Case Study: International Online Conference

IOC 2010 Grabs Audience Attention Using New Virtual Graphic Facilitation Service by LearningTimes

Online Learning Services




Online Conference Production


International Online Conference for Teaching and Learning (IOC)


Virtual Graphic Facilitation adds new dimension to online conference.

This year’s International Online Conference (IOC) for Teaching and Learning — the eighth IOC produced by LearningTimes — was three days in length and featured three keynote speakers, 25 live online workshops selected from a highly competitive call for proposals, and dozens of poster sessions.

Challenge and Opportunity

While planning the 8th Annual IOC in 2010, producer LearningTimes considered how to address three opportunities: 1) how to engage the largest number of people and make everyone feel included; 2) how to tap into the greatest variety of learning styles (visual, auditory and action-oriented); and 3) how to make the overall event more engaging than ever. The IOC has a history of being a “playground” for participants to try new technology and tools; so, innovation is valued and appreciated.

Solution: Virtual Graphic Facilitation

The nature and structure of the IOC seemed the ideal venue to introduce Virtual Graphic Facilitation (VGF), a unique service developed and offered by LearningTimes that turns ideas into amazing images – in real time. A professional illustrator captures, organizes and interprets the ideas shared by presenters and participants. All attendees can see the drawing take shape and use it to track how the discussion points fit together. The magic happens as the big picture emerges from the sum of all the parts. Participants leave with a digital copy of this useful record of the collaboration.

LearningTimes decided to open and close IOC 2010 with this additional component, and worked closely with the speakers and subject matter experts to maximize the effectiveness of VGF.

The Conference opened with a provocative keynote by recognized online community leader Nancy White, entitled “Should We Be Using Communities for Learning.” The illustration created in real-time appears below:

Although no stranger to graphic illustration, this was White’s first time experiencing it virtually, in real time online, and she saw it as an amazing and useful way to augment a presentation, especially one centered around brainstorming and audience-driven content. White commented that she was already thinking of ways to restructure her talks in the future to better take advantage of the remote scribing and visual graphics, including allowing for more reflection time for the speaker and audience to absorb the emerging visuals.

VGF need not be “all or nothing” – it can be brought up as needed, used throughout an entire session or brought on for a certain activity, such as brainstorming. For example, the closing session with Dr. Susan Manning and Kevin Johnson, co-authors of “Online Education for Dummies” featured VGF at intervals — during the presentation, and then throughout the discussion session, when attendees were asked “What questions do you have about helping your learners learn online?” This was loose and open-ended and throughout, the illustrator succeeded in making a cohesive map of the discussion.


Virtual Graphic Facilitation gives the audience an evolving image to focus their attention and helps make the web environment relevant. “It provides a certain clarity of thought,” said LearningTimes executive producer and IOC facilitator, Jonathan Finkelstein. “It’s almost like seeing tracks in the snow.” VGF actually encourages audience contributions, as people think, “If I say something, how will it show up in the illustration?” This adds a wonderful element of surprise and even more fully engages the participant. Lastly, the digital final drawing is an excellent memento and record of the event. LearningTimes has even printed the drawings on t-shirts and mugs and helped presenters frame their final illustrations for ongoing enjoyment.

LearningTimes offers Virtual Graphic Facilitation to enhance one-time webcasts or entire virtual conferences. The Smithsonian Problem Online Conference on Problem Solving, for example, featured LearningTimes VGF for nearly every session. Framed and printed versions of the final illustrations now hang in curatorial and research offices at the Smithsonian, and hundreds of teachers have printed them to augment in-class activities with students.


“Participants at meaningful live online events should never question why they needed to assemble at a specific time,” says Jonathan Finkelstein of LearningTimes. “Virtual Graphic Facilitation adds a special element of creativity and reminds everyone that we are not gathered to hear a story, but to create one together.”

Want to try Virtual Graphic Facilitation? Find out how LearningTimes can make your live online programs memorable and learn more.


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