Friday, February 26, 2010

Ragan webcast: My window into distance learning

So there I was, sitting at home with my laptop computer, watching Social Media guru Brian Solis live from the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta talking about the future of social media. And I wasn’t just watching and listening, I was engaging in conversation with dozens of people through Twitter, discussing his presentation as he delivered it – and making new connections. It was my first complete “distance learning” experience, and it was awesome.

The Ragan Communications 3rd Annual Social Media for Communicators Conference was held Tuesday and Wednesday of this week in Atlanta. It included three tracks, with nearly 30 speeches, discussions and workshops. For the cost of just the conference fee (no travel, no hotel, no meals), I was able to watch every Track 1 workshop live. And Ragan is going to send me a DVD of all three tracks within a couple weeks, so the learning continues. (I participated in the live conference from home rather than the office to avoid all the distractions – phones calls, walk-ins, “crises” – of office work.)

Yes, attending a conference in person has its advantages. You meet people face-to-face, you connect, interact and network in a very personal manner. But this is the age of social media, and I found a way to do that, to at least some extent, without being there. The conference employed the Twitter hashtag #ragancoke, which allowed all of us Twitter users to develop a live online community where we could communicate our thoughts and reactions to what we were seeing and hearing. Not only did I enjoy reading the Tweets from others who were in the audience and participating from home, like me, I “followed” everyone who Tweeted a comment that interested me. As a result, I now have developed more than 40 new ongoing Twitter connections – people interested in the same topics as me … people who have expertise in the area of social media and regularly share information with me, educate me and stimulate me to keep learning and adapting. As a result of these quality connections, I learn something new – or find a link to valuable information – every time I check in on my Twitter page.

Of course, distance learning is not new, but it is moving rapidly into the mainstream. Every school and institution of higher education is at least toying with the use of distance learning, and many have developed extensive distance learning programs.

Attending this conference online, I found great value in distance learning. Yet, I recognize that being a professional attending a conference through a webcast is very different than being a student attending a public school class.

Many of you have had extensive experience with distance learning, both as providers and consumers. What do you think? To what extent will schools be employing distance learning 10 years from now? What will our public schools look like? What are the advantages and opportunities, and what do we need to watch out for?


  1. Bill,

    Thanks so much for your kind words.

    So much behind-the-scenes work went into that webcast, not only by the staff at Ragan and Coca Cola Co. but by our wonderful partner Qumu.

    It makes us all feel great that you enjoyed it.


  2. Hi Bill,
    Glad you liked the Webcast. I was at this event, but I've done Ragan Webcasts before and really enjoyed them. Twitter really allows you to become part of the group at the event. I thought about doing this conference by Webcast, but the info said that Track 1 was the only track being 'cast. Is the DVD of the other tracks extra or part of the conference fee you already paid? If I knew I could get a DVD of all of the tracks, I would have stayed home in my PJs and socialized via Tweets. But, I gotta tell ya, Mark Ragan smells great! :)

  3. The DVD is covered by the conference fee. The Webcast worked great. I never participated in a Webcast of a conference before and I was a little worried about the technology (would it lock up, would the sound be bad, would the video be blurry, would the camera focus on the wrong thing, etc.) but Qumu did an outstanding job. And my Mac and Internet connection held up well. I never once cussed at the computer. Just sat back and enjoyed. :)

  4. It's that cheap aftershave from CVS.

  5. Thanks, Bill. I will have to keep that in mind next time. At the last Ragan Webcast I attended, I actually set up a projector and laptop and watched it at the office with a co-worker. Saved us some fees and we still got great info. Just don't tell Mark we did it this way.

    Drakkar Noir is not cheap cologne, Mark. ;)

  6. Ha! I'll look for it on YouTube. :)