Supporting the the Media Exchange Cooperative (MEC) of British Columbia
Adobe Connect Case Study #1 – Alison Curtis, Librarian, Langara College
Alison Curtis is the past chair of the Media Exchange Cooperative (MEC), a consortium of post‐secondary media libraries in British Columbia. MEC held their 2010 annual general meeting using Adobe Connect and had 21 attendees in person at Langara, 22 online from around the province of BC, and 1 attendee in the Yukon. The total meeting time was 3 hours and was chaired by Alison at Langara, hosted by an attendee in the Yukon, and administered by an attendee at Langara. Additional support was provided by the College’s Education Technology department.
This was the first time that MEC had used a virtual tool as a means of holding an AGM. Alison, as chair, was the primary speaker but the meeting included breaks for all attendees to speak to the group. Those speaking virtually were able to do so with voice‐enabled systems, and those speaking at the meeting approached a centrally placed microphone. There was no video for most virtual attendees and the meeting was not video recorded for virtual attendees.
The meeting included the presentation of the agenda and past minutes from the chair, a ½ hour Powerpoint and personal presentation from an attendee at Langara, chat and poll pods where members could discuss and debate the agenda items as well as vote on resolutions, a round table discussion at the end of meeting, note pods were used throughout to provide instructions (such as voting, how to request to speak, etc.), and the use of several layouts.
Previously, MEC AGMs were scheduled around attendance at a conference hosted by a related media organization, since it always attracted a large number of members from MEC. However, a complete funding cut for this organization resulted in the permanent cancellation of its annual conference. An alternate conference was considered for MEC to meet at, but there were no upcoming conferences that would attract a large number of members so they decided to try a virtual meeting. A few things were immediately apparent, such as the broader participation that an Adobe Connect meeting allowed, since physical locations were no longer a barrier to how many (if any) members an institution could send, and a cost savings was noted by institutions, a particular issue for smaller ones that could sometimes not afford the cost of sending a staff person to a ½ day meeting somewhere else in the province. The general consensus from the group was that the meeting overall was a success and they will definitely consider this for future meetings.
Specific Issues/Problems Encountered/Resolutions
The ability to upload all the relevant documents (such the agenda, minutes and presentations) ahead of time and to set up multiple layouts allowed the meeting to move along relatively seamlessly. Having all the setup completed allowed Alison to participate in the meeting while two other members (one virtual, one present) actually run the Adobe Connect session. Alison felt that if she had to act in both roles the meeting might not have gone off as successful as it did. Providing the meeting to attendees ahead of the actual day was also helpful for them to come in and familiarize themselves prior to the meeting and make sure their personal computer setup would work. There was also an overall sense of fun & excitement and the few technical problems experienced didn’t really annoy or distract people from the meeting, they just took it all in stride. Additionally, the use of the poll pods was a good tool for recording member’s votes on motions and general business items.
One of the technical difficulties experienced had to do with the microphone in the physical meeting. A multi‐directional microphone had initially been placed in the centre of the joined tables but, due to the acoustics of the room (concrete) and general murmur from participants, this resulted in the chair not always being heard. The microphone was then moved in front of Alison, and passed around when others wanted to speak. When another physical presenter was giving a presentation, and turned away from the microphone, the virtual people couldn’t hear her so the presenter had to be very cognizant of speaking into the microphone. A future consideration would be to have a wireless microphone (preferably a lavalier one that can be easily clipped and unclipped) for easier transfer from one participant to another. However, it was generally felt that the single microphone worked well for an AGM type meeting where there is less need for multiple, simultaneous speakers. It was also decided that sound & text are more important than video‐enabled meetings such as this, with a high physical and virtual attendance.
Having two moderators (one present, one virtual) also worked well particularly since the moderator present in the room was completely new to Adobe Connect and the virtual moderator had prior experience. However, the inexperienced moderator quickly picked up on how to run the meeting and felt quite competent after the first hour.
Overall, Adobe Connect allowed MEC to group sooner than attendance at another conference would have allowed, and since the previously mentioned funding cut also had negative repercussions on MEC, members felt that to delay meeting as a group would have had an even larger impact on them.