CETIS 09 the video – some thoughts on the process

Regular visitors to the CETIS website may have noticed that we now have a video from the CETIS09 conference on the front page. As the content consists of “talking heads” from delegates, we hope that it gives a flavour as to why people came to the conference and what their expectations and overall impressions of the event were.

Although we have traditionally, and continue, to get feedback via feedback questionnaires we have been toying with the idea of using video to capture some more anecdotal feedback for sometime now. The old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words rings particularly true for an organization such as CETIS. It can take quite a while to explain what we are, what we do, and most importantly what impact we have on others – hell it can take about five minutes to even say Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards 🙂 So, using video has the potential to let others explain the benefits of what we do e.g. why do people take two days out of busy schedules to go to our annual conference?

However, as with anything getting to the point of the final video has been a bit of a journey which started as these things often do with a serendipitous meeting. Mark Magnate from 55 Degrees, had a meeting with my colleague Rowin Young about assessment related activities which I joined and during the course of the meeting he talked about the Voxur video capture system they had been developing. One thing led to another, and we decided that this “lite” video system might just provide a way for us to actually start getting some video feedback from our community and the obvious place to start was at our conference.

There are a number of video capture booths/systems on the market now, but the things that I particularly liked about the Voxur system, were:
*Size – it’s small, basically a macbook in a bright yellow flight case with a bit of additional built in lighting. So, it doesn’t need much space – just a table and somewhere relatively quiet.
*level of user control -a take is only saved when the person speaking is happy with it and they choose to move on. As it is basically an adapted laptop it looks pretty familiar to most people too.
*Editing – the user control above means that you don’t have all the “outtakes” to sift through and the system automatically tags and related answers. There are still of course editing decisions to be made but initial sifting time is cut down dramatically.
*Q&A style. With this system you have the option to have a real person record and ask questions so people aren’t just reading a question on screen then responding. Hearing and seeing someone ask you a question is a bit more personal and engaging.

In terms of actually preparing for using the system at the conference, the most time consuming, head scratching part was actually getting a set of questions which people would be able to answer. Making the switch from getting written to spoken answers did take some time. Also we had to bear in mind that this wasn’t like an interview where you could interject and ask additional/follow up questions. Once someone is sitting in front of the laptop they just work their way through the set of questions. In the end I know that we did leave in a couple of quite challenging questions – but the responses we got were fantastic and we didn’t have to bribe anyone.

During the event, as it was our first time using the system we did have Mark “manning” the box. And this is something we will continue to do really just to explain to people how the system works, and basically to reassure people that all they really have to do is hit the space bar. We had to do a wee bit of persuading to get people to come in but overall mostly people we asked were happy to take part. A mixture of natural curiosity and not scared of technology traits from our delegates probably did help.

It was quite a learning curve, but not too extreme and hopefully it is something that we can build into future events as a way to augment our other feedback channels.

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