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DHPE 2012 Member Institute – A Virtual Experience

Monday, August 13, 2012   (0 Comments)
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DHPE held its annual Member Institute via virtual meeting this year. We wanted to continue to deliver the business meeting and valuable information sharing to our members regardless of travel budgets and restrictions. Providing this meeting in a virtual environment provided many challenges including:

  • delivering as much of our program as possible online
  • facilitating state sharing – a popular annual meeting activity
  • keeping participants engaged
  • handling the logistics of software, audio and video capabilities
  • keeping costs as low as possible
  • avoiding a registration fee

Lessons learned were invaluable to all of us on the planning committee and for DHPE staff. A small team including Wendy Sahli, DHPE's Director of Information Technology Services, planned to use GoToWebinar as a tool for virtual engagement of participants. The team came up with engaging ideas such as:

  • videos for award acceptance and gavel passing
  • online voting using virtual hand raising
  • questions posted throughout the meeting in a chat box
  • committee reports posted to the website thus having brief summaries presented during the meeting
  • state sharing posted to the blog on DHPE's website

This allowed more time for a keynote speaker during the annual institute. Through the members-only group, members have full access to read reports and state sharing on their own time. It also provides a continuous resource throughout the year and encourages discussion by allowing members to comment online.

Based on this single experience, here are our lessons learned and our recommended best practices.

  • Create a technical agenda and script for all those involved with conducting the institute.This needs to be complete with specific times for what will be shown on screen and detailed directions for speakers.
  • Reduce the number of people who will control of the screen. Fewer transitions mean fewer opportunities for technical difficulties. Except for our keynote speaker, Wendy Sahli handled control of the screens throughout the institute.
  • Conduct practice sessions before the real event. These helped test audio issues and practice transitions.
  • Headsets are important for speakers to avoid reverb of sound.
  • Create a control room. At DHPE, we used a small conference room.
  • Have someone responsible for handling the chat room and question box. This person can deal with technical questions from participants. It frees up the speaker and key technical operator to stay focused.
  • Use all the technological capabilities of the system to keep participants involved.

We have identified some opportunities for improvement and are planning to address these for future events.

  • Improve the quality of the videos if possible.
  • Revise the content of the institute structure by adding another speaker, finding a way for attendees to introduce themselves, putting key points from each committee summary on a slide, considering webcam so that the speaker can be seen by participants, and doing some verbal state sharing.
  • Provide last-minute attendees an easy way to enter.
  • Clarify the use of chat and question boxes.
  • End the institute with a closing sound.

While we would like to continue to hold in-person annual institutes, we feel this was a great alternative. Thank you to all involved in the planning and presentation of this unique event. Your feedback about the virtual institute is valued and encouraged online through the evaluation survey. We look forward to continued discussion through the web forum and documents posted in the members-only group.

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