Reimagining Online Academic Conferences: The Promise of Social Virtual Reality for the Return of Co-Presence


New technologies and societal shifts are profoundly influencing communication and conducting meetings. Over the past few years, the number of online conferences has increased. The body of literature indicates that online events allow for cost and social inequalities reduction. Despite this, they also present challenges in non-verbal communication, and diminish the sense of co-presence, thus affecting networking. Current academic discussions on the advantages and limitations of organizing remote academic conferences are typically confined to those conducted via video-conferencing systems. The aim of this research is to explore the potential of virtual reality (VR) technology and social VR platforms as alternative methods for organizing online academic conferences. The authors present the course of one of the first academic conference conducted entirely in social VR (Wirtualium 2.0), along with the survey outcomes regarding the potential of this environment for hosting academic conferences. Our findings indicate that, compared to video-conferencing systems, social VR platforms offer for most participants a higher sense of co-presence, facilitating networking and engagement in informal conversations. In this context, the identified limitations of social VR platforms encompass limited device accessibility, technical challenges, and impediments to efficient note-taking. Nonetheless, the majority of users consider social VR as suitable for hosting academic conferences. This suggests that even though academic events via social VR platforms encounter technical challenges and will not be the same as in-person conferences, they should exploit the potential of VR technology to achieve what's unattainable in a physical setting. 


Virtual Reality (VR); social virtual reality (social VR); co-presence; online academic conference; Spatial; networking

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Published : 2023-12-29

WaligórskiJ., SamselZ., CząstkiewiczA., & FrysN. (2023). Reimagining Online Academic Conferences: The Promise of Social Virtual Reality for the Return of Co-Presence. International Journal of Research in E-Learning, 9(2), 1-24.

Jan Waligórski
AGH University of Krakow  Poland
Zofia Samsel 
Université Paris Cité  Poland
Aleksandra Cząstkiewicz 
Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin  Poland
Natalia Frys 
Jagiellonian University  Poland

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