The World-Wide Campfire: Video Conferencing Done Right

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

Video conferencing is one of the most powerful tools for world-wide collaboration ever invented. Based on experience facilitating dozens of video conference experiences incorporating hundreds of participants from five continents, the leaders will demonstrate why video conferencing matters, and what makes a video conference succeed - or fail.


Autumm Caines is a liminal space. Part technologist, part artist, part manager, part synthesizer she is passionate about the use of technology in higher education and the many differing facets of how technology impacts society and culture. She likes spending time at the place where differing disciplines intersect. Autumm is an Instructional Designer at St. Norbert College and is a Co-Director in the Virtually Connecting movement. Virtually Connecting is a volunteer based network that uses synchronous video technology to have conversations between participants and presenters who are at conferences with those who could not attend. Autumm uses her work in Virtually Connecting to explore questions of access, virtual presence, online conversation, spontaneity in virtual environments, networking, and professional development.
Exploring technology as if people matter. Learner, teacher, instigator & lover of life.

Extended Abstract

Nearly everyone attending OLC Innovate has experienced video conferencing, but we believe that the true importance and impact of video conferencing as a world-changing technology has been often misunderstood and overlooked. If we can move beyond thinking of video conferencing as an enhanced audio conference and a poor substitute for face-to-face participation, we can begin to achieve the transformative opportunities offered by modern video conferencing tools.

In the spirit of “walking the walk”, one presentation leader will be present at the conference, and a second will participate via video conferencing. In addition, the leaders will invite participation of other experienced video conferencing leaders from their personal networks to participate in the session by interacting with the audience. The mix of video conferencing and face-to-face conversation will provide an environment that will encourage experiential learning for the participants as well as providing a highly engaging framework to discuss the issue.

The leaders will begin by examining the impact of video conferencing:

  • Reducing the impact of travel: a single long distance airline flight generates 2 to 3 tons of carbon dioxide impact on the environment per passenger ( - 10% to 15% of the average carbon footprint for an American. So flying to two conferences a year can increase a person’s carbon footprint by 50% or more.

  • Video conferencing can enable participation by the disenfranchised. The ability to travel often depends on the financial wherewithal of an individual or their institution. Caregivers often have a particularly difficult time traveling. For some individuals with disabilities, travel or participation in a crowded meeting may be impossible. And international travel is both expensive, and sometimes blocked by government border policies. Video conferencing has the potential to open doors and broaden conversation in ways that were never before possible.

However, simply having access to video conferencing tools is not enough. We have all experienced video conferencing that has been unsatisfying, frustrating, or even infuriating. In order to promote the inclusion and equal participation of remote participants, we need to redesign our interactions and spaces with attention to the technical environment, but even moreso the social and psychological factors that promote effective communication. Based on their extensive experience facilitating conversations through the Virtually Connecting ( collective, as well as experience on their campuses, the leaders will walk the group through an interactive discussion of what works and what doesn’t when creating and facilitating a video conference experience.

Participants will leave brimming with new enthusiasm and ideas for how to use video conferencing to enhance learning and working environments, and with practical tips and techniques that they can apply to create more effective communication at a distance.