Online Conferences Expand Opportunities for Learning

by Judith Maginnis Kuster - Minnesota State University, Mankato (

A new type of vitual conference is emerging where no travel and often no registration fees are required. Professionals and students can attend conferences and conventions can attend these conferences on their own schedule from any computer with Internet access.

ASHA introduced the vision of virtual conferencing at the 1994 convention in Seattle, Washington, where a session was accessible in real time via the Internet. Although this early attempt did not draw many off-site participants, the technology has progressed substantially since then and ASHA members are more Internet savvy today. Now CEUs and university credits are offered in association with some online conferences and there will be more such opportunities in the future.

An online medical conference is offered for CE credit to occupational health professionals by the SYSTOC Healthcare Network. Others are welcome to take the courses without credit. Several modules dealing primarily with administrative issues are available and demonstrate delivery of online conferences with slides and audio lectures.

The National Autistic Society (UK) and The Shirley Foundation hosted Autism99, a multi-media online conference about Autistic Spectrum Disorders from November 2 - 23, 1999. Professionals and consumers presented papers and a section on communication issues was included. All papers from this interesting conference remain online.

The 2000 International Online Conference on Teaching Online in Higher Education provides opportunity for ASHA members in university settings to learn more about online teaching. Starting October 30, 2000, the presentations will be posted and November 13-14, 2000 there will be opportunity for interactive discussions with presenters.

An online conference I developed in conjunction with International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) provides professionals and consumers from around the world an opportunity to learn from and dialogue with each other. The 1998 and 1999 conference papers as well as questions/comments by participants and presenters remain online.

The ISAD2000 online conference will focus on "Reaching Out to Children Who Stutter." Invited papers will be online starting October 1. Anyone can read the papers on the Internet, and post comments or questions on easy-to-use threaded discussion pages attached to each paper. Authors will respond between October 1 and October 22. The 2000 conference will be linked starting October 1 to the top of the Stuttering Home Page. .

This year's conference will feature familiar professors and researchers in the area of fluency presenting on topics including stuttering and concomitant reading problems, counseling children who stutter, counseling parents about their children's stuttering and their role as partners in stuttering treatment, using technology and the Internet with parents and children who stutter, and cultural awareness issues.

Presenters will also include those who focus on delivery of clinical services presenting on topics such as journal writing for children who stutter, working with children in a school setting, teasing, lessons learned from juggling.

Presentations by consumers add another important component. The conference will also include opportunities for consumers, including children and teens who stutter, to participate actively and to learn from each other as well as opportunities for them to question a panel of experts in fluency disorders.

Kuster, JM, Online Conferences Expand Opportunities for Learning, ASHA Leader, October 3, 2000, p. 7