How MOOCs are Similar to Virtual Events (and Quite Different, Too)

October 19, 2013

Can you say MOOC?
Photo credit: Flickr user audreywatters via photopin cc

Introduction

In Boston this past week, I attended one marketing conference and walked past another. I scanned the schedule of the other conference and saw a recognizable set of popular topics: mobile, big data, social media.

And then I noticed a session on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and their role in the future of education. That evening, I met a college buddy for dinner and we talked about MOOCs. He was experimenting with them and even received a few certifications from completing an online course.

So this got me thinking about MOOCs and their growing popularity. In doing so, I was drawn to the many similarities they have with virtual events. Let’s consider a few.

How MOOCs are Similar to Virtual Events

Extended Reach to a Global Audience

Extended reach across the globe
Photo credit: Flickr user DonkeyHotey via photopin cc

MOOCs, like virtual events, can reach anyone with an Internet connection. Whether you’re in Paris, France or Paris, Texas, it doesn’t matter.

The New York Times ran a piece about a boy who attended several courses via MIT’s MOOC from his home in Mongolia. And that’s the power of an online platform. Traditionally, your event or your college course required your physical presence. Today, anyone can attend from anywhere.

Disrupting Business Models and Conventions

The emergence of MOOCs and virtual events disrupted venues and formats with hundreds (or thousands) of years of history (e.g. education and events).

When disruption hits an industry, some seek out the change, while others combat it. We’ve seen these dynamics in both the education and events industries. The disruptive force, though, needs to seek and refine a sustainable business model. MOOCs are finding their way. Virtual events have not proven to be self-sustaining, financially.

The Power of Online Collaboration

MOOCs and virtual events help people find and discover new connections (online) and facilitate a degree of collaboration that wouldn’t have happened face-to-face.

In MOOCs, online students can answer each other’s questions (which would be rude to do in the middle of a lecture), while also grading each other’s assignments.

In a virtual event, 50 attendees can simultaneously chat and brainstorm a topic, in a way that just wouldn’t be possible (with that many people) in-person.

Ultimately, the power of online collaboration can lead to face-to-face connections and experiences. The boy from Mongolia (Battushig Myanganbayar) ended up attending MIT. And the girl in Paris, France will end up traveling to the conference that she first attended online.

How MOOCs are Quite Different from Virtual Events

There are important differences between MOOCs and virtual events – and these differences give MOOCs a higher likelihood of finding a sustainable and successful business model.

Education is a More Basic Need

The need for education is basic
Photo credit: Flickr user One Laptop per Child via photopin cc

TED conferences are an exception. In B2B, the majority of conferences and events are for industry gatherings and professional associations. In other words, places you go once you’ve started your professional career.

Higher education, on the other hand, is what many seek in order to land their first job. And because of the high cost of higher education, some families have never sent a single person to college.

MOOCs can now provide a taste of that education to any family member.  They’re also relevant to those already in the workforce who want to stay current in their industry or branch out into others.

Conceived by Insiders

Let’s consider some well-known MOOCs: Coursera, edX and Udacity. They were founded by professors at Stanfard, MIT and Harvard. In other words: insiders identified the need, built the platform and formed companies to find sustainable business models.

It’s the insider angle that gives MOOCs their advantage: an insider appreciates the complexities of the system in a way no outsider can. And, the insider has valuable connections that would take outsiders a long time to assemble.

Virtual events platforms were built by entrepreneurs, who partnered with the insiders (event professionals) to find a sustainable business model. Advantage: MOOCs.

Technology Advancement

Virtual events emerged circa 2005-2006. At the time, Twitter didn’t exist, Facebook was just opening its service outside college campuses and the iPhone had yet to be created.

MOOCs emerged several years later, to an entirely different world: a world of social media, pervasive mobile device usage, lower bandwidth costs and more convenient video production/streaming capabilities.

Technologies like USTREAM and Google+ Hangouts have made it a cinch to broadcast live video from anywhere. As a result, they’ve raised the bar for vendors who provide similar services. If only virtual (and hybrid) events had it so easy back in 2006.

A Focus on the Core Unit (the Lecture)

The college lecture
Photo credit: Flickr user pinelife via photopin cc

MOOCs found success by focusing on the core unit of their offering: the online course. Virtual events, on the other hand, charted a more complex route by attempting to re-create the conference experience in 3D or pseudo-3D.

Virtual events had elaborate lobbies and lounges, and an exhibit floor complete with virtual booths. MOOCs have not attempted to re-create the quad, the library steps and the dining hall (although online eating may be possible one day with 3D printers).

Over time, virtual events adapted to focus more on the content and less on the virtual furniture. MOOCs have focused on the core content from the start.

Conclusion

Massively Open Online Events. Would virtual events have evolved differently if we used an alternative name? Probably not. MOOCs, while similar to virtual events, have a number of advantages.

I’ll be watching to see how their business model evolves. And like my college buddy, I’ll have to spend a few evenings attending an online course myself.

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5 Ways, Tips, Things and Reasons on Virtual Events and Social Media

March 26, 2012

Introduction

Regular readers (and pattern matchers) know that many of my 2012 posts have been lists of five. Continuing with my fondness for lists, I thought I’d make a list of lists. So without further ado, here are assorted “lists of five” posts that I recently published.

Google+

5 Ways to Get Started with Google Plus.
5 Tips for Organizing Your Google+ Circles.
5 Tips for Hosting Google+ Hangouts.
5 Reasons Google Plus May Be the Social Network of the Future.

As a special bonus, I’ve organized the four posts (above) into an eBook, which you can download here.

Events

Top 5 Ways Virtual Events Are Like Football Games.
5 Ways Face-to-Face Events Are Like Family Reunions.
5 Hybrid Event Tips for Trade Associations.

Social Media

5 Things I’ve Learned About Pinterest.
5 Things Virtual Event Platforms Can Learn from Pinterest.
5 Reasons I’m Breaking Up With You, TweetDeck.
5 Reasons “Words With Friends” Is Awesome.


5 Hybrid Event Tips for Trade Associations (via @EastVirtual)

February 23, 2012

Learn more about hybrid events (for trade associations) at the EastVirtual Event Workshop, March 21, 2012 at the ASAE Conference Center in Washington D.C.

Read the full post: http://www.eastvirtual.com/5-things-trade-associations-should-know-about-launching-a-hybrid-event/

Introduction

I wrote a guest post for EastVirtual, providing trade associations with five tips on launching a hybrid event. A number of trade associations have led the way with hybrid events (e.g. NAB, ADA, AIA) – if you’re a trade association, you should consider adding a digital extension to your physical event (creating a hybrid event).

The 5 Tips

My 5 tips are:

  1. Extend your reach.
  2. Drive attendance to your face-to-face event.
  3. Start small, then adapt.
  4. Create value for your sponsors.
  5. Put technology to good use.

To read the full post, visit the EastVirtual Event Workshop site:

http://www.eastvirtual.com/5-things-trade-associations-should-know-about-launching-a-hybrid-event/


Event Planning Tips Courtesy of the Times Square Ball

December 26, 2011

Image courtesy of “Between a Rock” on flickr.

Introduction

As we count down to midnight on New Year’s Eve each year, our attention is focused on Times Square in New York City. There, a ball made of Waterford Crystal descends 77 feet in 1 minute. When the ball touches the ground, millions of people, both on-site and watching remotely, cheer, “Happy New Year!”

For every New Year’s Eve growing up, I made sure to stay awake to watch the count-down on television. In college one year, some classmates and I decided to brave the cold and experience the celebration in person. We never did get close enough to see the ball drop, but “just being there” was worth it.

Let’s consider aspects of the Times Square Ball that you can apply to your events.

Create a Focal Point

What is “New Year’s in Times Square” known for? The Times Square Ball, of course. What is your event known for? If there’s no clear answer to that question, then you should create one. Figure out something unique and special to focus attention around. Perhaps it’s the game show that you host or the great evening entertainment you bring in each year. Create a compelling focal point and you make your event memorable.

Build Up to a Compelling Close

The Times Square Ball is 60 seconds of “action,” but people gather in the square 8 or more hours earlier. Having a “compelling close” to your event helps to build up anticipation, which makes the “close” all the more compelling. Make sure your events have that “can’t miss moment.”

Create a Tradition

According to Wikipedia, “The first New Year’s Eve celebration in the area was held in 1904.” If you combine a great event with a compelling focal point, you create a tradition. A tradition helps to build brand recognition around your event. And, it gives people a reason to return to your event next year.

Create a Digital Extension to Your Event

According to Wikipedia, one million gather in Times Square (at the face-to-face event), while one billion watch on television. Television creates a digital extension that allows the entire world to catch a glimpse of the Times Square celebration. And just like B2B events, the live broadcast of the Times Square “event” doesn’t cannibalize your audience, it encourages attendance at the face-to-face event the following year.

Create a Programming Channel for Your Event

New Year’s in Times Square has “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” (now Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest) and many other programs. Your event needs a programming channel that on-site and remote attendees can tune in to. In the same way that Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest convey what’s happening in Times Square, your event needs a virtual emcee to connect with your digital audience.

Conclusion

Isn’t New Year’s in Times Square a great “event?” It’s got a focal point, a tradition, a compelling close and a great set of hosts. I’ve been “attending” for years and look forward to this year’s event. Now that I live on the West Coast, however, I’ll have to tune in at 9pm local time. Happy New Year!


#HybridEvents: A Look Back and A Look Ahead via @bXbOnline

October 20, 2011

Read my guest post: http://bxbonline.com/blog/2011/10/the-last-four-years-and-the-next-four-years-in-virtual-and-hybrid-events/

Introduction

When I attended my first virtual trade show four years ago, I said to myself, “This is the future of online lead generation.” At the time, I was managing webinar programs for technology advertisers. They’d do 60-minute, audio-based webinars and hope to generate leads to fuel their sales pipeline. At this virtual trade show, those same “leads” attended an online event for hours and had the opportunity to have real-time engagements with those same advertisers. The users loved it and the advertisers loved it.

Fast forward to today and we’ve significant growth in virtual trade shows. But we’ve also seen the underlying technology platforms applied to many other uses, including virtual job fairs, virtual product launches and importantly, hybrid events.

While some appear before Congress and state that they’re “not here to talk about the past,” I’d like to quickly look back and enthusiastically look forward. Let’s take it in four year intervals, shall we?

To read the full post, visit the bXb Online blog:

http://bxbonline.com/blog/2011/10/the-last-four-years-and-the-next-four-years-in-virtual-and-hybrid-events/


Pondering The Future With PCMA, VEI and … Event Camp?

October 16, 2011

Note: The thoughts expressed in this post are my own.

Introduction

Recently, the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) announced that it received a strategic investment from the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). Michelle Bruno, in her Fork In the Road blog, provided some great insights on this partnership, in a posting titled “Why PCMA’s Investment in the Virtual Edge Institute Means More than Just Cash.”

Michelle commended PCMA for endorsing an open source model “to unlock the innovation around virtual and hybrid event technology.” I think PCMA should create a trifecta by making a strategic investment in Event Camp (EC). Commenting on this point via Twitter, Michelle tweeted, “Agree. Event Camp Europe gave me the idea about open source innovation in event context.”

Let’s dive into the potential benefits.

Funding

Event Camp has achieved great things to date. They’ve used their own hybrid events (“Event Camps”) to experiment and innovate on meeting and event planning. They’ve reached these heights primarily from the passion of their volunteer organizers and secondarily from supporting sponsors.

And while I believe that innovation can result from budgetary constraints, imagine the possibilities with an investment from an organization such as PCMA. I believe that a stronger financial foothold will create ever more innovative and engaging Event Camps.

Colocation

Event Camp meetings would have a lot to gain by colocating with PCMA gatherings, in the same way that Virtual Edge Summit benefited from its colocation with PCMA Convening Leaders.

In the future, this trifecta could kick off the calendar year with colocation of three events (in one): PCMA Convening Leaders, Virtual Edge Summit and Event Camp National Conference. Given that several PCMA members are key contributors to Event Camp, colocation makes all the more sense.

In addition, there are additional PCMA events that may stand to benefit from VEI and EC involvement, such as the mid-year PCMA Education Conference.

Feeder Organization

Talk about synergy. Event Camp can spin out innovation via experimentation. The innovation fostered is then fleshed out, refined and documented. In this way, Event Camp becomes a feeder organization into Virtual Edge Institute’s certification programs and PCMA’s educational programs.

Open Source Innovation

Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt) did a great interview with Nick Balestra (@nickbalestra) about Event Camp Europe titled, “Using Open Source to Remix Your Event.” According to Balestra, “creating events can be somehow similar, so taking an open-source approach while thinking about your events can lead to  smarter ways to create them.”

As Michelle Bruno stated in her piece, PCMA and VEI are supporting an open source model for the benefit of the entire events community. Event Camp, with their model built around “innovation from experimentation” would be a perfect fit for this open source event model to further grow and flourish.

Conclusion

I have a dream to one day visit every major league baseball park in the U.S. and Canada. On the meetings and events side, perhaps I’ll one day be able to attend PCMA Convening Leaders, Virtual Edge Summit and Event Camp in one fell swoop. As for the MLB parks, that’ll have to wait till retirement.

Related Posts

  1. My Thoughts: Virtual Edge Institute’s Digital Event Strategist Certification

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