Cisco’s Virtual Academy Conference 2014:  Educating the Architects of the Internet of Everything leverages powerful new tools to support collaboration and interactivity. What follows is the “diary” of my attendance at the first day of the two-day virtual conference on March 18.

10:00 AM

Packing for and traveling to this conference was easy:  slip into my fuzzy slippers, brew up a pot of coffee, walk downstairs to my PC, and log in.  Bad hair day?  No problem.  I created my profile, uploaded a picture, no badge required.

After hanging out in the virtual Lobby, I decided to try my luck at some of the Games.  Trivia and Memory Match were a snap, putting me in the top quarter of the Leaderboards for both.  Things went downhill from there; Puzzle Putt took me into the rough right away.  Perhaps that game was for attendees under the age of fifty.

Wandering over to the Meeting Rooms, I explored each of the Conference Sponsors’ virtual booths.  CompTIA, NDG, Citrix and other industry partners provided loads of giveaways and other resources, which I saved into my virtual Conference Briefcase for downloading later.  About the only thing missing was free pens…

Were my friends at the conference?  A walk into the virtual Lounge plopped me down in a chat session, and identified all the participants present.  Several of us decided that Puzzle Putt was rigged.  Then I realized  I’d better hurry, or I will miss the first live session!  Fortunately, I didn’t have to run across the building to get there.

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11:00 AM

Attended the initial live session, “Educating the Architects of IoE for Social Benefit”, presented by Harbrinder Kang, VP Corporate Affairs.  Live sessions include a running Q and A, where attendees comment on the presentation as well as ask questions or post tweets.  Mr. Kang’s description of the “next industrial revolution,” where over 50 billion things will be connected to the Internet, sparked many questions about bandwidth and access from attendees living in places like Peru and Ghana.  Following the session, participants could stay in the Auditorium and engage in a live chat with Mr. Kang and other attendees.

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12:00 PM

During what other conference can one do a load of laundry and wash the dishes on a break?  Just wish that laundry was virtual…At 12:55, a chime coming from my PC reminded me that the next live session was about to start.

1:00 PM

Farsheed Tari, Gary Coman, Omar Shaban and Mary de Wysocki discussed “Networking Academy Today and Tomorrow,” with an emphasis on preparing students for success in emerging careers.

Mary explained Cisco’s growing partnership with Healthcare Without Harm, a global ecosystem of care providers and public policy developers interested in making healthcare more “green.”  This collaboration could eventually provide opportunities for Cisco Academy students in the healthcare field.

Omar described initiatives supporting student employability and employment, including job resources and collaborative opportunities for Academy alumni.

I am sitting in this virtual Auditorium, next to instructors from Australia, Ethiopia, Peru and Cameroon—and all of us have front row seats!

1:30 PM

Joined in the post-session chat, talking with an international group of instructors about ways to implement the Health Information Networking course.  Translations happen in real time through a Google app.  Fifteen minutes of chat flew past!

2:00 PM

My virtual Briefcase (so much easier on one’s back than the real thing) is stuffed full of resources at this point.  Conference sessions and breakouts are available as on-demand video playbacks through Cisco WebEx or as downloadable resource files.  Colleagues from all over the world share their best practices and provide training on technical topics, and if attendance sparks interest in contacting the presenter, the Communications Center provides email, chat, and social media connections.

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4:00 PM

Day One of the conference has now ended for me; however, if I want to check back in and gather more resources, chat with attendees from other time zones, or post a blog, the virtual doors are open all night long—and available on demand through mid-May.

As I leave the virtual conference environment, I wonder – what expectations do we usually have for conferences?  Does a virtual conference actually meet or exceed those expectations?  Interesting and informative speakers – check.  Loads of giveaways – check.  Time to chat with old and new friends –  check. The freedom to explore a wide range of relevant resources – check. Who needs a badge, anyway?