Thursday, August 19, 2010

FO2010 Case Study: Virtual International Day of the Midwife

One of the case studies that we were asked to study this week in Facilitating Online 2010 was the Virtual International Day of the Midwife conference that Sarah Stewart and Deborah Davis organized in 2009 and 2010. What I thought was really interesting was that initially after the inaugural 2009 conference Sarah felt that it was a failure. The live attendance was very low--averaging 6 people per Elluminate session (including speaker and facilitator). Clearly all of the hard work that went into preparing the 2009 event paid off as the 2010 event exceeded Sarah and Deborah's expectations with respect to attendance.

Some lessons from this case study.
  • The first time you run an online event, attendance may be low
  • If you keep at it, attendance will improve as the word spreads
  • People need time to get used to the technical aspects of an online conference
  • An organized social media campaign can help to disseminate information and create interest in your event
  • When using social media to promote your event remember the social part! You can't just use social media to advertise
  • Ensure that you respond to people who leave comments or questions about your event
  • Have a plan B--speakers may not show up; what will you do?
  • Ensure you have a support person (or people)
  • Try to use as many venues as possible to share information (YouTube, blipTV, Facebook, wiki, blog etc)
  • Make access easy (Sarah mentioned setting up a Facebook Fanpage as opposed to a Facebook group--this way people who do not have Facebook accounts can still access your Facebook content related to the event)
  • Consider mobile access to bring in more people, especially those in places where the infrastructure may not support this kind of event
  • Always provide links to World Clock or some similar tool so that it is easy for people in different time zones find out when your session is
  • Encourage participants to give you feedback; for example, in the form of an online survey like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms
I could write more, but I'll stop here. If you are planning on doing an online event, I strongly recommend reading the resources I've linked to above. Sarah has provided great info and reflections on running an online conference.


  1. Hi Clare

    Have you ever been involved with an online conference like this? If so, what were your experiences...either as participant or facilitator?

  2. This past spring I attended a conference that was similar, with the exception that it was not open; you had to pay and register. The conference was called 21st Century Learning & Sharing:
    Engaging for Success! Spring Online Conference 2010
    . For economic reasons it replaced an anual face-to-face conference geared towards teachers (K-12 and post secondary) in distributed learning (online learning) or who use technology in their classrooms. This was where I first saw Nancy White present!

    The conference ran Monday to Saturday with Monday being an open day (no fees). The speakers presented in Elluminate and each day there was a keynote speaker followed by were concurrent sessions. And as all sessions were recorded you didn't have to miss out if two great looking sessions were on at the same time. Each session also had a 'course' set up in Moodle to facilitate further discussion. I didn't present, but I did volunteer to help with the Moodle portion of the conference. I was paired with a presenter and I helped him with the the Moodle course by suggesting content to have there, answering questions he had about Moodle and helping to facilitate discussions in the discussion forum.

    All of the staff at my (small) school attended. We knew that if we tried to attend sessions from our workplace we probably would not be able to participate as much as we'd be constantly pulled away by other tasks, so for one of the main days we went off site and met up with another distributed learning school in our region. I had used Elluminate and Moodle quite a bit, so I was quite comfortable with the technology end of things. For some of the others who were not as familiar with Elluminate there were definitely some tense moments as they worked out how to do things.

    Not all of the presenters took advantage of the tools in Elluminate to try and stimulate more audience participation. To be fair though, for many it was their first time presenting in Elluminate. The conference organizers paired Elluminate presenters with volunteers who were skilled in using Elluminate and encouraged the pairs to use their Elluminate practice room prior to their session to get in some practice. The organizers also ran some sessions for presenters new to Elluminate on the basics of using Elluminate in the role of moderator.

    Prior to the conference presenters and volunteers were put into the conference Moodle site and various discussion fora were set up. The organizers did a really good job, but based on some of the discussions many volunteers and presenters were (at times) a little frazzled with trying to sort out when they would have access to the practice Elluminate room, when they could upload slides etc. The organizers asked all presenters to forward slides (in ppt or pdf I think) so that they could be loaded for them into Elluminate in advance. Some found this a challenge as their slides had to be ready about a week before they presented; not good if you are a procrastinator like me!

    The Moodle area to support further discussion was a great idea, however for the sessions I attended presenters either chose not to use the Moodle area, or their was very little discussion in the Moodle area.

    From a participants point of view I thought it went fine, though for those new to Elluminate there were clearly some connection issues. As a volunteer with a view behind the scenes it definitely looked to be a huge undertaking!

    Phew--that was a longer response than I had intended! If you have any other questions about this please let me know :-)

  3. Thanks Claire, just getting ideas for VIDM next year.

    I don't think I could be bothered with Moodle when we have a Facebook fan page that we can use for ongoing discussion, but it may be worth thinking about...I want to keep things as simple as possible for the midwives who have little experience of this sort of stuff,

  4. I agree Sarah. Moodle adds another hurdle for people and it prevents content from being as open as many would like it to be. I have not had any experience with Facebook Fan Pages--but a quick glance at the VIDM one indicates that it is a pretty good way to get information out and allow for discussion.


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