IWMW10: What did we Learn?

I promised to write more on this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (iwmw10) and having just worked my way through the data from the online evaluation forms suddenly find myself with a lot to say!

This year we gave out paper feedback forms at the event but also published a more comprehensive online feedback form using Google Docs. Obviously there are lots of reasons for having an online form (saves a huge amount of data input for a start) but one of the key benefits was that we could also ask for feedback from those who attended remotely. Of the 65 who filled the form in 7 had attended remotely. This was a real chance to hear how successful it had been as an ‘online event’ from those who had truly experienced it in this way and also whether others would be willing to do so too.

As the chair of the event this year I’m interested in the event from two different, but very specific, angles. Firstly was it successful (how did people find the programme, speakers, admin, technologies etc., what can we improve on)? Secondly is it sustainable (In the light of government cuts can people carry on attending)? As writer of this blog I am also interested in the remote attendance angle.

The IWMW events differ significantly from many other commercial events in the ‘web management’ area. While many may focus on training and problem solving etc. IWMW takes a slightly different approach. Although ‘learning about things’ is important at IWMW the key aspiration of the event is development of a community of practice. Without being too cheesy the ideology is similar to the the “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” proverb. IWMW helps people make the links that can help get them through the year to the next IWMW event. One of the challenges for us is fostering this community of practice among people who aren’t physically at the event.

OK so lets hear what people had to say. Here are some choicest cuts from the questions we asked and the answers they gave. Note that this isn’t a complete evaluation of the event as I’ve primarily focused on the success of the event, its sustainability and remote attendance.

Success

Comments on the event itself

I won’t go into specific details about speakers (Ranjit Sidhu and Paul Boag‘s talks were probably the two most popular, though the rest received lots of praise too) but people had lots to say on the event itself.

Of course there are always minor niggles (apparently the food sent people to sleep, the showers were lousy and there was only decaf coffee in the bedrooms!) and people always wants to attend more parallels (more videoing of these?)! We are also often restricted somewhat by the event venue – so this year people found the seats a bit uncomfortable and would have liked a tiered lecture theater – but a travelling conference pays this price.

However as usual there was great praise for the event team. I’m not just blowing my own trumpet here because IWMW is a team effort and one of the reasons it works so well is because we have very specific roles. Natasha and Michelle do a great job of the actual organisation, I work on co-ordination of activities (putting together the Web site, programme, sorting out speakers and facilitators, setting up the blog, informing AV people and so on) and of course Brian does a fantastic job of encouraging new innovation, enthusing everyone and keeping things moving at a incredible speed. We also had a few extra members on our team: The sponsored place people wrote lots of summaries, made videos and generally helped out and once again Kirsty blogged and videoed at a rapid rate.

I’m amazed at how much the event blogger manages to do during the conference and at such high quality.”

Other points include the enthusiasm for Twitter and the Twitter wall, enjoyment of the QR code game and respect for people’s willingness to share ideas.

Twitter interaction (thankfully having brought a laptop this year, so also the connectivity at the venue and in halls was crucial and superb) was also great and felt like it kept people connected during and after sessions (and in turn, after the workshop perhaps).

Of course these type of technologies don’t always go down well with everyone!

The constant tweeting was annoying. Not everyone does this! It was particularly irritating during the closing speech, when it was up on the screen behind Brian. I found it almost impossible to concentrate on what he was saying.

Some useful suggestions include better marketing of the event (sometimes the manager word scared people off), earlier confirmation of the date, more sessions about what people are actually doing at their institutions (people liked the ‘doing the day job’ session) putting QR tags onto delegate badges and making the programme available via iCal. We also need to do more to help new attendees meet their peers – one person has suggested “some kind of web management speed dating to help people make those initial connections” – great idea, we’ll have a think about this.

There was also some discussion about sponsors. I think people have started to realise that they are a necessary addition to the event and there can be many benefits to having them there (they give a much needed outside perspective and this year two commercial speakers gave great talks). However their role may need more clarification and better boundaries.

Still get the feeling from some that there is a fear of being ‘sold to’, but if IWMW is to have funding through sponsors etc., then people need to become more comfortable with a commercial presence.

Some people have lots of ideas for more we could do, but then there is only so much time in the day!

Another useful thing that I’d like is a library of case studies and info that is kept up-to-date, i.e. somewhere where I can go and find out, say, the structure of web teams, roles, and responsibilities across the various HE institutions, or the business cases for mobile that people have used. This would be enormously useful for me when senior managers ask “what’s everyone else doing?” or “has anyone else tried this and how did it go?“.

Sustainability

If this event was discontinued what would be the impact on your work and that of your organisation?

The biggest concern cited if the event was discontinued was isolation, many felt that their organisation would end up working in the dark without the support of other institutions.

I think its really important to maintain the relationships amongst your peers – that is best done face to face. Also the different approaches and willingness to share what others are up to is important. So I guess there would be more isolation, duplication and waste if we weren’t making contacts, learning from each other and most importantly sharing amongst the community.

There would be less general understanding of new technologies and innovation would suffer.

We would increasingly lose contact with key industry representatives from HEIs, but most worryingly we would lose the ability to measure our activities against standards and benchmarks set across the national HEIs related to the web and its technologies.

Other issues mentioned were a reduced level of job satisfaction and staff motivation.

My own work would probably stagnate if I didn’t have this fresh shot in the arm every year.

Their was a recognition that this is the only event specifically targeted at for UK University web professionals.

It would be the loss of the only event that appears to be directly relevant to the work my institution and I do in terms of web development. It’s a great opportunity to hear about emerging technologies and strategies, as well as share best practice with peers (even if I am from FE and most attendees are from HE!).

Some pointed out how cutting back on staff development and discontinuing the event would be a false economy.

In the course of three days my institution received the equivalent of several tens of thousands of pounds worth of consultancy – from leading figures in the field. I know from my discussions with other delegates that this is a common feeling. I firmly believe that the dividends from activities like IWMW (and by extension UKOLN, JISC and JANET) vastly outweigh their costs.

We need to start thinking about shared services and I’m not sure how that’s supposed to happen if we don’t meet each other and chat and explore those ideas and opportunities.

Marieke Guy (me) opening up the IWMW10 event with a Twitter Wall behind

Remote Attendence

In order for event organisers to make contingency plans for future events please let us know if you would consider attending next year’s event remotely.

Given an option most people would rather attend the event in person. The main reasons for this were to avoid work distractions and to be able to have face-to-face interactions with people.

The most useful parts of the workshop for me were the chance meetings during the breaks between sessions, over breakfast etc, and late night discussions. This doesn’t really happen online, and I don’t think it ever will – although there is a certain serendipity attached to find new people to follow through Twitter conversations.

For us being there physically is very important. That said, we’d welcome more live streaming for parallels and barcamps to widen the potential audience.

However attending the event was not an option for everyone and many recognised that in the next few years attendance may become more difficult. For many remote attendance would be a good second best.

I’d hope to attend in person but remotely is the next best thing.

Some also reported benefits of attending in this way.

One advantage of remote attendance is that key lessons learned are not diluted by travel home. You are right there in your seat of power ready to implement changes. however getting uninterrupted time is very difficult. perhaps you could set up regional hubs and connect nodes together.

And some felt that this is the future (see the Open University Online Learning Conference.)

Yes. I think the OU’s recent remote only event was an interesting innovation. Personally after 5 yrs or so in HE I have conference burnout, so remote suits me well.

I watched one session, Sid’s, while uploading a video in my room and felt that the experience was just as good as being in the main room. Very engaging. I began watching another session on the following day and quickly stopped as the content was uninteresting to me. This was a much preferable experience to being stuck in the main room when the speaker isn’t engaging with you….I found a mix of remote and physical attendance was an ideal combination. A room showing a live video feed of the main sessions would be great maybe.

The majority of the remote attendees who filled in the form praised the event amplification.

Great live streaming and the rapid posting of content after presentations, the twitter stream and the fully documented meeting website – nothing was/is difficult to find – including slides before the presentations started.

The Online BarCamp also went down well.

However there were some issues, for example not all speakers spoke into the microphone and the streaming feed didn’t work for about 1 hour on day 3. I think what with our feedback and the lessons learnt from the Open Univeristy Online Conference there’s still quite a bit for us to work on here.

I dipped in and out of the event during the period it was on. I’m not a web manager, but I found it very interesting, as I’m interested in mobile web, mashups, re-use of data. I followed the hashtags via Twitter, rather than on the IWMW10 site/blog. I couldn’t access the live video streaming, as it wouldn’t play via my work PC. I’ve been browsing through through the blog and have bookmarked a few of the sessions already. Having a record of the whole event for future reference is really useful.

Summing up

I think on the whole the event went really well and people left feeling positive and inspired in what we know to be a turbulent time.

Excellent support from the UKOLN team and UoS – really well done, thanks to all!

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OU Online Conference: What did they learn?

The excitement of IWMW meant that I missed pointing people to Martin Weller’s feedback on the Open University Online Conference: How to organise an online conference.

Martin and his team organised the Open University annual Learning and Technology conference: Learning in an open world in June. The event took place entirely online and was a really groundbreaking event. For my thoughts at the time read Learning at an Online Conference.

Martin and Karen Cropper have now created a template for use by those thinking of running a similar event, and it’s a very useful resource. It covers the planning techniques, technologies, structure and communication mechanisms they used for the event

Probably the most interesting part of the post is the issues section. As a wise person once said “mistakes are our friends – learn from them“. Martin mentions access issues to Elluminate, microphone quality or speakers and how communication within his internal group could have been better. Although he touches on some more ‘cultural’ issues e.g. “Some attendees commented that they found it difficult to isolate time and space when at work, as people assumed if they were in, they were interruptible” he doesn’t really discuss how attendence could be improved – there were around 80 people max in the sessions I attended, I think they had room for 300. (Note the stats show that there were 202 attendees in session 1, but still there is room for improvement.)

His follow up post OU conference – areas for improvement puts a little more meat on how we can make such an event more seamless.

A few choice ideas include:

  • Ensure that speakers have good mic and earphones and have practiced in Elluminate beforehand.
  • If speakers are in other locations, we need to have a way to contact them outside of the platform in use, if they have not got their sound on or are having problems connecting.
  • We need an agreed signal to bring to a close – the online equivalent of the 5 minute warning or card held up at conferences.
  • It is worth including regular breaks in the programme for informal chat and a chance for ‘comfort breaks’. This should be good practice anyway in relation to looking at the screen for long periods and also the issue around comfort when wearing headphones for prolonged periods.
  • Run more open, discussion based sessions, not just purely presentation based ones. As it was experimental this year, we were trying a number of different things so experimenting with the format seemed like a tweak too far, but we could do more than straightforward presentations.
  • Have a specified technical support team with clearly defined roles. As this was an experiment this year, much of the knowledge resided with the two central organisers, but as it becomes accepted practice, readily defined roles can be allocated.
  • If bandwidth and technology allow include video and/or pictures of the presenters (and audience) as it makes the experience feel more personal.
  • Presenting virtually requires slides to be more engaging than with a live audience and for the speaker to encourage interaction. We will produce a set of guidelines for virtual presentations to aid presenters. Also insist on receiving slides beforehand as uploading was not always straightforward.
  • Run some hybrid sessions – for example have a number of rooms on campus where the conference is presented on a screen, with refreshments available so people can drop in. This would give some of the physical presence a traditional conference benefits from and may overcome some of the issues in people allocating time to it.

Martin has also published a post entitled OU conference – evaluation which gives some statistics for the event. The evaluation took the form of a questionnaire of attendees in surveymonkey, statistics from cloudworks, analysis of twitter users adopting the #OUConf10 hashtag and analysis of the elluminate sessions.

Interestingly 50 of the 102 people who replied to the survey would not have attended the conference if it had not been online. I filled in the survey and was one of these people. I expect that they actually got quite a different audience (e.g. a lot more international attendees) from the ones they’ve had in previous years when it’s been a face-to-face conference.

One of the main issue raised by attendees was separating out the time to attend an online conference. I’d agree that this was a big one for me. I have thought that if events like the Institutional Web Management Workshop were to move more in this direction there might be a place for ‘hubs’ or local venues at which people could meet up to watch the event together. Thus separating the conference from work and still retaining some of that networking factor.

I’m pleased to see that Martin intends to look in more detail at the “cost and green comparison with previous face to face versions of the conference“. I think the results should make interesting reading.

Well done again to the OU team for a pioneering event. A great start and I’m sure the conference will only get better!

Summing up IWMW10

Working part-time means that I’ve already missed the boat when it comes to writing about how IWMW10 went. Our IWMW10 blog has summaries of all the plenaries and quite a few of the parallel sessions and barcamps. A number of posts covering how the video streaming, technologies and remote participation have already been written by those who organised and participated in the event. See the MmIT blog: IWMW10 – remote participation at its best, Ann Priestley’s #iwmw10 follow-up (1): eavesdropping on the conversation and Brian Kelly’s Initial Reflections on IWMW 2010 and Further Reflections on IWMW 2010: Innovation and Sustainability.

Well what can I say, we had the lot: mobile talks, video streaming, geolocated tweets, the QR quiz, live blogging and coverIt-live, slides on Slideshare, recorded talks online, an online BarCamp and more.

As I’m lost for words why not watch a Animoto video I’ve made to sum up the event.

Note: I created the video in Animoto and thought I would be able to embed it. I have done this in the past and written about how to do it ( Animoto: Sharing Video). Unfortunately it seems that downloading and embedding in WordPress are only supported when you pay for full-length videos. Ho hum!

Credit

Most of the photos were taken by me but a few weren’t. Thanks those who took the extra ones. They are all available from Flickr using the iwmw10 tag and all have a Creative Commons licence on them.

IWMW10 Remote BarCamp

So I’ve lost my voice and have had a maximum of 15 hours sleep over the last 3 days but nevermind, this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop seems to be going really well!

I’ll write more about the exciting stuff we got up to when I’ve recovered but one innovation I wasn’t expecting was a remote BarCamp facilitated by our excellent Live Blogger Kirsty Pitkin (was McGill).

The CoverItLive Interface for the Remote BarCamp

As Kirsty explains on the IWMW blog:

This year we held our first online BarCamp, especially for our remote audience. The session attracted 21 viewers, including 7 active and talkative participants! We had representatives from Washtenaw Community College, Michigan USA, University of Huddersfield, Heriot-Watt University, a former employee from the UK Centre for Legal Education, (now freelancing in Denmark!) and Oxford University.

Kirsty used the event live blog (CoverItLive) as the ‘venue’ for the BarCamp and participants could name themselves or remain annonymous.

For the BarCamp, I disabled the feed from the #iwmw10 hash tag, which effectively gave us a clear discussion space without the tweets from delegates in other BarCamp sessions. I invited participants to introduce themselves and to suggest topics of interest for discussion. As each person introduced themselves, I granted them unmoderated posting on an individual basis to enable freer flowing discussion.

I think what Kirsty was doing with her remote BarCamp follows the lines of the OU Online Conference.

We have to offer more support for remote participants, budget cuts and environmental issues mean they may well make up the largest percentage of the audience in the future.

IWMW10 and Remote Audiences

I’m a busy a bee at the moment. The annual Institutional Web Management Workshop 2010 that I chair is looming large and this year we are doing even more to support remote attendees.

Last year I wrote a few blog posts about what went on:

We really tried to make remote audiences feel involved.

This year’s event takes place at the University of Sheffield next week (Monday 12 – Wednesday 14 July) and we have some great plenaries and sessions planned on many relevant areas (including the mobile Web). There is also lots of other technical innovation that remote workers might be interested in such as Location-Based Sharing Services.

Video Streaming and Twitter Walls

Once again we’ll be providing a live video stream of the plenary talks for those who can’t attend. We will try to ensure that the speakers’ slides are available on Slideshare so remote participants can view the slides easily. There will be an official live blogger who will be tweeting summaries of the talks (on @iwmwlive) and we will be encouraging discussion on the #iwmw10 Twitter hashtag. There will also be individual session hashtags e.g. #P0 for the welcome talk, #P1 for the first plenary talk, etc., which can be used in conjunction with the event hashtag. More information on use of Twitter at the event is available from the IWMW Web site on the Use of Twitter at IWMW page.

We also hope to have a Twitter wall integrated into the streaming page.

One thing we’d like to try to produce this year is a map showing the locations of remote participants. A simple way of doing this would be if Twitter users could geo-locate their #iwmw10 tweets.

Blogging

The IWMW 2010 event blog is open to all, not just the local participants. A group on remote participation has been set up so feel free to ask any questions or raise any issues there.

During the event there will be lots more blogging and microblogging going on so keep a look out.

Evaluation

On top of all our usual innovations we will also be trying to evaluate the effectiveness and take up of the remote services. One way we will be doing this is by allowing the JISC Greening Events project to use the standard web log data for research purposes. The JISC-funded Greening Events project proposes to conduct an exploratory investigation into how to minimise the sustainability impacts of academic events (such as conferences and seminars, training, administrative and project related events) while gaining the maximum benefit from them.

I’ve written about the Greening Events Project before and have been offering support and advice to Paul Shabajee, the project leader, during the project life.

As well as looking at usage statistics Paul will also be interviewing and communicating with remote attendees. He’s written a blog post on his ideas.

At UKOLN we feel that there is a real need to evaluate the effectiveness of the amplification of the event in order to inform policy decisions as to whether we should be doing this at other events in the future.

We hope that those who can’t attend the event will find the video stream and backchannel valuable. However in order for us to be able to demonstrate the value of this amplification in light of cutbacks we will need evidence that this provides a return on investment. So we would encourage you to participate in the discussions on Twitter and the blog, give us feedback if there are any problems during the event and give us your thoughts on the value of the event amplification afterwards.

There is a blog post on the IWMW blog on our attempts to treat the remote audience as first-class citizens and my colleague Brian Kelly has also written more on this year’s amplified plans.

I will post more about how it went next week! Wish me luck!

New Ways of Working in the Public Sector

A few weeks back I introduced the public Sector Nomads site. The man behind it all, Ken Eastwood, has kindly agreed to write a guest blog post for us telling us more about the site’s plans and aspirations.

Ken is an Assistant Director at Barnsley Council in South Yorkshire where he leads Regulatory Services including Environmental Health, Trading Standards, Licensing and Bereavement Services. He has a number of corporate leadership roles, including Innovation and Mobile & Flexible Working. An Environmental Health Officer by profession, he began his local government career in 1985 in Liverpool and worked in Bradford for 15 years, before joining Barnsley in 2002.

Ken was a board member of UK Government’s Project Nomad and previously led the Project Nomad Cemetery Headstone Safety proof of concept and more recently led the national ReGS Project, implementing mobile and flexible working solutions across Regulatory Services, in partnership with Sheffield City Council. He has spoken at and chaired many conferences, seminars and workshops including eGov and tGov events. Ken is leading the transformation of Nomad, seeking to build a sustainable, public sector wide community of interest.

Ken has been an advisor to government on data sharing, new work styles and the better regulation agenda and he has a passionate interest in new ways of working and about technology enabled change.

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As an Environmental Health Officer by profession I have always had an interest in environmental issues and, in particular, in local air quality and the impacts of transportation and travel. The Carbon Management agenda is becoming increasingly important to all of us and I’m struck by the possible scale of the contribution new ways of working could have here. I live 42 miles from my workplace and commute most days up and down the M62 and M1. A day spent at home a week reduces my travel to work carbon impacts by 20%, for example. I think we should make more of the environmental benefits going forward, as well as the considerable wellbeing benefits arising from improved work life balance.

Public Sector Nomads is the successor organisation to Project Nomad, UK Government’s former local eGov mobile and flexible working project.

There is much interest across the whole public sector in new ways of working enabled by technology. The pressures on public spending are serving to further raise the profile of these issues and it is becoming apparent that the learning acquired across local government has relevance to the rest of the public sector and the challenges we all face going forward are of course very similar.

Public Sector Nomads is seeking to establish a modern and dynamic forum to enable peer to peer support, experience sharing, innovation and thought leadership. As budgets are withdrawn and quangos wound up, there will remain a role for agile and low cost communities of interest to support and facilitate sector led improvement.

We are in discussion with various public and private sector organisations to secure support for the development and maintenance of a new online platform and ways to resource our membership administration, community facilitation and events organisation.

Our vision is for Public Sector Nomad to establish an overarching community, consisting of groups of interest organised by sector e.g. local government, NHS and by region, e.g. Nomad Scotland.

We hope to develop a future programme around;

  • An information service to members on mobile & flexible working, new work styles, leadership & organisational change and associated technology enabled transformation;
  • A refreshed online reference library and archive of materials including case studies, toolkits, policies and procedures;
  • A new web 2.0 platform to support the community and facilitate collaboration;
  • Technology reviews and community rated opinions;
  • A dynamic project database detailing who is doing what in this space across the UK;
  • A series of targeted events, workshops and conferences to deliver value for money learning;
  • New eLearning packages, and;
  • A bespoke support and advice service, provided by trusted associate consultants.

Much of our content resides at to www.projectnomad.org.uk but whilst we are working behind the scenes on a new platform, we’ve set up a ‘news’ site with basic interactive facilities over at www.publicsectorNOMADS.com

Colleagues may wish to sign up to the new site, subscribe to receive email or RSS updates and begin to add comment to the online debate. The new site will give a taste of likely future direction and the platform housing new and legacy content will eventually be hosted at the same domain.

As we build a new future for Public Sector Nomads you can play your part by engaging with the community. Tell us what you are doing or the challenges you face;

  • Do you have content that would be of interest to others?
  • What challenges are you facing and how could Nomad help?
  • Do you have ‘news’ to post on publicsectorNOMADS?
  • Do you have views on our direction and helpful suggestions to share?
  • Can you provide sponsorship to support our administration or help to raise awareness of our work more widely?

We would love to hear from you – online to mail@publicsectornomads.com

Looking to the future we hope to see much wider adoption of mobile and flexible working across our public services. We have enough learning to be confident in the technologies and to understand the issues involved. Now is the time for game-changing innovation on a scale we haven’t seen since industrialization. Now is the time for all elements of the public sector to collaborate and work together on shared solutions and the promotion of best practice. I hope Public Sector Nomads will play a helpful role.

Ken Eastwood
Founder, Public Sector Nomads