OU conference – evaluation

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:

  1. A questionnaire of
    attendees in surveymonkey
  2. Statistics from
    cloudworks
  3. Analysis of twitter
    users adopting the #OUConf10 hashtag
  4. Analysis of the
    elluminate sessions

Questionnaire

There were 102 responses to the questionnaire. Below
are some charts representing salient issues:

ChartExport
 

Most attendees were central staff, but there was
a significant audience that had no connection to the OU, and a mix across other
categories.

ChartExport (1)
 

Attendance was split evenly across most
sessions.

ChartExport (2)
 

Most people would not have attended had it been
face to face.

ChartExport (3)
 

People usually combined it with an element of work.

ChartExport (4)
 

The content, technology and organisation were
all rated good to excellent, with discussion a bit below these.

ChartExport (6)  

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.

ChartExport (7)
 

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:

Wwordle
 

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”

Cloudworks Statistics

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

Twitter analysis

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

Elluminate analysis

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

Conclusion

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.

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