Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Extending university events into the online world

The Australian National University College of Engineering and Computer Science held a Poster Day on the topic of "Connecting Research to Business" on 22 June 200 in Canberra. Unfortunately I could not attend as I was at Parliament Hose talking about Government 2.0. It occurred to me that it would be useful to extend the poster day into the online world, so as to allow those who could not be there in person to take part. I suggested this to the College and have been invited to put some ideas on how to do it, with the easiest options first. Some thoughts on this follow and suggestions would be welcome.

In the case of the CECS day, the posters are PDF files, designed to be printed as one page AO size documents in landscape layout. It is intended that the poster is placed on a wall and read from a distance of about one to two metres. The author(s) of the poster stand nearby, give a brief presentation and answer questions.

Put the Posters Online

The first obvious suggestion is to provide the posters online. This could be done, after on, or preferably before, the poster day. This would allow those attending to study the posters in more detail later, allow those planning to attend to preview the work and for those not attending. It would also provide a permanent archive of the work and would allow those interested in a topic to find the information (and CECS) using a web search.

Provide a directory of the posters

In addition to the individual posters a directory of the posters would be of use. This would have the title and author of each poster, and perhaps a one paragraph summary, with a hypertext link on each title to the poster. The template for posters should include a hypertext link back to the directory.

The directory could be done as a PDF document, but would be better as a simple web page in HTML. The document can be designed using CSS media types so that when printed it can be used as the directory of the posters on the day.

Provide Posters Which Can Be Read Online

Posters designed for printing A0 size are not be easy to read online. A desktop computer screen is the equivalent to about one A4 page. An A0 page is sixteen times the size of an A4 page and so only a limited amount of the content will fit on the screen. Also if printed at A4, the poster will be unreadable. As an example the Example poster provided by CECS has text too small to read when displayed on a desktop 15 inch screen and when printed on an A4 page.

The poster content should be formatted so that it will display on a computer screen and print on A4 pages, in a readable format, as well as A0. This can be done by formatting the poster using the reflow option in PDF, or preferably using fluid web page design. In this way, when displayed on screen, the content will reformat to fit the smaller space automatically.

PD has an option to "reflow" the content of a page to automatically fit the display screen. However, this option is not available in older versions of PDF viewers and does not work correctly with some later versions. CSS fluid formatting in HTML will produce more reliable reflowing of a web page than PDF.

Add hypertext links

References in posters can by hypertext linked to related documents. These links can be suppressed so they do not display in the printed version using CSS media types.

Add additional material

An audio or video description of the poster can be offered to accompany the online version. This can be simply a recording of the presentation the author gives for the poster. The digital audio or video file can be provided in a hypertext link in the directory and/or the poster. There is no need to provide automated playing of the recording, nor synchronisation with the display of the poster, just a link will do.

Invite Comments Online

Online comments and questions can be invited for a period, before, during or after the poster day. This can be managed using a forum tool, such as that provided in the Moodle Learning Management System used by ANU for courses, or OJS as supported by CECS for IFIP publications. These tools can also be used to manage the soliciting for and submission of the posters, and to publish them.

Stream Poster sessions

Presentations of the posters can be streamed live via the web with audio, video or web casting. However, this requires considerable preparation and planning.

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