Tag Archives: BCcampus

The thrills and challenges of live-blogging an Open Textbook Summit

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:

  1. An openness to openness (Day One morning keynote)
  2. Day One afternoon sessions
  3. Think big act small (Day Two morning keynote panel)
  4. Reviewing and Adapting Open Textbooks – pedagogical and practical considerations (Day Two morning session)
  5. The collateral benefits of adopting an open textbook (Day Two afternoon session)
  6. 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:

Openness graphic recording

Openness graphic recording by Tracy Kelly and Jason Toal

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.

Ken and I at ETUG Fall 2014

Goodbye BCcampus, Hello Vancouver Community College

Today is officially my last day at BCcampus, and my last day as an official resident of Victoria. I’ll be making sure everything’s all tied in a bow and handed off today, and dropping off my computer and keys to the Victoria office in the afternoon.
Ken and I at ETUG Fall 2014

Best thing about working at BCcampus? I met my partner at a work conference. Here we are at the 2014 Fall ETUG workshop.

When David Porter and Paul Stacey hired me almost five years ago, they assured me I would find a home in an innovative, nimble and forward-thinking organization. They were right. BCcampus stoked my professional creativity in immeasurable ways; I learned a great deal about post-secondary education and technology, and the ways technology intersects with learning, teaching, and mediates and enables relationships of all kinds, if you use it right. I can honestly say I’ve never worked before with such committed, forward-thinking people. Just goes to show what can happen if you let people be free to do what they do best!

I hope I’ve been able to show my colleague’s best work (and the work of our stakeholders) to our broader stakeholder groups over the last five years. They have made my job easy.
Next week I’m stepping into a larger organization (there are 22,000 students at VCC!), leading a department of 13 people who are tasked with marketing and communications. It’s quite a step from BCcampus small but mighty communications department of 2.5 plus contractors (although I have supervised a shop of up to 8 previously). But one of the things I learned here is the importance of figuring out how to scale up.
You’ve taught me well, BCcampus!
The good thing is, I’ll be staying in the post-secondary system, so it doesn’t really feel like I’m saying goodbye, just “see you later!”


Photo by Dennis Yip, copyright BCcampus, used under Creative Commons license.

5 Questions with Tori Klassen, BCcampus Communications Director, on Communicating Open Educational Resources, EdTech, and Social Media

 1. Tell us a bit about your presentation at the upcoming Social Media Camp. Why are conferences such as these important to people in the post-secondary sector?

Tori KlassenMy presentation at Social Media Camp is essentially a case-study. It’s called: Assembling your posse: turning small budgets and scarce resources into Big Picture strategies. I share my experience of what it takes to make the most of a modest communications budget in small non-profit organization. I try to attend Social Media Camp each year, because I get practical tips and tactics that I can take back to work and use. My presentation, on May 7, will talk about what I’ve learned (in my role as Communications Director at BCcampus) about designing, delivering and implementing a web project that takes on a life of its own. My “show and tell” approach will help other professionals working in the post-secondary sector tame the digital beast, AKA the corporate website, and help them move from a traditional top-down communications and marketing approach, to a more fluid and collaborative one. My case study will talk about how we’re bringing EdTech to life, one blog post at a time.

2. What are some of the tools you use to manage your editorial calendar, keep track of assignments and your posse of freelance writers?

I can’t say enough about the new version of Basecamp. It’s what I use for our editorial calendar. I love the mobile version and that you’re able reply to threads directly from your email account, so it includes people who may not want to log into an app from their browser to keep up with what’s going on. Its user interface provides lots of visual cues to let me see if we’re on track. This collaboration and project management app includes the freelance writer, my own home team and other BCcampus subject matter experts who help shape and provide feedback on our articles and story ideas.

Evernote/Skitch is always open on my desktop; it’s indispensible for note taking, clipping articles from the web, taking and annotating screen shots, and keeping track of ideas. I email a lot of things into my Evernote account. I also use Skype and Google Hangout as needed.

3. How do you develop topics, themes and ideas for your BCcampus blog? And, do you have templates?

Snowball! I’ve asked the writers, when they interview people working in universities and colleges, to ask their sources for leads on other cool stuff that’s happening in the education technology space in the province. Much to everyone’s delight, it’s like a huge snowball rolling downhill, gathering momentum.

I hired professional, seasoned writers who are not only able to digest and translate large amounts of background research and information, follow directions and deliver on time, but also add their own ideas and flavour. The result has been fantastic!

The writing and nature of our posts has evolved – for instance this “5 questions with…” format is now a standard. Most blog posts have a notable quotes and further reading section. And, our latest addition is something we’ve named Friday Diversions. I adapted some great ideas from other sources (which I’ll share during my talk) on style, tone and presentation.

Our tone for the BCcampus Blog is business casual. It’s conversational and approachable. That means wading through a lot of academic writing to make it more “human.”

4. What are the top three things you learned about content management and managing your BCcampus blog over the past year?

At the top of the list is organizational support. I presented my plan (based on data – surveys and analytics) to senior management team, their managers and my colleagues and received agreement on the communications goals and my approach.

Second: hire the right people (you’ll learn more about how to assemble the right posse in my presentation.) I’m extremely lucky to have two stellar staff people (a graphic and web designer, and a smart-as-a-whip co-op student) along with the most amazing writers.

Third, and probably the most important, is learning to “let go” and be flexible. As the Communications Director, I have to keep my eye on the horizon, on my goals. I trust my posse to implement the plan. But, as we all know, plans on paper, or even deadlines mapped out on Basecamp, sometimes tend to go askew. A hot story lead goes dead. Or, the editorial deadlines don’t align with my colleagues’ or stakeholders’ availability. So, on more than one occasion, we’ve had to shift our focus. That’s where the letting go comes in. I call it content management for the real world!

5. What’s the big picture for the BCcampus blog and website?

We want to be the go-to organization for system-wide collaboration and innovation in educational technology and open educational resources for British Columbia. However, in this digital age talking only about your organization, all the time, doesn’t engender any love. We’ve all been on the receiving end of self-congratulatory tweets, Facebook and blog posts. Our goal is to create compelling, interesting content that invites people to learn more about educational technology and open educational resources.

What we do for the post-secondary system in B.C. is in the background. BCcampus is the plumbing. Our stakeholders (colleges, universities and institutes – 25 public ones in our province) are the shiny fixtures. They’re what everyone sees and uses, we just provide the supports: the IT infrastructure and the training and co-ordination to make it all work better.

Educational Technology should not be noticed. It should just work – to enhance learning, to ease the registration process, to free up resources our stakeholders can use elsewhere in their IT departments, registrar’s offices, and their teaching and learning centres.

On our website, on our blog, we want to reflect our stakeholders in our work. We want to hold a mirror up, so they can see themselves in what we do.

If you want to be interesting, be interested in others.

And, from what I’ve seen so far in 2013 – we’re definitely on the right track!

Notable quotes:

I trust my posse to implement the plan. But, as we all know, plans on paper, or even deadlines mapped out on Basecamp, sometimes tend to go askew. A hot story lead goes dead. Or, the editorial deadlines don’t align with my colleagues’ or stakeholders’ availability. So, on more than one occasion, we’ve had to shift our focus. That’s where the letting go comes in.

What we do for the post-secondary system in B.C. is in the background. BCcampus is the plumbing. Our stakeholders (colleges, universities and institutes – 25 public ones in our province) are the shiny fixtures.

Join us:

For further reading:

Re-published from BCcampus.ca under Creative Commons license