Designing the Ultimate Seminar Series

This past Tuesday, I walked a little over a mile to attend the last session of my “Readings in Information and Communication Technology for Development”  seminar course. I was seriously considering not going, but the article we had been assigned to read (Transparency and Development: Ethical Consumption through Web 2.0 and the Internet of Things ( was pretty interesting and so I decided to go.  To my surprised when I arrived, the room was nearly empty, the echo of a dropped pen could be heard throughout the room. Okay, I’m exaggerating, there was three people, two (2) students and a faculty member in the room.

Because there wasn’t enough people in attendance, we decided to abandon the article and instead talked about what the seminar should look like next year, how to keep people engaged, and what constitutes a successful seminar series. Before doing that, we talked about how the current quarters seminar went.

Despite this particular days low turnout, the general consensus was that the seminars were very productive. Everyone that attended the seminar sessions appeared to have at least glanced at the articles prior coming. Since there are plenty of stories about people who for one reason or another didn’t get around to reading the assigned piece, but go to the seminar anyway, this is definitely a great thing. It was stated that perhaps the low  number of attendees was due to end of the quarter projects and traveling. Considering I had missed a seminar sessions or two  😀 because of travel, this claim made sense.

After talking more about unsuccessful seminar courses, we initiated an impromptu brainstorming session. The purpose of it was to think of innovative ways to liven up future seminar courses. At the end of it we came up with an innovate idea for future seminar series that I am calling “Stealth Seminar Series.” This is the way it works:

Have a set of preselected themes/topics for each week. Ask all participants to search for resources that cover the topic. It can take any format (digital, non-digital) — video, newspaper article, journal article, book, blog entry, artifact, etc. Have the participants send the link along with a quick blurb summarizing the item to a point person. The summary should state what the submitter found interesting about the item. The point person (one (1) for each topic) then aggregates the items and looks for a common thread that connects the items. In addition to posting it to the seminar’s website, this person provides the group with a short presentation and video on the topic to help kick-start the discussion and engage the audience.

Keeping the structure intact, the “Stealth Seminar Series” can take several permutations. Instead of focusing on a particular topic, the focus can be a specific author or a particular conference.

YES, that’s our million dollar idea. What do you think?  Use the space below and let me know. If you’ve seen, ran or participated  a seminar series that differs from traditional models let me know more about that too.

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