Challenges in Organizing Online Conferences: Lessons of the COVID-19 Era

Travel restrictions regarding COVID-19 have created new challenges for organizing international scientific conferences. Most of the conferences have to be moved to a fully online format. In our study, we analyzed what challenges it created in organizing the International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies and Technology-Enhanced Learning in July 2020 in Estonia at the University of Tartu.

The conference had 131 attendees from all over the world – this resulted in significant challenges due to differences in time zones and difficulties in engaging and socializing people in an online event. In our study, we collected feedback on conference-organization related challenges from five local organizing team members with different roles in the team. Their interviews were analyzed using an abductive approach.

The results showed that the challenges could be identified through eight main categories: value, management, timing, program, people, protection, scaffolds, and money. In each of them, several sub-categories were specified. It was concluded that there were both advantages and challenges in organizing an online conference compared to a regular one. For example, fewer challenges are related to travel, accommodation, food and drinks, but more attention needs to be paid to supporting the socialization of people, especially those living in different time zones. Another major challenge appeared to be uncertainty related to the conference budget. Significant advantages were that the carbon footprint of the conference was smaller, the conference was more accessible, and it was easier to solve all the technical issues of the participants.

Full article available here: Challenges in Organizing Online Conferences: Lessons of the COVID-19 Era.

Authors: Margus Pedaste, Meriliis Kasemets, University of Tartu, Estonia.

The article has been published in a scientific journal ” Educational Technology & Society”.

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