Meeting the Potential of Hybridity: Access, Equity, and Inclusion

Workshop Session 2

Brief Abstract

Equity and inclusion cannot occur when virtual participants only have access to the Twitter stream. Explore effective ways to engage in hybrid conference attendance.


Rebecca J. Hogue is pursuing a PhD in Education at the University of Ottawa. Her professional background is in instructional design and software quality assurance. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Distributed Learning, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science. She has over 15-years experience as an instructional designer in a variety of contexts (private sector, higher education, medical education). Rebecca teaches courses in digital citizenship, instructional design, and emerging technologies. Rebecca is a prolific blogger, currently sharing her academic experiences ( and her lived experience through breast cancer treatment ( In addition, she and her husband have a travel blog describing their 16-month journey around the world without airplanes (  Rebecca currently resides in Santa Clara, California.
Maha Bali is a passionate critical, open and connected educator, writeaholic and learnaholic. She is Associate Professor of Practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo, where she has worked since 2003. She has a PhD in Education from the University of Sheffield, UK. She is co-founder of and co-facilitator of Equity Unbound ( Her research interests include higher education, faculty development, critical pedagogy and critical thinking, open and online education, intercultural learning, and citizenship education. She teaches digital literacies in an intercultural context, and has taught educational game design, and educational technology for teachers. She is an editorial board member of 6 journals of educational technology and higher education, including Hybrid Pedagogy and OLC's Online Learning Journal. She was featured in the Uncommon Women Coloring Book 2018 alongside 15 others for her 'unparalleled dedication to connecting researchers, activists and practitioners around the globe' and was interviewed in the Leaders and Legends of Online Learning Podcast She blogs at and tweets @bali_maha
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.
I am currently an instructional designer at Cornell University. My primary areas of support include international collaborations, online course development and e-Portfolios. Prior to my position at Cornell I taught marketing in Panama, Santo Domingo, Prague and Lebanon using a blended learning model. I incorporate cloud computing tools to increase engagement while the students work online and for collaborations across cultures. I recently earned my PhD at UAlbany School of Education. The title of my dissertation was Five Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Majors: A Portraiture of their Lived Experiences.

Extended Abstract

A language of access, equity, and inclusion is beginning to permeate professional development experiences for scholars/academics. Widening the range of perspectives in academic conversations is imperative to constructive critical dialogue.

Yet worrisome gaps remain in many of our professional meetings. Especially at educational technology conferences, we can see that technological access is uneven, and on its own, does not necessarily make our gatherings more inclusive or diverse. Physically attending conferences is often limited by prohibitive registration fees, especially when there is no discounted rate for unaffiliated scholars, students. International and distant attendees face additional logistic, financial, and social barriers in order to attend. In addition, some individuals are disadvantaged by factors such as physical disability, or manage responsibilities as primary caregivers for their family. The lack of daycare options may make it impossible for mothers of young kids to participate.

The alternative, virtual access, remains elusive because even if conferences livestream sessions, not everyone has stable and fast Internet infrastructure to view the stream. Few conferences have found ways of providing events for low bandwidth virtual partipants. While on-site participants can informally use tools such as Periscope or Meerkat to provide low-bandwidth alternatives to official live streaming, this measure only partially addresses the need. Even when access to streams is available, the experience for the remote participants is similar to sitting in the cheap seats at a sporting event since the live stream positions virtual attendees as peripheral to the event itself. These cheap seats do not provide virtual participants full access to the experiences at a conference because virtual participants do not have equal opportunities for participation.

While live tweeting and live streaming have dramatically increased virtual conference access, nonetheless true equity and inclusion cannot occur when virtual participants only have access to the Twitter stream and sessions are not designed to include virtual participants. In addition, conference planners regularly neglect to account for the logistics needed by remote presenters, leaving them dependent on the willingness and technical expertise of onsite co-presenters. Also, for presentation authorship, onsite participants are generally privileged with the first author listings, regardless of the role within the presentation team.

The co-presenters in this panel have been experimenting with alternate modes of hybrid participation to help overcome these barriers to conference equity. In our model, the onsite and virtual experiences of a conference merge into something more inclusive and equitable. The model involves using free technologies that work well at low-bandwidth and allow conversation to flow both ways, instead of a simple broadcast. The additional voices of those present via virtual access often help to challenge dominant discourses by providing richness and deeper understanding to discussions of research. Furthermore, virtual participants lack access to what is often the richest part of a conference experience-- the conversations that take place between sessions.

Since the 2015 Emerging Technologies of Online Learning (#et4online) conference, the authors have been pushing the boundaries of what it means to participate in conferences. Our collaborations have included participants who are physically present at the conference (onsite) and those who are attending the conference virtually. We have created an opportunity for virtual participants to have meaningful conversations with onsite participants, presenters, and keynote speakers, essentially creating a hybrid version of the hallway conversations.. While our initial endeavor was driven by a desire by virtual attendees to feel more connected, the result has been an enriched and more meaningful conference experience for all.

We have developed, and continue to refine, practices and approaches that integrate virtual presenters into conferences, and have created a movement that allows for thoughtful and engaging small group discussions relating to conference presentations - virtualizing "the right part" of the conference (Michael Berman, 2015). We have found a way to create a community and increase the social presence of virtual presenters and attendees.

This interactive hybrid workshop will both demonstrate and allow attendees (virtual and onsite) to participate in a hybrid experience. We will show short video clips of past sessions and collaboratively dissect their elements (with virtual and onsite participant input) in order to uncover some of the characteristics that can make hybrid conference participation meet its full potential in different contexts. We do not attempt to delineate unified best practices, but to discuss various models that work for different populations and purposes.

One part of our workshop will discuss an initiative we are all part of: Virtually Connecting (the evolution of #et4buddy piloted a year ago). We will share critical and positive feedback we have received from the perspectives of both virtual and onsite participants, for our attempts to enable more fully hybrid connections. And we hope participants during the session will contribute to the discussion, because even though we strive for inclusion, equity and access, we still have some way to go towards meeting those goals.