Dear CSCL & LS Community,
We hope you are all doing well during these difficult times and hopefully we can soon see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel with the ongoing vaccination efforts across the globe.
Our aim with this communication is to help clarify the rationale for the registration fees for ISLS 2021 which will be held virtually from Bochum. We would like to begin by acknowledging the institutional difficulties that many of our members are experiencing, including frozen funds, reduced support for travel, and institution hurdles in getting reimbursed for virtual conferences. Not to mention the ongoing economic downturn and troubled job market, which only add to the financial struggle of many in our community. It is in this context that we provide some explanation about the registration fees with the goal of increasing transparency in terms of what is involved in running a well-planned virtual conference. In addition, we will follow up in the upcoming days and weeks with more details on all the benefits and wonderful events that the registration covers.
The fee structure has been developed in close cooperation between the local organization and the ISLS Board with both trying hard to bring in additional funding to lower the expenses. We are happy that we managed to:
- keep the student fees relatively low (100 € + membership dues).
- include participation in pre-conference workshops in the registration (no extra cost).
- waive conference fees of participants in all three workshops (Doctoral Consortium, Early-Career Workshop, Mid-Career Workshop) of the mentoring program (membership dues excluded).
- offer scholarships to support individuals facing financial challenges.
The preparation of ISLS 2021 was based on a long planning process in which we had to gradually consider and foresee the effects of the pandemic. Just as many within our community have seen that making a comprehensive move to online teaching involves substantially more labor and costs than the more familiar mode of face-to-face teaching, the move from an on-site conference format to a virtual one also has new demands and costs. Last year, the community came together to self-organize and self-host some conference sessions. This year, the conference organizers were determined to set up the infrastructure that would allow for an immersive experience that can support scholarship as well as community building. A virtual conference that allows the presentation of all contributions accepted in various categories and affords social interactions similar to what we so greatly value in face-to-face meetings. The new and consolidated program is a well-balanced offering with high quality features in terms of scholarship (keynotes, awards, mentoring) and enabling interaction (via speed-dating, meet-ups, theme-based events) across time zones as much as possible in order to retain the international character of our conference that we all value so much.
Developing a rich online conference format involved intensive community consultation (e.g., we had an online conference committee involving representatives from various groups of stakeholders within the ISLS) and a lot of voluntary contributions. However, given the size and scale of this event, it could not be achieved through voluntary efforts alone and also required investing substantially in paid services and personnel on the side of the local conference organization.
Organizing the Annual Meeting 2021 as an online event was coupled with the additional challenge of the first time implementation of a joint event combining the LS and CSCL programs. Planning this inaugural ISLS Annual Meeting was an opportunity and responsibility we did not take lightly. Taken together the dual challenges of implementing an online conference format and at the same time developing the new combined Annual Meeting format, led to increased time expenditure and, thus, additional personnel costs. In fact, of the overall budget, the largest expenses (~70%) were personnel costs followed by expenses (~15%) related to the combined meeting format (e.g., producing proceedings for two programs). These costs are reflected in the registration fees for ISLS 2021, which are comparable to other virtual-only conference fees offered by other major societies this year, such as AERA and EARLI.
Throughout this process, our whole team has been active in shaping an engaging and exciting ISLS 2021. We are extremely thankful for all the contributions from the community. Please wait for more information on our conference program coming soon!
ISLS 2021 Local Organizing Team
Nikol Rummel, Ulrich Hoppe & Astrid Wichmann