« Law Professor's Houston Chronicle Op-Ed Gets Arizona Immigration Law Wrong | Main | Paging Dr. Mengele: Medical Experimentation and the CIA Detainees »

Monday, June 07, 2010

Back to the future: an online symposium ... totally

Friday, I gave a presentation in Sao Paulo, Brazil to an international group of lawyers, law students, and professors. Then I drove home in time to beat the Miami traffic.

The symposium was totally on line.  This was a first for me.  After the break, I will describe my experience for interested others. I would be curious to read comments from others about their similar experiences.

Is this the future of academic conferences and continuing legal education?

OK.  Here is how it worked.  I posted a paper on SSRN from a traditional in-person conference back in September 2009 held in Washington, DC. It is about incorporating comparative and international law into my basic con law course.  Here is the link:


The paper got a lot of play ("top ten download" lists for both comparative law and constitutional law) and the conveners of the Annual Meeting of the World Institute for Research and Publication -- Law invited me to participate in their on line symposium to reprieve my talk.  Here is the homepage of the meeting:


I sent in a PDF of my paper and a MP3 sound recording of my talk along with a coinciding set of Power-Point slides.  Those were posted on the website.

Participants and registrants could preview the papers and the talks beforehand.  The organizers also set up an on line forum page for posting comments and questions at any time before or after the formal presentations.

Then, on the day of the symposium, I logged on with a camera and mic attached to my PC.  Attendees could hear me and see me.  I could see some of them.  Others could type their comments and questions and everyone could see what they typed and what I typed in response.  The real time session lasted 1 1/2 hours.

I do not know how many people read my paper.  At the real time session about 7 or 8 people actively participated.  For example, I had a lengthy and animated exchange with a professor of commercial law in Argentina, who wanted to know more about legal education in the US.

My evaluation is that it was a success.  It saved huge amounts of travel funds and equally huge amounts of time for all concerned. Mooting the travel was either a cost or a benefit, I suppose, depending on how you value travel. Obviously it suffers from the remove of technology compared to live, in person interactions.

The one drawback was that the sessions were scheduled in UTC (coordinated universal time).  Some of the sessions I would otherwise have gone on line to attend were scheduled at times like 4:00 a.m. here in Miami.  I was unwilling either to stay up that late (the young person's approach) or to set the alarm that early (the old person's approach).  But that was because there were presenters from all over the world.  If it was a US conference, the organizers would have fewer time zones to coordinate and they could schedule sessions like the TV networks schedule their programs.

So, my question to readers is to ask whether they have had experiences with this kind of totally virtual conference.  What was it like?

Do you think this is the future of academic conferences and continuing legal education in the US?

Posted by Thomas Baker on June 7, 2010 at 09:58 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Back to the future: an online symposium ... totally:


The comments to this entry are closed.