Special Session Submission Information

Submissions are closed.
Date Due Friday, August 28, 2020
Time Due 23:59 AoE (Anywhere on Earth, UTC-12h)
Submission Limits 2 pages
Notification to Authors Friday, October 9, 2020
Camera-Ready Deadline Sunday, December 1, 2020
Duration 75 now up to 105 minutes

Author Guidelines: Special Session

Current as of August 13 2020

Special sessions are your opportunity to customize and experiment with the SIGCSE Technical Symposium format. Special sessions should NOT replicate existing session formats (i.e., panels, paper presentations, poster sessions, etc.) that are part of the SIGCSE Technical Symposium. They are scheduled in standard conference spaces. Within these constraints, the form is yours to design, keeping in mind that the 2021 Technical Symposium will be 100% virtual.

For example, a special session might be a tutorial or seminar, a committee report, a curricular or accreditation forum, or a hands-on (remote) demo of dance moves proven to improve retention of computing topics.

Possible topic areas include management of large classes, projects and assignments, teaching computer science in K-12, experiments on collaborative learning, report of an ACM committee addressing issues at two-year colleges, or special issues arising when teaching computing outside of North America.

Single-Anonymous Review Process

Initial submissions to the Special Sessions track are reviewed with the single-anonymous review process, where the submissions are not anonymized but reviewers are anonymous to each other and to the authors. During the discussion of a submission in EasyChair, reviewers can refer to each other by their reviewer number on that submission’s review.

Criteria used in reviewing the proposals will include the likely level of interest in the session and the suitability and feasibility of the proposed format to its topic. If the proposal is accepted, all presenters listed in the special session description will be required to register for the conference and to participate in the session.

Planning for a virtual session

The SIGCSE 2021 Technical Symposium will be virtual. We believe that special sessions can be conducted productively in this virtual format, but proposers will need to explicitly plan their session to be successful in this format. Some sessions (e.g. committee reports with Q&A) might need relatively little modifications, while others (e.g. brainstorming sessions with attendees in small groups) might require a fundamentally different structure. You must include in your proposal details of how the session will be run in virtual format. Please do not refer to specific technologies. Instead focus on the process that you will use to make sure remote participants are engaged and included.

Resubmitting an accepted Special Session from 2020

Normally repeat submission of the same Special Session in back-to-back years is discouraged, but because the 2020 Technical Symposium was canceled, it is fine to resubmit an accepted Special Session from 2020 for consideration for the 2021 Technical Symposium. However, please take note of the following:

  1. You must have a clear plan for a virtual format in your submission.
  2. You should clearly indicate in your submission that this is a resubmission of an accepted session from 2020.
  3. If accepted, the abstract will not be republished, but your session will run in the 2021 Symposium.
  4. There is no guarantee that a Special Session will be accepted this year just because it was accepted last year. Having it accepted last year will not hurt or improve the chances that it is accepted this year.

How Should The Proposal Be Formatted?

The proposal is limited to a maximum of 2 pages and must adhere to ACM’s publication guidelines.

Be sure to use US letter size pages that measure 8.5” by 11”, that’s 215.9mm by 279.4mm.

SIGCSE 2021 is not participating in the new ACM workflow, template, and production system. Word Authors, please use the Interim Template. LaTeX Authors, please use the official ACM Master with the ACM_SigConf template.

The following modifications and exceptions apply:

  • Abstract: Should provide a brief summary describing your special session including session objective, intended audience, and relevance to the SIGCSE community.

  • Subsequent sections should contain the following information:

    • Overall objective of the session: Describe the topic of the special session and explain how the session will be organized (e.g., as a committee report, tutorial, hands-on exercise, …). Indicate why the proposed session is important and relevant to the SIGCSE community. If this is a resubmission of a session that was accepted for the 2020 Symposium, please indicate this.

    • Outline of the session: Organize this section by subtopics, activities, or a similar scheme. If more than one participant is involved, label each section of the outline with the name of the participant who will be presenting that section. Note that in the case of a committee report, the presenters might be a subset of the authors. We suggest that you allow at least 40 - 50% of the time for questions and answers or other interaction with the attendees.

    • NEW for 2021! Plan for holding the session virtually: Explicitly address how will you ensure that the session is still productive in a virtual format. How will you manage the session virtually, and how will remote participants engage with session leaders?

    • Expectations: State the intended audience. Indicate how much the session will cover and what the audience should learn. If feedback from the audience is desired, indicate how it will be elicited. Explicitly stating these expectations is particularly important if your proposed special session is a tutorial.

    • Suitability for a special session: Include a brief description that justifies the inclusion of this presentation as a special session. Explain why the proposed presentation is better suited for a special session than a paper or panel.

    • References: Citing relevant work where appropriate is encouraged, but not required. If they are included, they should be placed in a separate section titled References and should follow the formatting guidelines.

If accepted, the special session description will be allocated 2 pages in the conference proceedings and must adhere to the formatting guidelines specified above. To facilitate the transition from proposal to camera-ready copy, it is critical that authors adhere closely to the formatting specifications and page limits.

Sample Proposal

* NOTE: This sample does not include information about a virtual format, which is required this year.

How Do I Submit My Special Session?

Please be aware that the submission form asks you to provide demographic information. This demographic information is being collected by ACM; they created the questions and require them to be in the submission form. Please know that the demographic information submitted is not seen (and thus cannot be used in any way) by Technical Symposium reviewers or leadership. We also have no control over the questions asked nor where they appear in the form.

SIGCSE TS 2021 is not participating in the new ACM workflow, template, and production system. MS Word Authors, please use the Interim Template. LaTeX Authors, please use the official ACM Master with the ACM_SigConf template.

Submissions use the English language. If you desire editing services, consider the following from the ACM.

ACM has partnered with International Science Editing (ISE) to provide language editing services to ACM authors. ISE offers a comprehensive range of services for authors including standard and premium English language editing, as well as illustration and translation services. Editing services are at author expense and do not guarantee publication of a manuscript.
  • Write your submission using the format specified above. Within the proposal, you must provide Category and Subject Descriptors, General Terms, and Keywords, just as paper authors must do. These requirements are described in more detail in the ACM Computing Classification System.

  • Recall that you will also need to copy-and-paste or type your text abstract description into a text box in the submission form. Be sure that the same text appears in the submission and in the abstract text box in the submission form.

  • Be sure to choose the appropriate topic areas when submitting. Your choices help in assigning appropriate reviewers to your submission, and assist the reviewers in evaluating the paper from an appropriate perspective.

Details regarding submission upload will be made available when the submission system goes online.

The opening of submissions will be announced through the SIGCSE mailing list, social media, and the front page of this website.

Follow the SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Twitter and SIGCSE on Facebook.


If you have questions about anything discussed above, please contact:

Panels and Special Sessions Team

Email: panels@sigcse2021.org

  • Christine Alvarado
    University of California, San Diego
  • Ben Stephenson
    University of Calgary

Presenting at SIGCSE TS 2021

Important Dates

  • January 22 - Submit presentation plans (including a video if desired) through submission form emailed to corresponding authors

How will I be presenting my work? (Panels and Special Sessions)

Panels and special sessions are different from paper presentations in that the live discussion itself is the primary content, rather than the published work. To accommodate this, panels and special session presenters have several options to choose from in how they want to run their session:

  • Prerecord the session and make that available through Pathable before the Symposium and then use the live session during the Symposium for longer discussion and Q&A (NOTE: Break out groups will not be possible due to using a Zoom webinar rather than a Zoom meeting. We have to use webinars due to the number of potential attendees.)
  • Provide primer material for potential attendees to view ahead of time (e.g. presentations, PDFs) through Pathable, but do not prerecord any content
  • Do the entire session live during the Technical Symposium with no early material provided

Note that all panels and special sessions will be recorded and made available on-demand through Pathable for a year following the end of the Symposium.

Panels and special sessions are highly encouraged to discuss with all presenters what makes the most sense for their session. Questions on what might work best can be directed to the Panels and Special Sessions Track Chairs at panels@sigcse2021.org.

Pathable uses embedded Zoom windows in the web application for video presentations, so the experience will be familiar to most presenters. A session chair will moderate the session and we will have technical support available all week to assist as needed.

More information regarding the live sessions, including time slot assignments, will be available in January.

How do I submit my video presentation?

A link to the submission form will be sent to the corresponding authors identified in EasyChair. If you did not receive the email by January 8th or if you have any questions, please email videosubmission@sigcse2021.org.

What rights do I keep to my video?

We are not asking for any rights release on your videos. They remain your work to do with as you please. We only ask, as a courtesy, that you do not post them publicly until one week after the end of the Technical Symposium (March 27, 2021).

Why do you need the presentation so soon (January 22)?

Our goal is to make the prerecorded content of the Technical Symposium available a few weeks before the Symposium starts so that attendees can view materials when convenient to them and so they can better build their schedule for the week of the Symposium. In order to meet that goal, we need to preprocess all the videos as soon as possible to ensure they are ready for the Symposium for reasons including, but not limited to:

  • Closed-captioning for all videos (authors do not need to do this on their own - our production company is providing this service)
  • Checking format to ensure videos can play properly in Pathable
  • Validating the length of videos matches the requirements

Update: We have moved the due date from January 15 to January 22 for all presenters to provide more time for those who wish submit to ITiCSE (https://iticse.acm.org/for-authors/) or who have more than one video submission they need to make. However, we would very much appreciate videos to be sent in as soon as possible so that we can ensure we have enough time to process all the submissions.

Presentation Guidelines

Video presentations must follow these technical guidelines:

  • MP4 format encoding
  • 1920x1080 (i.e. HD resolution) - If this is not possible for you, please at least record in a 16:9 ratio size
  • 30 frames per second (approximately) is preferred to keep file size more reasonable

Please follow the SIGACCESS Guidelines to create a presentation that all attendees can enjoy and learn from. Below, we summarize these guidelines and add a few more:

  • Choose a high contrast color scheme that supports color blind readers
  • Use more than color coding to communicate information
  • Keep text brief
  • Keep graphics simple and verbally describe images, animations, videos
  • Avoid using a pointer
  • Caption videos (NOTE: we will provide a closed-captioning service for you, but there may be points that you want to highlight)
  • Speak clearly, use a microphone, face the audience, and use common, understandable terms
  • Post your slides early and provide a link them them on the slides (NOTE: we will provide space in Pathable for your slides, but feel free to post them on your own webspace as well)
  • Share your contact information

Best Practices for Recording / Remote Presentations

Here are some best practices to consider as you record your video and prepare for your live session:

  • Find a quiet room with as little background noise as possible.
  • Make sure you are professionally dressed.
  • Sit in the center of the camera shot to ensure proper camera framing.
  • Make sure your face is well lit by sitting in a room with plenty of light. If you can’t find a well-lit room, place a small lamp in front of you but out of the camera view.
  • Do not sit in front of a window. This will cause the camera to adjust for the light, making your face look very dark. Similarly, avoid other light sources behind you.
  • Adjust the camera to be level with your eyes. This will produce the best camera angle. If using a laptop, you may need to put your laptop on an elevated surface in order to get the camera level with your eyes.
  • Always be aware of what is in the camera shot. Make sure there is nothing sitting in the background that you wouldn’t want viewers to see.
  • Use headphones or earbuds to listen to the audio. This helps with the sound quality and ensures you will always be able to hear clearly.
  • Keep your microphone muted during the call unless you are speaking.
  • When speaking and not wearing a headset or earbuds, keep your speaker volume at the lowest setting while still being able to hear. This helps get rid of echoes coming back through your microphone.
  • Use a cabled internet connection when possible. Most connection issues are due to a bad wireless connection.
  • Do a test call beforehand to make sure your microphone, speakers and webcam are all working properly.

How do I record my presentation?

An excellent writeup on recording presentations authored by David Ayman Shamma from the SIGCHI community can be found here: https://medium.com/sigchi/a-remote-video-presentation-guide-93957c63aa7a

Using Zoom:

The simplest option is to use Zoom, as it will automatically create the proper file format for you and most of the SIGCSE community is already familiar with the tool.

  • Start a meeting with just you as the only participant
  • Open your slides and start screen sharing as you normally would in a standard Zoom meeting
  • Click “Record” on the main Zoom toolbar at the bottom of the window and select “Record on this Computer”
  • Give your presentation, following the best practices for video recordings
  • When you are done, stop recording, then stop sharing and end the meeting
  • Zoom will automatically convert the video to an .mp4 file format
  • Rename the file as instructed and submit via the form emailed to authors from EasyChair

Using OBS:

If you would like to have more control over the presentation, including things such as:

  • Smoother transitions between your camera full screen and slides
  • Multiple audio/video sources
  • Graphic borders around your camera
  • Sharing multiple windows at the same time

you may want to try the open source Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) at http://obsproject.com, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. OBS does require more configuration and setting up than Zoom, but offers a lot of flexibility and options for free. Note that OBS records .mkv files by default. To convert to .mp4, use the “Remux Recordings” option in the File menu.

Using Powerpoint/Keynote:

If you would prefer to not be on camera at all, it is possible to use the “Record Slide Show” option in Powerpoint or Keynote to record a screencast of just your slides.

Converting to .mp4:

If the tool you use does not natively create a .mp4 file for you, you can transcode it for free using Handbrake, found at https://handbrake.fr/. Choose “Fast 1080p30 preset” to generate the proper file format and size.


Please note that the Technical Symposium is providing a closed-captioning service for all prerecorded videos and live sessions at no cost to you. We are doing this to ensure a standard experience across all aspects of the Symposium.