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Sunday, December 30, 2007

E-Learning Excellence in the Middle East.

I saw this elearning conference in Dubai orgainised by e-tqm and supported by the Minister for Education about a week ago and was initially quite excited. Somebody in the region is finally going to push elearning. However, after looking at it in detail, the shine seems to be coming off it.

Now call me spoiled but after the excellent CLTI2007 conference I'm starting to expect certain standards from elearning events. Firstly, this may seem obvious, but I want the option to attend online as a webinar! There are a number of reasons for this. I hate travelling to Dubai. One takes one's life in one's hands every time you venture onto the motorway from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and I don't fancy dying just yet. Also, the price of hotels are so expensive and this is a 3 day affair. But the most important is the backchannel. I find this so useful for urls or just general ideas as discussed on Tony Karrer's blog. Also, recorded webinars allow you to browse back through the conference, reflect on points that were made and generally enable you to get more out of it than being forced just to use one's memory.

The next gripe I have is that there is no pre-conference wiki. One of their briefs for the conference is the ability to network. Indeed they promote this as one of the reasons for the conference and, given Siemens' work on the importance of the network and PLEs, rightly so. So, given this, where is the wiki page for attendees at the conference to add their name, details and links to their respective sites? Where is the discussion board space for attendees to talk over what has been presented and collaborate in the shared definitions of what has and is happening? No read/write web here!

As to what is going to be presented, there appears to be quite a diverse list of topics and quite a few business related. As for presenters, a number appear to be from the company organising the conference. Keynote speakers include a few names in industry (Richard Straub) but no trenchline bloggers that I could find. However, that may be down to my ignorance rather than their lack of celebrity.

In my defense, I did google the co-chair and came up with links to two blogs - eduspaces and blogger. However, the first had no posts and the second only had two entries and these were from August and September 2006! The August post had 196 comments - mostly spam for viagra. As for hits, still nobody else has marked it. All does not bode well.

They also say that they will be launching elearning journal?(s) - the International Journal of Excellence in e-Learning and the e-Learning Grid.

Verdict - I don't want to be too downbeat but this seems to have a lot of conference1.0 attributes. Attendees drive to a fixed location, sit passively while experts broadcast their version of the truth. I applaud them for setting this up (though at 1,500 AED/ c. 300 euros for the basic 3 day conference they aren't exactly altristic) but I feel that they could have done this a bit better. After all, it is supposed to showcase E-Learning Excellence in the Middle East!

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