That was 2021

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International Online BarCamp on Open Education and OER, held by UNESCO and J&K

The took place as a global „un-conference“ from 09 to 11 December 2021 via Zoom. A total of 1,063 people from 87 countries and 21 time zones registered. 186 speakers designed 114 sessions. More than half of the sessions were documented on video. In addition to the BarCamp format, there was a second major feature: the event took place non-stop for 48 hours.

The organisers of were the German Commission for UNESCO and the Agency J&K – Jöran und Konsorten, which has been organising OERcamps since 2012. The following article summarises the key data and lessons learned about the process.

Country distribution of participants, from Agency J&K – Jöran & Konsorten under CC BY 4.0

The programme of

The programme ran for 48 hours without a break, from noon on Thursday to noon on Saturday, according to European time. The aim of the 48-hour format was that there was no „leading time zone“. Instead, the 48 hours were simply numbered from 1 to 48, with the next programme item starting on the hour. These programme points were either a Plenary Hour with a central programme point or parallel BarCamp sessions.

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The BarCamp

In the format “BarCamp”, the participants take over the programme design. In this way, an open and participatory programme design is implemented that is consistently oriented towards the diverse interests of the participants. A BarCamp is not only about disseminating knowledge. There can also be room in the sessions for open questions, ongoing activities and joint reflections. It is about sharing and co-creating knowledge in an open way.

Most of the programme took place in the form of 114 sessions in BarCamp format. As is usual at a BarCamp, all participants could design parts of the programme themselves in the form of a session. There was no selection by a programme team. The session hosts had the opportunity to announce their sessions in the weeks before the event. During the event, „last minute“ registrations could be added. The session owners were free to choose when and for how long the sessions would take place. The vast majority chose the one-hour format, 7 sessions used 2 hours, 1 session 3 hours as duration. When it came to choosing the time, the first few hours were initially in particularly high demand, so the sessions per time slot were capped. While at the beginning of the planning we assumed 1 to 2 sessions per hour, in the weeks before the event this became more and more, so that in the end typically 4 or 5 sessions took place in parallel. In the hours when it was night in Europe as well as in North America, there were significantly fewer sessions, and at one hour there was even no session at all.

All sessions of the upcoming hour were briefly introduced in the plenary hall, which is the main room of the Zoom meeting, directly followed by the sessions in breakout rooms. (Sessions lasting several hours took place in separate Zoom meetings).

Programme items during Hour 6 of

An average of 10.5 people took part in each programme item, with a wide spread. Thus, in 4 of the 114 sessions, no participants came at all. In these cases, the session hosts announced that they would record an input as a video and publish it for documentation.

The format „input plus Q&A“ determined more than half of the sessions. For a quarter, the focus was on exchange. Almost 10% each assigned their approach to the formats „Hands on“ or „Ask me Anything (AMA)“.

Session categories of

Plenary Hours

Each of the 3 hours of parallel BarCamp sessions was followed by a „Plenary Hour“ with a central programme item. This included opening and closing, a yoga and a karaoke session, but above all a series of keynote talks. These had been selected by the organisers to highlight in particular the UNESCO Recommendation on OER and the situation in different regions of the world.

The keynotes were recorded and published on YouTube under a free licence (CC BY 4.0). They each had a moderator, namely Chahira Nouira, Tina Marie Monelyon or Jöran Muuß-Merholz.

WordPress, Zoom, Sched, LimeSurvey, Twitter and emails

The following is a brief overview of the technical infrastructure, here in the form of the most important services used:

  • Homebase and information offerings were set up in the form of a WordPress page on
  • Zoom was used for the video conference because it is the most accessible tool for participation on a global scale.
  • The programme was planned with Sched. Sched is particularly useful for international events, because it can be used to update content by the session hosts themselves and, last but not least, because it displays all times according to the individual time zone.
  • Emails connected the organisational team and the participants in advance.
  • The sessions were announced on Twitter. In addition, host Jöran Muuß-Merholz explained various elements of the event in the form of 10 short, simple videos. Participants had the opportunity to sign up to the #OERcampglobal list.
  • The online survey software LimeSurvey was used for registrations and session submissions. LimeSurvey was chosen as a compromise between open infrastructure and usability.

UNESCO Recommendation on OER

The UNESCO Recommendation on OER, which defines five „Areas of Action“, served as a background foil for the content. In the session submissions, the session hosts assigned their topics to the five areas as follows:

Relation of sessions to Areas of Action

Quantitative conclusion: 87 countries reached via communities

Over 1,000 registrations – that exceeded our expectations. This is especially true against three backgrounds: 1. The lead time was very tight, because the decision for the event was made only 73 days before the event. 2. The date was in mid-December, at the end of a year that had already been marked by numerous online events with similar topics, especially in autumn. 3. There was no marketing budget and no distribution list from previous events.

10.5 participants per programme item – this is in line with our internal expectations, but there is clearly room for improvement.

The most remarkable figure for us is this: The registrations came from 87 different countries. If you consider this spread against the background that the was made known within a few weeks through „spreading the word“ alone, then this is a great success for the globally and regionally networked communities in the field of Open Education and OER.

Country distribution of participants, from Agency J&K – Jöran & Konsorten under CC BY 4.0

(Incidentally, the organisers deliberately decided not to publish an explicit „ranking“ of the countries according to registrations).

Qualitative conclusion: a hybrid format

With regard to event formats, online educational events will still be compared with face-to-face formats at the end of 2021. The shows how limited direct comparisons are. Therefore, here is a short list of comparisons to established formats. In this respect, the event was a „hybrid“ – not in the sense of „online plus presence“, but as a mixture of various well-known formats.

  • The was a BarCamp in the sense that 90% of the programme was designed decentrally and participatively by the participants.
  • The was a conference in that there were also keynotes and that more than half of the sessions were in the familiar format of „presentation plus Q&A“.
  • The was a trade fair in that the participants did not attend for a specific period of time, but rather „picked out“ individual elements from a thematic offer and visited them specifically.
  • The was a collection of videos in which the majority of the session hosts recorded their contributions and will subsequently make them available as videos.
  • The was a community meetup in that many conversations took place in small rounds where contact details were exchanged and future collaborations were agreed upon.
  • The was a festival event in that there was no break, but a non-stop programme for 48 hours, from which one had to choose times and topics.

Information and facts

  • A total of 1063 people from 87 countries and 21 time zones registered for
  • The is an event for all educational sectors, whereas the higher education sector makes up the majority.
  • A total of 114 sessions were held by 186 speakers. 79 sessions were recorded and are linked in the programme.
  • The organisation of took a total of 73 days from the decision of the German UNESCO Commission and J&K in September to 09 December 2021.
  • To the programme 👉
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This text from Agency J&K – Jöran & Konsorten is licensed under CC BY 4.0. All pictures in this post under CC0, unless indicated otherwise.

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