Get Regular Updates!
|What happens when you put uni students in charge of an online conference?



Jacob Beattie

What happens when you put uni students in charge of an online conference?

What happens when you put uni students in charge of an online conference?

“What did we get ourselves into?” This is what Dr Mike Kent was asking himself as he stepped into the classroom to teach a ground-breaking new unit.

What happens when you put uni students in charge of an online conference?

Why was Dr Kent so anxious? The unit, which he co-developed at Curtin University’s Department of Internet Studies, was about to do something that had never been done before. The unit—Social Media, Communities and Networks—would put students almost totally in charge of organising an online academic conference.

And the material presented at the conference? Also developed entirely by students as part of their coursework.

The students were also feeling apprehensive about this idea.

“This is going to be the best unit they ever do,” Dr Kent told them the first day. “They all looked at me like a crazy person,” he said, “but then at the end, they were like ‘Actually, yeah that was really good’!”

Quickly becoming a student favourite, the secret of the unit is its real-world connection.

Normally, studying at uni means doing lots of work that only your tutor or lecturer will see, but in this case, students were presenting their creations to the world.

“I've never tried as hard as I have with any paper, due to the fact that it would be available to the public!”

As Havva Teede, who is in her 3rd year at Curtin, told me, “I’ve never tried as hard as I have with any paper, due to the fact that it would be available to the public!”

As well as analysing social media in their papers, students also get to apply what they’ve learned about social media to collaborate and promote the conference using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and industry-standard tools like Slack.

Ronnie Kyobe, who is currently taking the unit as part of his Master of Internet Communications, told me, “I have found it quite real that I can contribute, participate and collaborate utilising this very technology we are studying.”

I saw the power of this combo with my very own eyes when I had the luck of running the unit in 2012. This was around the time Perth’s first co-working space, Spacecubed, had opened its doors.

The folks at Spacecubed were so blown away by what they were seeing the students doing on social media that they invited us to do a day of the conference at Spacecubed. True to the excitement generated by the unit, one of my students, Melissa Nile, put up her hand to organise the day.

Melissa is now working in social media marketing for Green Hat in Melbourne. She credits her involvement with the unit as a factor in her success.

As Dr Kent shared with me, “We give students control over their own learning, and they really run with it.”

Now in its 8th year, the Debating Communities and Networks conference is running in partnership with Open Universities Australia and the Charles Telfair Institute in Mauritius.

This year’s conference is currently running until 26 May, with nearly 120 papers in five different streams. It’s free and open for anyone to participate, and I’m proud to say I’m involved with teaching it again this year.

Particle Puns


Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.


You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.


Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.


All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.


For more information about using our content, email us:

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?