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ICER 2020
Sun 9 - Thu 13 August 2020

For the first time in its history, ICER will be online! This decision was made in consultation with the SIGCSE board, and the design of the online conference was informed by the broader ACM community, other SIGCSE conference organizers, and the broader computing education research community. We’ll provide the essential details for participating in the conference on this page; see the specification for the virtual conference for an extended rationale for the format.

Before you join the conference, read this entire page. It has critical details for configuring technologies and participating. However, page will be updated heavily through June and July, so we’ll remind all registered attendees to read its final form near the end of July.

Dates, Times, and Schedule

The conference will span four days, for 3.5 hours each day:

  • 11-14 August 2020 from 8:30-12:00 New Zealand Standard Time each day
  • 10-13 August 2020 from 1:30-5:00 pm (PDT), 3:30-7:00 pm (CDT), and 4:30-8:00 pm (EDT) in North America each day
  • 10-13 August 2020 from 2230-0200 CET each day

Apologies to our colleagues in Europe and Asia for the late and early state times. We decided to continue ICER’s commitment to rotating continents, this year letting Australasia start each conference in the morning. We also felt that changing the time each day risked fragmenting our community more than having one continent participate in late evening.


We’ll use two different platforms to facilitate meeting: Zoom for larger single-track activities and Discord for smaller parallel-track activities. We will also use Discord to facilitate “hallway” conversations, birds of a feather meetings, and discussions. (We’ll explain more about setting up Zoom and Discord below).

Each day has the same general format:

  1. Welcome (Zoom)
  2. Special presentation (e.g., keynote, lightning talks) (Zoom)
  3. Single-track paper presentations (Zoom)
  4. Break (Discord)
  5. Parallel-track paper presentations (Discord)
  6. Break (Discord)
  7. Posters (Discord)
  8. Goodbye (Zoom)
  9. Social time (Discord)

The activities for the conference will be different from in-person formats.

  • Keynotes will be in Zoom using its webinar format, with moderated Q&A.
  • Single-track research papers will be presented in Zoom in a 12-minute pre-recorded format, with moderated Q&A. Attendees will be able to watch the live stream or independently stream the recorded presentation. The audience will have a backchannel on Discord to discuss the presentation live. Authors will be able to express their preference for single or parallel-track, but the program chairs will make the final decision.
  • Parallel-track research papers will be presented in Discord in a 12-minute pre-recorded format, but rather than have Q&A, there will be up to 25 minutes for extended discussion in a group of up to 25. Attendees will be able to watch the live stream or independently stream the recorded presentation. The audience will have a backchannel on Discord to discuss the presentation live. Authors will be able to express their preference for single or parallel-track, but the program chairs will make the final decision.
  • Breaks will occur in your home, of course, but if you’re eager to connect with attendees, there will be a number of “serendipity” rooms in Discord. You’ll be able to see who is in the room before joining, and join yourself with audio and optional video. Attendees will also have privileges to create birds of a feather rooms during breaks to discuss particular topics.
  • Posters will occur on Discord, where there will be dedicated voice channels for each poster presentation. Attendees will be able to navigate seamlessly between poster rooms to listen to presentations, ask questions, and leave for other posters.
  • Social hours will occur after each conference day, and support informal gatherings, much like the breaks. Use these to chat with attendees, have meetings, and network.
  • Networking. Throughout the conference, attendees will be free to use Discord to chat, discuss research, and network. We will create a number of discussion channels, and attendees will be free to create their own channels as well.

We hope that all attendees can block off 3.5 hours each day to participate; overall, these 14 hours are far less than the more than 30 hours of the normal conference, and hopefully more sustainable given the inevitable fatigue of video conferences.

See the conference program for the schedule. Discord (see below) will be configured with dedicated channels for all events, so it should be relatively easy to navigate activities via Discord alone.

Hardware and Software Required


In case you are not familiar with Zoom, it is a video conference platform that involves visiting links for specific meetings. We will have one stable link for all single-track activities: TBD. Bookmark this link for easy access to all single track events.

We will use Zoom’s Webinar mode for our single track events, which is intended for broadcast-style events.

To configure Zoom:

  1. If you don’t have one, create a Zoom account.
  2. Add a photo in your Zoom profile, in case it helps attendees recognize you.
  3. Add a name and affiliation in your Zoom profile so attendees know who you are. Follow the syntax First-name last-name ([optional-pronouns], affiliation), as in Amy Ko (she/her, UW Seattle).
  4. Virtual backgrounds are allowed, but do not use a virtual background with movement, as such backgrounds with motion can trigger neurological issues for some attendees.


Discord, which originally emerged to support social gaming, has recently emerged as a much more flexible workspace for connecting communities, supporting real-time chat, video chat of up to 25, screen sharing with up to 50, and voice-only chat rooms. We will use Discord to support direct messaging between attendees, back channeled discussions about presentations, parallel paper presentations, poster sessions, breaks, and ad hoc birds of a feather meetings.

Discord has a concept of servers, each one representing a community. We have created an invitation-only ICER server for the conference where all of these events will occur.

To configure Discord:

  1. Create a Discord account.
  2. Follow the invite sent to you following registration to join the ICER server.
  3. Install the Discord app on the device you intend to participate on (rather than just relying on the web browser, which often has lower quality audio and video). It’s supported on all major platforms, is superior to the web experience in all ways.
  4. Configure notifications to your liking. We recommend getting push notifications for 1) any direct message to you, 2) any message that mentions you, 3) all messages on the #announcements channel.
  5. Configure your Discord profile to include the same photo as your Zoom profile, so people can recognize you across platforms.
  6. For the ICER server, set your nickname to mirror the name in Zoom, following the syntax First-name last-name ([optional-pronouns], affiliation), as in Amy Ko (she/her, UW Seattle). You may also optionally write a profile “Note”, including other information about yourself. Rationale: think of this metadata like our conference badges and faces. It really helps attendees understand each others’ positions, status, and possible cultural background.
  7. Review all of the channels in the server and read their purpose, so you understand where to have conversations throughout the conference.
  8. Before the conference starts, ensure you have updated to the latest version of Discord on your device.

Because you’ll spend most of the conference in Discord, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the platform before the conference starts. Try posting in a text channel; try visiting a voice channel and having a conversation with someone there. You’ll see that there are many categories of channels organized around pre-conference activities and conference day activities.


By now, we hope everyone will have found the microphone hardware necessary for reasonable audio quality. But if you haven’t, be sure to test in both Zoom and Discord using their built-in audio testing features. Ensure that when you record yourself, you are happy with your audio quality.


Ideally, you will have a webcam so that you can participate in video chats when appropriate. However, video is not required. If you do use a webcam, make sure that you are not in front of a window; otherwise we’ll only see your silhouette.

Pre-conference networking

To support networking, we will explicitly welcome all first-time attendees in the opening plenary session. Additionally, we will also for the first time offer a networking program in which:

  • Attendees volunteer to meet with those seeking to connect.
  • Attendees express preferences for who they would like to meet of those who volunteered.
  • The organizers would connect attendees to one of their preferred attendees.
  • The paired attendees would meet before the conference to learn about each other’s work, talk about the community, and help brainstorm people for them to reach out to in the community before, during, and after the conference.
  • We will provide a template meeting agenda for all welcomers to ensure they cover key topics, such as the history of the conference, the diversity of the community, people to meet during the conference, and any questions or concerns about engaging with the community.

Code of Conduct

We’ll soon be posting a code of conduct for the conference, to make clear the kinds of behavior that are acceptable during the conference.


After the conference, the Discord channel will remain active for all attendees of the conference. Non-attendees interested in joining the community will also be able to request invites from the next year’s conference program chair.