Friday, May 18, 2007

Gutted! No learning innovations conference for Karyn

Rats and double rats! I have learned today that my request to attend the Brandon Hall Innovations in Learning conference in Santa Clara in September has been turned down. Phooey.

Bless the man, my husband thinks I should go anyway, and is determined to do everything in his power to find a way to fund it. I am pretty close to absolutely certain we can't afford it, but his willingness brings a lump to my throat.

The cost of the conference at the early bird rate works out to around £450, which isn't really a great deal of money - less than the cost of many local conferences, in fact. The problem comes in when you start adding things like airfares - the cheapest I have found has been £377 return; hotels - the cheapest being around £32/day and less than a mile from the conference venue; and meals - £?? Plus taxis and shuttles to and from airports and hotels and stuff. Since the really cheap airfare only applies if I stay in the US for a week (a week within spitting distance of San Fransisco, my second favourite city in the world - what a trial!), I would have to pay for a week of hotels and meals. Let's call it £300. I have no idea how much the taxis and shuttles would be, but let's make up a figure based on complete ignorance of £50. Where are we now? £1177. Or roughly $2320. That's a lot of money for an individual person to stump up.

What I do think, though, is that the good folks at Brandon Hall have missed a trick. I'm totally with their view that it helps to get together in person from time to time and online conferences aren't the answer to everything. The thing is though, that online conferences aren't the only alternative. With the technology that is available to them, surely they could have run parallel conferences in major centres around the world (London, Tokyo, Sydney, Cape Town...) via simulcast? That way presenters, vendors and delegates from outside of the USA would be able to participate from a more local venue. I'm fairly sure that for a bunch of wild-eyed learning zealots such as we are the time difference would have been a minor matter. What surprises me most about the fact that this approach has not been adopted is the fact that the conference page displays this little box.

5 comments:

lynn said...

I'd love to go too but similar constraints apply. The London idea is a good one. I'd be there and I'm sure many more would be too.

Karyn Romeis said...

Could be fun to have a conference that runs at weird hours - a bit barcamp-ish!

Janet Clarey said...

Hi Karyn! We (Brandon Hall Research) have discussed many alternate options for delivering the conference. We thought we'd start 'small' for this, our first conference, and see where we could take it. We talked a bit about providing segments virtually but ultimately decided against it for our first go-around. We were concerned about several things - proper resources and losing the hands-on aspect we planned for are the primary drivers. I'm a co-owner of the green initiative. Much like deciding to ride my bike instead of driving, greening does not imply giving up driving but making choices. It's there as a way to rethink decisions and make choices (without giving something up). I hope that makes sense. And, I hope something comes up that makes it possible for you to attend. If I win the lottery...hey ya never know!

Karyn Romeis said...

Hi Janet. Strangely enough, there is a slim possibility that I might make it in September, but I'm not banking on it.

Hopefully in years to come, as you guys get the hang of this, the options will open up for learning professionals around the world. As you see from Lynn's comment, there are takers!

Karyn Romeis said...

In response to this post, I received an email from Gary Woodill, Director Research and Analysis at Brandon Hall in which I think he makes some valid points which deserve a more public hearing. Gary has kindly given permission for me to reproduce part of his email here:

"Dear Karyn,

Thank you for raising the awareness of Brandon Hall Research’s new conference, Innovations in Learning in your recent blog post. Your idea of simulcasting the conference is a good one, but not one we can afford at this time. The cost of having a film crew to shoot 12 simultaneous sessions and send the signal around the world on a rented satellite channel is simply not possible for us. However, we do have a videographer recording highlights of the conference, and this plus other conference materials will be posted on the Brandon Hall Research website after the conference is over for the benefit of those who cannot attend.

This is our first conference, and we want it to be both a success and different than other conferences. That is why we are discouraging handouts and placing conference materials on reusable USB drives, and doing the other things listed when you press our green button. We recognize that being green is only possible to a degree, but all efforts in that direction should be encouraged.

We have tried to price the conference well under similar events, but recognize that coming to California from Europe can be expensive. One alternative is to organize a Brandon Hall Research training event in Great Britain. What I have in mind is a series of one day workshops on emerging learning technologies in different cities in the UK and Ireland, similar to the one I am organizing in Toronto on June 27"