Student Connections: Livestreaming and Creating Community via an Annual Student Conference

Foley, Karen and Fribbance, Ian (2018). Student Connections: Livestreaming and Creating Community via an Annual Student Conference. In: Baxter, Jacqueline; Callaghan, George and McAvoy, Jean eds. Creativity and Critique in Online Learning: Exploring and Examining Innovations in Online Pedagogy. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 169–189.



In 2014, the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Open University initiated Student Connections, with the aim of integrating students into an academic community. Student Connections includes an annual online conference and various online formats that supported the event (Activate workshops on Blackboard Collaborate) podcasts (The PodMag) and a weekly audio drama series (This student Life). The conference was further developed in 2015 and has influenced other online interactive events that the Open University regularly run. This chapter explains how the conference developed over the two year period and considers the impact that it had. The concept of the conference is positioned within the theoretical context of student engagement literature and learning communities, and the methods that were used to evaluate both conferences are outlined. The 2014 and 2015 conferences are described in detail and the data and findings are discussed. The theoretical context is then reconsidered in light of the data, and the critical reflection includes a discussion about the value of the initiative, tips and lessons. Overall, the conference initiated a way to facilitate academic community in a distance learning environment, and has had an impact on these types of event at the Open University.

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