BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Much has been reported about efforts at Indiana University and the Kelley School of Business to provide students with a high-quality educational experience online, but two major conferences hosted virtually by the school also demonstrate its ability to use the same technology to advance research knowledge.
In the aftermath of the novel coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions, scholars worldwide have been prevented from traveling to academic conferences to present their work and discuss topics of mutual interest.
Many academic, industry and tech conferences have been cancelled, rescheduled or moved online. They included the Conference on Financial Economics and Accounting – which Kelley will host in 2021 — major conferences presented by the American Marketing Association and the Financial Intermediation Research Society
In response, Kelley has been a leader in pivoting to present conferences online, drawing upon its considerable expertise in online education.
The University of North Carolina originally had planned to host the Society for Financial Studies’ 2020 North American Cavalcade. The annual event was nearly cancelled until finance faculty at Kelley offered to host it online. Their efforts built on the success of another event moved online, the annual Albert Haring Symposium on April 17-18, organized by Kelley’s Department of Marketing.
Learning from the Haring Symposium
Since 1971, the invitation-only Haring Symposium has provided an important venue for doctoral students at Big Ten universities and guest schools to present their marketing research. It was named for Albert Haring, a Kelley professor from 1939 to 1971, who was a past president of the American Marketing Association and an outstanding scholar in sales management, channels and credit.
Since its inception, more than 900 doctoral students have participated in the symposium and more than 400 faculty members have shared their insights on a variety of areas.
As the date for the Haring Symposium approached, marketing faculty members considered cancelling the event, “but made the bold decision to move forward, even though they were blazing the trail for virtual conferences at Kelley,” said Laureen Maines, executive associate dean of faculty and research at Kelley and the KPMG Professor of Accounting.
After deciding to proceed online, organizers looked for ways to innovate. For example, they developed social and themed breakout sessions where participants could have conversations with each other, similar to those they normally would have had in person at the conference and at lunches and dinners. The event was renamed the “2020 Haring Cyber Symposium” to emphasize the newness of the format and also to preserve plans to celebrate the 50th in-person edition of the event in 2021.
“The program was split evenly between two days to encourage participation and reduce ‘Zoom fatigue,’” said Raymond Burke, chairperson and professor of marketing, the E.W. Kelley Chair and director of the Customer Interface Laboratory. “Several changes were made to the 2020 Symposium to encourage faculty and doctoral student participation and to minimize the risk of disruption due to technology failures or health concerns.”
“Although the Haring Symposium is a smaller conference, it was the first virtual conference held at Kelley as a result of the pandemic and provided much of the foundation for the success of the SFS Cavalcade conference,” Maines added.
First large scale financial conference held virtually
Kelley’s virtual hosting of the 2020 Society for Financial Studies Cavalcade on May 25-28 similarly went smoothly and without glitches.
“This was the first large-scale finance conference – with 135 papers on the program — to be held virtually,” said Craig Holden (pictured right), Finance Department chair and the Gregg T. and Judith A. Summerville Chair of Finance. “There was no registration fee for the conference and it was opened to all registrants who could be verified from around the world. As a result, more than 2,000 people registered for the conference. And they came from 44 countries around the world. This was a truly global conference.”
Each session averaged nearly 50 participants and with nine parallel sessions happening concurrently, there was an average of 437 participants at any moment overall.
“This is far more participation than in-person Cavalcade conferences in past years,” Holden said, adding that participation did not suffer a steep drop on the conference’s third and final day, as is usually the case with an in-person conference, when many leave early for the airport.
Nearly every Kelley finance professor served as a faculty host of a track in their area of research or helped host social reception rooms.
Kelley’s efforts to host the Cavalcade received rave reviews, including from current and former editors of top finance journals. One praised Kelley for “the magnificent effort and the efficient organization of the Cavalcade,” adding that “it was so nicely organized that they would not let their dean know, because otherwise they would have to answer the question: If you can organize successful conferences online, why travel in the future?”
Both conferences underscore Kelley’s tradition of adapting to ever changing needs and delivering knowledge using the latest technological tools. Its No. 1 ranked Kelley Direct online MBA program began in 1999 — the first online MBA program offered by a top-ranked business school – and has been imitated and rarely emulated. Other degree programs at Kelley deliver a quality education online.
“The Kelley School’s leadership in hosting these two virtual research conferences reflects not only our faculty’s outstanding research capabilities and enthusiasm, but also their ability to create momentum and innovation from difficult situations,” Maines said. “The faculty seized the opportunity to re-imagine these two conferences and worked with our outstanding technology team to make their vision a reality.
“Their entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity in the face of challenges is a hallmark of the Kelley School’s success. I am so proud of the faculty’s accomplishments and look forward to seeing their innovations for future virtual conferences.”