Online conferencing home page


Traditional conferences mean participants have to travel and stay in a particular place. This takes time and is expensive. But an online conference uses the Internet as a conference venue. This means that participants can access the conference from anywhere in the world and can do this at any time, using standard browser software. Participants will be able to log on as little or as much as they wish - before, after or during office hours. They are given a password to access the various conference and seminar groups as well as closed discussion groups. Anyone with access to the Internet can participate.

We're not saying an online conference is invariably better than a normal, face to face conference (though it can be!), but it is different, and has lots of advantages:

  • cheaper - because there is no travel, and no accommodation is required;
  • more convenient - you can access it at any time you want, from anywhere with an Internet connection;
  • high level of participation - typically, more people will actively participate in an online conference than in a face to face conference, and the standard of the discussions is often higher;
  • wider spread of participants - our second Supporting Deaf People conference had delegates from nineteen countries and five continents;
  • and there is a permanent record of proceedings.

Online conferences are synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both. An example of asynchronous conferencing is the discussion forum type of conference, where people post messages, which the system stores, and which other people can respond to when they log on. This is excellent for carrying on a discussion over some time, typically, in our conferences, a few days (though we are also running some conference forums which last much longer periods, of up to a year).

Examples of synchronous conferencing are live chat, or live web casting. For example, we produced a series of live web casts, where presenters gave talks backed up by PowerPoint presentations. The conference delegates were able to watch, listen, ask questions, etc. Such web casts can be recorded, and viewed later.


Our online conferences are more than just a simple bulletin board. They can include features such as:

  • online polls
  • mailing lists
  • RSS feeds
  • Wiki
  • web logs
  • instant messaging
  • collaborative document editing
  • personal and shared calendars
  • and much more!

Online conferencing and staff development

A short paper describing the advantages of online conferencing for staff development is available in PDF format. Download it here.


The JISC e-Leaning team have held a number of online conferences which have brought together a selection of key innovators within e-Learning to discuss the current and future impact of using technology to support learning and teaching. In this podcast Lou McGill of the JISC speaks to Judith Mole and Geoff Minshull, of conference organisers Direct Learn, who discuss the issues of staging a major international conference totally online. Download the podcast (about 12 Mb).