International Summit Campaign to help offset the costs of this free and open-to-the-public all-virtual conference. Please consider making a donation.