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OERxDomains21 – celebrating a first of firsts

OERxDomains21 is still going on as I am writing this and I am looking forward to some great post-conference workshops closing a week of extraordinary online open education conferencing. If you haven’t already done so, there are a couple of things you don’t want to miss:

  • All the sessions are now openly accessible to all, as part of our commitment to the Open COVID for Education pledge. Browse the keynotes, dig into research, learn about policy making… and get a flavour of the care that every presenter brought to the event.
  • Check out the gallery of remixed conference badges (just below the remixer to make your own).
  • Browse some of the goodness being shared on the #OERxDomains21 hashtag.

No conference is ever a perfect enterprise, and it’s always valuable and welcome to hear feedback of things that could have done better, things to do differently next time.. and how it went for you. If there’s anything you’d like to share with me, email 🙂


For me, my team and the organisation I lead, OERxDomains21 was a conference of firsts…

  1. … the first time we had FIVE Co-Chairs – who brought all their expertise, passion and ideas to bear.
  2. … the first time participants remixed 159 conference badges.
  3. … the first time we recorded 220 of 236 participants synchronously networking online on Discord, flooding the Hallway Chat, Introduction Channel and resource pool with contributions.
  4. … the first time that these two organisations (ALT & Reclaim Hosting), and two conferences (OER and Domains), mashed up together to create this new, joint event bringing two communities together.
  5. … the first time that we delivered a synchronous and asynchronous programme for participants from 18 countries and plenty of time zones for a total of 75 hours of programming.
  6. … the first time that we found streaming platforms that made high quality recordings immediately available to participants and then to the public, enabling late arrivals to catch up and supporting delegates from across the globe.
  7. … the first time we delivered an event with a staff team of 11 (up from the usual 5-6), many of whom had never met before.
  8. … the first time that we delivered an online event without Martin Hawksey, who headed up ALT’s event delivery for the past seven years (waving to you, Mr Hawksey, I hope we did you proud :).
  9. … the first time anyone had the most special TV programme design that went from emails to programme pages and beyond thanks to the work led by Reclaim Hosting, enabling our participants to quite literally step into their own Community TV Channel.
  10. … the first time we managed staff handover between time zones seamlessly between sessions as one staff team ended their day and the other arrived.

There are also plenty of things we did again:

  1. We funded 100% of all eligible scholarship applications, offering financial support to presenters and participants.
  2. We supported nearly 50% of participants in delivering a session, a total of 100+ presenters over 2 days.
  3. We welcomed ALL our volunteer session chairs on time and in the right virtual room – making it possible for our staff team to focus on technical support whilst putting our Conference Committee and speakers centre stage.
  4. We organised the event with an open Committee meeting regularly and all of which notes and minutes are openly accessible in the months running up to the event (thank you!).
  5. We carried out a double blind peer review process – for the first time since the pandemic started.
  6. We supported student speakers to attend and speak at the conference.

My lists could go on… 🙂

The point I want to make, is that it’s not usual for an independent charity like ALT to take risks on this scale to create something that will help sustain the heartbeat of this community for another year. Last year’s OER Conference, which had to be refunded fully and lost tens of thousands of pounds, left the future of the event uncertain and various other factors only increased the risks we were facing.

But we took risks and they paid off. And to quote Jim Groom, it’s been a career highlight for me, to lead my team on a rollercoaster ride which ended in an event we are all proud of. WE WILL DO IT AGAIN.