Twitter-only conferences can have global impact

The UK's first-ever Twitter-only teaching and learning conference shows academic symposia with international reach can be organised on a shoestring, say Natalie Lafferty and Pat Lockley

April 17, 2018
Twitter logo above silhouettes of people in discussion

Academic conferences have been a staple of academic life for decades, but attending them has become increasingly challenging.

With the required funding for fees, travel and accommodation becoming scarce, it is not uncommon to instead follow a conference hashtag from afar via Tweetdeck.

Last month PressED became the first teaching and learning conference to conduct its entire proceedings on Twitter, enabling anyone, anywhere to attend.

#PressEDconf18 ran over the course of 13 hours on 29 March. As its closing keynote speaker Jim Groom highlighted, this was the first conference he had attended that was the hashtag.  

#PressEDconf18 drew in more than 40 presenters, including people from the University of British Columbia, the University of Cambridge, CUNY and the University of Edinburgh.  

We conceived the idea for PressED six years ago, thanks to our shared interest in open education practice and WordPress, the open source platform most synonymous with blogging.

Their conference plans were, however, hindered by a lack of funding until we came across the Public Archeology Conference, which ran on Twitter in November 2017.  That showed how PressED could run on Twitter and open up to an international audience.

With a touch of nervousness, we approached six potential keynote speakers, unsure of how they might respond to being invited to take part in a conference on Twitter and deliver a keynote talk.  Thankfully, one by one the keynote invitees, Gurminder K. Bhambra, Jana Bacevic, Mark Carrigan, Derek Robertson, Pat Thomson and Jim Groom responded positively and the conference started to become a reality.  

Managing the conference was almost entirely coordinated via the conference website built on WordPress. Session submission, peer review and scheduling all took place on it. The call for session presenters was promoted through various Jisc mailing lists and Twitter. A couple of #pressEDconf18 Twitter chats proved particularly effective in raising interest, as did a dedicated #LTHEchat. 

Any nervousness on the day of the conference was quickly allayed as the first keynote and sessions ran without incident. Each session was 15 minutes long and brought in professors, researchers and students to tweet about how they use WordPress for teaching, learning and research.

Topics ranged from using WordPress to create open courses, open textbooks and eportfolios to using WordPress for university special collections. Solutions such as learndash, learnpress, H5P and CampusPress also featured.

Unlike Twitter chats, where the volume of tweets shared simultaneously can lead to cognitive overload, conference sessions were evenly paced at one tweet per minute allowing the audience to take in supporting images, gifs, links and videos.

With each session archived in a Twitter moment and embedded into the schedule on the conference website, the entire proceedings remain openly accessible and anyone can instantly connect with a presenter.

The response to PressED has been overwhelmingly positive. One New York-based attendee called it “awesome”, noting how no one “went over their time, nobody offered more of a comment than a question, nobody had to fly out of LGA or submit receipts, and all links and models referenced were immediately archived”.

As a result of many such statements, we will run the conference again in 2019.

The first tweet of the conference keynote by the University of Sussex’s Gurminder K Bhambra had over 11,000 impressions on Twitter.

For that level of exposure you’d be thinking a stadium rock TED talk. You’d be thinking budgets, green rooms, spotlights and vast sums of money. You would not be thinking $12 of web hosting and a hashtag.

Natalie Lafferty is the head of the University of Dundee’s Centre for Technology and Innovation in Learning. Pat Lockley is an academic technologist for Pgogy Webstuff.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Reader's comments (2)

I organised and hosted a Twitter conference at the start of the year on behalf of The Underpinnings Museum, and it was a great way to share academic research with a wider audience. I'm very glad to hear that more institutions are considering it as a format, as it makes conference participation so much more accessible!
Save Your Relationship and Get Your Ex Boyfriend/Girlfriend Back!contact: is certainly the best spell caster online and his result is 100% guarantee. My Name Olivia Stephen form Tx,USA. After 12years of marriage, me and my husband has been into one quarrel or the other until he finally left me and moved to California to be with another woman. I felt my life was over and my kids thought they would never see their father again. i tried to be strong just for the kids but i could not control the pains that torments my heart, my heart was filled with sorrows and pains because i was really in love with my husband. Every day and night i think of him and always wish he would come back to me, I was really upset and i needed help, so i searched for help online and I came across a website that suggested that Dr Unity can help get ex back fast. So, I felt I should give him a try. I contacted him and he told me what to do and i did it then he did a Love spell for me. 28 hours later, my husband really called me and told me that he miss me and the kids so much, So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,and for the pain he caused me and the kids. Then from that day,our Marriage was now stronger than how it were before, All thanks to Dr Unity. he is so powerful and i decided to share my story on the internet that Dr.Unity real and powerful spell caster who i will always pray to live long to help his children in the time of trouble, if you are here and you need your Ex back or your husband moved to another woman, do not cry anymore, contact this powerful spell caster now. Here’s his contact:Email him at: ,or Call/WhatsApp him on:+2348071622464 ,his website: .

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments