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.