For the third December in a row, the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) will be hosting its annual Winter Working Connections professional development training event completely on-line. When it was first offered in 2009, Winter Working Connections was an expansion of the CTC’s popular week-long, in-person, Summer Working Connections event that runs each July. The goal for both Summer and Winter Working Connections is to provide in-depth training to IT faculty members on a specific cutting-edge topic that could be used to create a new course or supplement an existing course. And that meant gathering together in person at the National CTC’s host campus at Collin College in Frisco, Texas.
But in December 2015, the decision was made to try running Winter Working Connections online to stretch budget dollars. Rather than pay for catered lunches and support participant travel, events that run online need only cover the costs of distance learning platforms and instructor fees. The savings were significant. There would, of course, also be a savings to attendees who could sit at their desk at home or work rather than spend money to travel right before the holidays.
Hosting Winter Working Connections online has been a big success. Winter 2015 and Winter 2016 welcomed 76 total enrollments. As of now, another 34 enrollments have already been confirmed for Winter 2017 that doesn’t start until December 11. Soon, the alumni group for online Winter Working Connections will be over 100.
We looked back at the Winter Working Connections 2015 and 2016 survey responses to get a better idea of attendees’ overall response of the event.
Examining two years and 76 responses (and not every attendee answered every question)…
- 95% agreed that Winter Working Connections provided me with high quality IT training.”
- 97% agreed that Winter Working Connections “showcased best practices.”
- 92% rated as excellent or good their ability to “fully engage” with the track from their remote location despite the fact that 33% experienced a technical issues with the webinar platform that interrupted their learning.
- 46% took the track from home, with 29% taking it from their office and 25% taking the track from both locations.
- 45% prefer an in-person format for Working Connections, though 20% do prefer online training. Another 15% had no preference.
Clearly, attendees’ opinion of the quality of the training is very high. Note also that despite many having technical issues, almost everyone still felt connected and engaged to the class in a virtual setting. The wide range of locations attendees used when logging on shows the benefit of online training – some were at home, some went to work, some did both.
When we asked those who’d also experienced an in-person Working Connections, we were surprised to see that while almost half (45%) did prefer the camaraderie and networking that comes with an in-person event, if you combine the “prefer online” and the “no preference” you get 35%. So it’s almost an even split between those who want the in-person event and those who are okay getting the training remotely.
As expected, the biggest challenge to these online Winter Working Connections is technical – namely, the smooth implementation of the webinar platform so attendees can connect to the virtual space. Often attendees can’t get the platform to work on the first day, which means a good deal of time must then be spent trying to troubleshoot everyone’s individual problems and get everyone on board. Sometimes this is due to attendees not heeding the suggestion to test the system and the software prior to the event (to allow plenty of time for fixes), but other times it’s just “one of those things” that has to be resolved.
The National CTC works hard to try and learn from past events and make adjustments to improve logistics for the next event. Our hope is that the 2017 edition of Winter Working Connections will be even better for attendees. We’ll keep you posted.