George Siemens et al. for Educause Review:
"Online conferences are delivered completely online. Conferences may include synchronous sessions delivered via a web-conferencing platform such as Elluminate (with the sessions recorded for viewing by others in different time zones) and also asynchronous discussions hosted in mailing lists, discussion forums, or portals or learning management systems.
Terry Anderson (a co-author of this article) claims to have organized the first virtual conference held on the Internet, in 1992.8 Most early online conferences relied exclusively on e-mail, often with volunteers porting messages beyond the early Internet to FidoNet, Usenet, and other bulletin board systems and private networks. In a second conference, in 1994, Anderson was the first to organize sessions in immersive contexts using text-based MUD tools. In 1995, the University of Maryland was the first to charge a fee for remote participants to attend a virtual conference.
Though likely to grow in prominence, completely online conferences are still relatively obscure and appeal to individuals who are oriented to online environments. Although online conferences are very cost-effective, participants’ propensity to provide only “continuous partial attention”10—in which the conference competes with unrelated demands from the home or workplace—may seriously degrade the attention given to, and thus the outcomes from, an online conference." (http://connect.educause.edu/Library/EDUCAUSE+Review/ConferenceConnectionsRewi/46312)
Recent examples of online conferences include the following:
"Webheads in Action Online Convergence (http://wiaoc.org): a multi-day online conference. Presentations are held in various platforms (Elluminate, webcast, audio, Skypecast, Flickr, Interwise). Question-and-answer sessions are held during the live event. Recordings are available for later listening/viewing. Post-session dialogue is distributed across attendees’ blogs.
Online Connectivism Conference (http://umanitoba.ca/learning_technologies/connectivisim) and the Future of Education (http://umanitoba.ca/learning_technologies/conferences/foe/): week-long conferences with approximately 1,700 registrants from more than sixty countries. Live presentations were held in Elluminate. Asynchronous discussions were hosted in Moodle. Conference tags were suggested for bloggers to use in order to aggregate the distributed conversation in Pageflakes. For example, the tag “OCC2007” would appear in blog search engines (e.g., Technorati, Icerocket, or Google Blog Search), as well as in various social bookmarking or personal information management tools (e.g., del.icio.us).9
K-12 Online Conference (http://k12onlineconference.org/): a multi-week online conference with planned keynotes, informal "When Night Falls" reflections, and open dialogue and reflection on learning experiences. The conference served as a catalyst for many in the K-12 education sector to explore alternative views of teaching and learning. The coalescence of community around significant learning events (with K-12, global in nature) provides the foundation for sustained change far greater than what might be possible in a traditional conference.
EDUCAUSE Learning Institute (ELI) Web Symposium (http://www.educause.edu/eliws061): a multi-day online symposium with presentations targeting academic leaders. The symposium was hosted in Horizon Wimba and moderated by Diana Oblinger of EDUCAUSE. Presenters delivered PowerPoint presentations to remote locations, with pauses for questions and answers during and following the event.
Technology, Colleges, and Community (http://tcc.kcc.hawaii.edu): the oldest continuing online conference, founded in 1996 by Kapi'olani Community College (KCC) in Hawaii. Hosted annually by KCC and the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Educational Technology Department, in association with Osaka Gakuin University (Japan) and in partnership with LearningTimes.org in New York, this virtual conference has been an innovator in the use of many synchronous and asynchronous conference tools. NMC Series of Online Symposia: a series of ongoing conferences held on the New Media Consortium (NMC) Second Life campus. The NMC events augment face-to-face and virtual conferences and have recently been held as stand-alone immersive-context sessions." (http://connect.educause.edu/Library/EDUCAUSE+Review/ConferenceConnectionsRewi/46312)