From Classroom to Conference: The Future of Virtual

While the event industry is largely getting used to the old face-to-face vs. virtual event debate I was surprised by an article in New Scientist (08/09/12) at the extent to which this debate is happening in the US education system.  With a reported quarter of a million children attending online only schools and over half a million experiencing a blended (hybrid) education (mix of virtual and in-person classes) this undoubtedly could stand to impact the way in which we organise events.

Virtual teaching, to my mind (pre-article), was for those living in isolated communities. However, according to this article this is happening increasingly in urban areas such as Oregon and Florida and 30 states now offer online classes. While the percentage of children attending online classes is relatively small, researchers expect continued growth.

Though we already anticipate that the computer/internet savvy Generation Y will want some form of virtual in their events, will this trend mean that virtual and hybrid event solutions experience a rise in the future and become the norm? This could particularly be the case for those ‘learning’ events in accommodating this new educational experience (what is a large conference room in most circumstances if not a scaled up version of the classroom?), particularly if this way of schooling becomes more prevalent elsewhere (think virtual UK university class trials).

As with the event industry the move to virtual has been led by things such as technology being more readily available and the worsening economy (job and funding cuts). Similarly education industry proponents quote learning advantages such as being able to review online material and critics state the lack of face-to-face socialising as a key disadvantage.

Sound familiar? Here’s to the future of hybrid and virtual events.


Dissertation on Hybrid Events

Hi my name is Stefanie Castellanos and I am a final year event management student at Sheffield Hallam University. I am writing this blog as I am currently in the middle of my dissertation (that dreaded word) on hybrid events and I have just launched an online survey for both in-person and virtual attendees.

Hybrid events are events that cater for both in-person and online audiences, they occur simultaneously and create a collective audience that have the opportunity to interact with one another. While full adoption has been relatively slow, it has been reported that hybrid events are one of the fastest growing industry segments. With this level of importance, this research will be crucial in advancing knowledge and addressing current gaps in the literature. For example, current research has focused on the advantages of hybrid events to clients and organisers i.e. in extending the event message or has focused on one event experience where it is assumed that attendees are like-minded. This research will be useful to the industry as it will take an individual, delegate-focused approach in understanding what hybrid events can offer the attendee.
I would be extremely grateful if you could take the time to complete a questionnaire. This should take no longer than five minutes to complete.
Thanks for reading,
Stefanie Castellanos