Virtual conference emphasizes collaboration, simplifying technology
March 5, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (March 5, 2013) -- Even a powerful Nor'easter dumping snow and ice along much of the East Coast couldn't stop a recent conference led by milSuite and Defense Connect Online (DCO).
With more than 650 attendees registered and weather forecasts predicting the storm would hit within hours after the event - factors that normally would send conference organizers scrambling - there was no rush to cancel or even alter the schedule.
By using collaborative, web-based technology to connect hundreds of registrants with speakers from all over the country, the virtual conference went off without a hitch on Feb. 12.
"This technology is opening networks and platforms throughout the military that were never accessible before," said Emerson Keslar, director of MilTech Solutions, which manages milSuite. "As we all try to do business more efficiently, web-based collaboration tools offer an alternative that is intuitive and easily shared throughout different communities both inside and outside the military."
With fiscal constraints increasing the demand for web-based collaboration across the Department of Defense (DoD), the virtual conference proved it could leverage new technology while also taking much of the logistical stress out of organizing a traditional conference.
With the theme of "Collaboration in the Joint Information Environment," the event provided a platform to distribute insights about trends, principles, strategic plans and technologies that are transforming how knowledge is shared virtually within the DoD.
Speakers and participants included experts from the Navy Warfare Development Command, U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division, Army Chief Information Officer/G6, U.S. Pacific Command, Army War College and industry experts.
"The Virtual Conference forum is a great tool to learn new ideas, understand 'best practices,' and improve upon the established foundations of information sharing and knowledge management," said Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and a virtual conference presenter. "Much like the Armor and Infantry Warfighting Forums where senior leaders discuss our profession, and share lessons learned, the virtual conference can bring together a large and relevant audience with minimal logistical requirements, and real-time feedback from the force."
Similar to a traditional conference, there was the opportunity to choose between presentations, with at least two choices offered throughout the day. But unlike traditional events, there were real-time polls, live chat room discussions and ongoing virtual question-and-answer sessions.
As budgets continue to tighten and the DoD moves closer towards the goal of a single, secure, information-sharing environment, known as the Joint Information Environment (JIE), this conference offered a look at how technology is already changing the way the DoD accomplishes its missions.
Nancy Dixon, knowledge management expert and founder of Working with Common Knowledge Associates, opened the conference with an overview on the evolution of knowledge management as part of her keynote address. She said afterward that she could envision a "blended" approach to virtual and live conferences in order to get the most out of opportunities in the current tight fiscal environment.
"Many universities now use blended learning, having one or more periods of residency where class members build relationships with each other and then lengthy periods of working virtually, making use of virtual discussions and virtual assignments," Dixon said. "I think exploring how to do blended conferences would be very exciting. I am not suggesting copying the university model, rather exploring what a blended conference would be like."
The conference was co-hosted by DCO and milSuite, which are among nine 'Enterprise Services' Web 2.0 applications hosted at Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) core data centers that provide tools for communications between joint forces.
DCO is an enterprise collaboration solution for online meetings, eLearning and webinars.
milSuite hosts four secure social media-like applications that empower users to communicate through sharing documents, images, videos, blogs, discussions and a wide scope of features designed to improve efficiencies, capture information and enable professional networking.
DCO and milSuite are included in DISA's Enterprise Infrastructure, which offers user applications, infrastructure resources, mobility solutions, and identity and access management for DoD personnel.
The virtual conference was the second in a series, which will feature a third virtual conference in November.