Michael Nycyk, Curtin University talked on "Online Student Conferences as Assessment Instruments" at at CCA-EDUCAUSE Australasia 2011 in Sydney. The Internet studies students were required to organise and run an academic online conference as part of their course "Debating Communities and Networks Conference 2010". They had to write their own paper and review others and were assessed on this.
Michael commented that the students were excessively polite in their online discussion. Also there were a limited number of postings by students. Michael commented that ACS with its ACS Computer Professional Education Program take a firmer approach to requiring students to contribute to forums (I use the same approach at ANU). Curtin will likely take this approach for next year.
The idea of an online conference by and for students is one which could be adopted more widely. It requires less resources than the type of face-to-face symposia organised for PHD students and would provide this experience for a wider range of students. Also real conferences will be moving to this online format and so students will need experience of this.