Learning Camp – A New Kind of Conference

Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed an increasing dissatisfaction with the kind of technology conferences being run in the UK, or at least in the way they’re run. Some of this has been virtual, such as these blog posts by Donald Clark, Clive Shepherd and Mark Betherlemy, but this has also come up in conversations with a lot of people.

It’s not my reading of any of these conversations that they want to see the current conferences replaced (although I may be wrong), but rather that they want another option (something ‘alternative’ rather than ‘an alternative to’).

Of course it’s easy to be critical of the status quo, and much harder to change it. This quotation from Terry Pratchett says it very nicely.

“So many people tut and say “Someone should do something”, but so few step forward and say “…and that someone is me”

With that very much in my mind, it happened that a couple of weeks ago I was talking with Jane Hart when the topic moved on to conferences and the usual ‘someone needs to do something’ conversation followed. What was different was that we decided we would be the ‘someone’ who did something; and so Learning Camp was born.

We’ve started the ball rolling over at http://learningcamp.org and if you have any desire to take part in or attend the first event, or help shape what it could become in the future, please complete the survey and follow the Twitter account for updates – more information on both can be found on the Learning Camp website. There’s not much on the site at the moment, but I can promise you that more will be happening in the next few weeks.

And finally, if you’re one of those people who has ever suggested that ‘something should be done’ you can expect to hear from us soon. Together we have an opportunity to do something, so now’s the time for all of us to either put up or shut up.

7 thoughts on “Learning Camp – A New Kind of Conference”

  1. Barry – just what the doctor ordered. This makes sense as, like many others, I am not able to attend full-blown conferences due to time and costs (more the cost of them than anything else) so something in the virtual world would help me attend.

    Also worth noting is that there are often different streams at the ‘real’ conferences that are offering subjects and talks that are of interest to me which, due to not being able to be in two places at once, means I have to prioritise in the hope I choose the right talk to go to. Making it virtual, and hoping you’re thinking about recording and archiving as well, means I can attend everything that is of interest to me, even if it is not at the same time as everyone else.

    All the best, I’ll be keeping an eye open on this, so please shout if you think I can help.


  2. Sounds good……
    1) Don’t replicate
    2) Be contentious
    3) Quality not quantity
    4) Use social media
    5) Have clear outputs

    My own view would be to embed this within an exiting organisation, such as ELN, rather than creating yet another entity – but wouldn’t die for that idea.

  3. Barry,

    I attended a UK recruitment unconference last week, which was generally successful, and a particularly good forum for creating and developing relationships between attendees.

    It wasn’t anything like as democratic as what you’re planning here, however, and I commend the desire to let those attending shape what they attend.

    I very much hope to be with you at the event.

  4. These kinds of events can work really well. I have been running a fair few unconferences over the last couple of years for various groups and communities in FE.

    Some ideas that you might want to consider can be read from my blog.


    Or well listened to, as one is a podcast.

    One thing you may want to consider that this may have one downside in that what we want to see and discuss might not always correlate with what we need to see and discuss. This is not so much about dictating what the audience should see, but ensure that they are informed about issues and subjects which they may have not considered fully or dismissed as not relevant (though it might be).

    1. Apologies to everyone for not responding sooner; it seems that I’m not getting notification of new comments.

      @jamesclay – Thanks for the link, you have some great content which I’ll certainly be learning from. You raise a very interesting point with regard to what people need to see. I’m not sure what the answer is, this is certainly something we need to consider.

      @joningham – It’s encouraging to know that others are doing similar things. We’re committed to the democratic approach, although it remains t be seen how well it works. There will be a lot to learn as we build this first conference. I do hope you can join us.

      @donaldclark – All five points are bang on, and we aim to satisfy them all. I know you’ve commented in the past about there being too many organisations representing elearning the UK, but we’re not attempting to create another. The goal is that the conference is free of influence from or obligation to any particular entity.

      @lynnwernham – Thanks, they’ll be more updates soon.

      @hopkinsdavid – We’re looking into the options for using video ( live streamed or recorded for access after the event, or maybe both). The cost of doing it is the only barrier.

      @berthelemy – Thanks 🙂

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