Following on from the previous two posts looking at the OU conference, this final one in the trilogy looks at some evaluation. I am particularly indebted to Karen Cropper, Rebecca Ferguson and Juliette Culver for doing much of the analysis for this post.
Evaluation took four main forms:
- A questionnaire of attendees in surveymonkey
- Statistics from cloudworks
- Analysis of twitter users adopting the #OUConf10 hashtag
- Analysis of the elluminate sessions
There were 102 responses to the questionnaire. Below are some charts representing salient issues:
Most attendees were central staff, but there was a significant audience that had no connection to the OU, and a mix across other categories.
Attendance was split evenly across most sessions.
Most people would not have attended had it been face to face.
People usually combined it with an element of work.
The content, technology and organisation were all rated good to excellent, with discussion a bit below these.
In general participants thought that the conference allowed a community to form, and thought that the open nature of the conference worked well. Opinion was divided as to whether interaction was less than with a face to face conference.
There was strong agreement that they would attend another online conference.
We asked attendees to give us three words to describe the conference and the resultant word cloud is below:
Some issues raised by participants included:
- Separating out time to attend an online conference
- Perception an online conference is ‘techie’
- Possibly having shorter events but spread out over more time
- Allowing more open sessions and not just presentation
Some representative quotes from respondees are:
- "liked the accessibility factor - it saved a lot of money having to travel to Milton Keynes”
- "The moderators were excellent; very engaging, kept things going well, did a sterling job. The discussions in the text box during sessions was very good indeed. Generally the speakers and the topics covered were of great interest and engaging.”
- “This was an exceptional way to involve people outside the University and particuarly useful for CPD for those who can't afford to travel or whose institutions won't pay for them to go to conferences. A real credit to the OU's open learning ethos.”
- “thanks for the opportunity to take part. Not being part of the OU myself I welcomed the 'open invitation' and got loads out of it. Am already spreading the word!"
- “Most conferences should be presented like this in future. As well as Elluminate the various social network backchannels can be used for even more interaction”
- “Just wanted to thank all concerned for their hard work and the effort they put in to make this such a rewarding experience. I've developed some very important new contacts from the conference. I interacted much more than I would at a face-to-face conference.”
- “Excellent - from this distance I made better contact than I ever have at a conference before.”
- “It worked! - That's quite exciting! - To know that you can participate without too much stress is a big achievement for me - it takes some of the "fear factor" away”
The following data was taken from the cloudworks site and are for the conference ‘cloudscape’ which is comprised of different elements, or ‘clouds’.
- No. clouds - 46
- No. comments - 168
- No. embeds - 59
- No. link - 80
- No. views of cloudscape - 2352
- No. registered users viewing - 392
- No. guests - 2852
The conference used the #OUConf10 hashtag, so anyone tweeting with this would have their tweet stored in an archive (using TwapperKeeper).
- No. twitterers using hashtag - 141
- No. tweets using hashtag - 766
- Av. no tweets per user - 5.43
- No. followers added over conference - 150
The following data was gathered from analysing the elluminate sessions over the two days. Overall 287 people participated in at least one session.
The number of people who participated in each session are given below.
- Session 1 - 202
- Session 2 - 141
- Session 3 - 108
- Session 4 - 97
Overall the technology worked well, and most participants found the conference a useful and interesting experience. The number of participants was in line (if not a bit higher) than previous year's face to face conference, but the costs were considerably lower. In terms of benefit from the conference most participants gained as much, if not more, from this form.
A few small points it would be interesting to explore:
- I would like to perform more detailed analysis of the discussions in cloudworks, elluminate and twitter, but haven't had time yet.
- Some people commented that they felt more at liberty to ask questions in text chat than they do in a face to face conference.
- The cost and green comparison with previous face to face versions of the conference.