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.

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The Educators in VR 2020 International Summit, February 17th-22nd, 2020, in AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, Rumii, and Other Social VR Platforms

This morning, I decided to submit an application to be a speaker about applications of social VR to libraries at the upcoming Educators in VR 2020 International Summit, which will run from February 17th to 22nd, 2020. Wish me luck! I’m crossing my fingers that my proposed talk will be accepted!

Instead of a physical real-world location, the entire conference will take place on various social VR platforms, including:

AltspaceVR is actually a pretty good choice as a platform for this conference, since it is pretty much accessible to almost everybody, including flatscreen PC users (although I still object to the cartoony avatars from a purely aesthetic standpoint 😉 …).

Picture taken at the first Educators in VR meetup in AltspaceVR, October 2018

Here’s a brief description of the summit, taken from their website:

The 2020 Educators in VR International Summit is a free, open-to-the public, virtual event lasting 6 days (over 80 round-the-clock hours) with a diverse range of speakers and presentations covering:

• The Basics of VR/AR/XR/MR
Research into Spatial Technologies in Education
Corporate Uses for Training and Education
Language Arts Training, Education, and as a Classroom
Coaching and Personal Development
Medical and Science
Computer Science and Math
Student Maker/Creator Projects, Collaborations, and Apps
Virtual Applications and Hardware for the Classroom

And so much more. We have topics under consideration covering the use of social media with virtual reality, education in religion and virtual worlds, world building, VR/AR app development, social and educational VR platforms, and open discussions with some of the world’s foremost experts in education and integrating extended reality.

The Educators in VR group that is putting on this event is an open, international, cross-platform community of educators, researchers, and trainers exploring and collaborating with and in virtual and augmented reality. They host weekly meetups in AltspaceVR on Tuesdays. They also have an active Discord server (here’s the invite link to join if you are interested). They’re also on Facebook and Twitter.

Even if I am not accepted as a speaker or panelist at the summit, I do plan to attend as much as I can of this event! The best part is, I don’t have to spend any money on conference fees, or buy a plane ticket to fly anywhere! (Trying to fit my tired, old, fat ass into economy airline seating for several hours at a stretch is no longer my idea of a fun time.)

If you wish to submit a proposal yourself to present at the conference, here is the link (the deadline is December 30th, 2019). The summit is also looking for volunteers; here is the link to apply if you want to help out.

Rumii: A Brief Introduction

Rumii.png

Rumii is a social VR app intended for business and educational use. A January 2018 UploadVR profile on Rumii notes:

With over 500 companies signed up in Early Access after launching last year, rumii is a social VR app with a difference. Instead of meeting up with friends to share videos, hang out and play games, the app is designed as a professional tool for work meetings and education spaces. Aiming to replace video conferencing, users adopt virtual avatars and then communicate over voice chat while sharing materials over a range of features like desktop sharing, 3D model loading and web browsing.

Among its features, Rumii offers a 3D model loader, a whiteboard, screen sharing, and file sharing. Rumii offers free and paid plan pricing. It is available on Steam.