BCcampus asked me to help to leverage its thought-leadership and expertise with open education within the British Columbia post-secondary community and the world-wide OER movement during the 2015 Open Textbook Summit May 27-28, by contracting me to provide communications assistance. I monitored the social media channels leading up to and during the Summit, posted from the @BCOpenText account, and published several posts reflecting the proceedings.
Blog posts published on May 28 and 29:
- An openness to openness (Day One morning keynote)
- Day One afternoon sessions
- Think big act small (Day Two morning keynote panel)
- Reviewing and Adapting Open Textbooks – pedagogical and practical considerations (Day Two morning session)
- The collateral benefits of adopting an open textbook (Day Two afternoon session)
- Final thoughts (Day Two closing)
Social media posts:
In the two weeks leading up to the summit, I used a spreadsheet to plan and schedule Twitter posts through BCcampus Hootsuite team account. I combed through the schedule of speakers and tried to make sure the @OpenTextBC account was following all of them, and they were mentioned in the lead-up posts.
During the summit, the most popular Twitter post was one pointing to the “An openness to openness” post. After that the next four most popular (generating more than 10 clicks each) were: “Early Findings from BC Faculty Survey on Open Educational Resources” (pointing to a BCcampus OpenEd site post), “Final thoughts,” and “Reviewing and Adapting Open Textbooks – pedagogical and practical considerations.”
These posts and more generated many more retweets and mentions, with the #OTSummit hashtag used hundreds of times. Too bad the BCcampus tracking system was not set up to generate reports on retweets and mentions. It is safe to say, however, this Summit generated a robust social media backchannel, with many people outside the summit itself participating by watching the live stream of the keynotes and joining in on Twitter.
Challenges and lessons learned:
BCcampus staff set out to replicate the online success of the 2014 Open Textbook Summit, and all indications are expectations were exceeded. The opening keynote and the student panel keynote were very popular and lent themselves well to live blogging. However, there were some challenges this year that I didn’t recall from my experience with last year’s summit.
My original strategy on Day One was to try to attend portions of all the sessions I could, to get a flavour for them, and to be able to write a wrap-up post at the end of the day giving the general tone and message of several of the sessions. However, this year there were many more sessions total, with three or more concurrent sessions in each half-hour block. It was impossible for one person to attend all the sessions, even to get a taste of what was happening. So on Day Two I switched up my strategy. I attended the sessions I could, and reported on those only. I also tried to capture the overall tone and vibe of the conference, using what I gleaned from the conversations in the hallways and on social media, for the wrap-up post. My impression (from social media and in-person feedback) is the wrap-up post went over very well, and I wish it could have been more intentional.
When I again do live blogging at a conference with this format, I will focus on the keynotes, which were straightforward, but change it up for the rest of the conference, perhaps interviewing summit-goers at the breaks in the hallways, asking their impressions of the session they were just in, or asking them to share any of their notes or main learnings, then synthesize those into a post or two summarizing the individual break-out sessions. I may even do some short video (15 seconds, Instagram-length) or perhaps more photos in real-time (there was a pro photographer there with his DSLR, which were published later).
Providing communications support to OTSummit 2015 was an exhausting yet very personally and professionally rewarding assignment.
Taking adequate notes for an almost-live blog post – at the same time monitoring an active social media back-channel – involves some advance planning, intense concentration, quick thinking and typing skills, while all around are people connecting, conversing, finding power outlets, logging onto wifi, etc. To say the ability to focus amidst chaos is a requirement of the task would be an understatement.
It’s quite thrilling, actually. 🙂
I was pleased to be a part of it, grateful for the chance to interact with passionate educators working with OER, and happy to reconnect with my former colleagues at BCcampus. I hope they invite me back for next year.