Friday, November 30, 2007

The outcome of the online midwifery research meeting

Tonight I had the second of my ad hoc online meetings for midwives. This meeting had a research focus. As a PhD candidate, I feel quite isolated at times. My research supervisors are both in Australia as are my fellow students who are involved in e-health research. There are a number of midwives in New Zealand who are carrying out PhD research but I do not ever see them as they are in different parts of the country. I co-founded a PhD support group at Otago Polytechnic, but that has virtually folded. So I really miss that sense of fellowship that is generated when a group of students/researchers get together to support each other and exchange information.

I have been particularly envious of midwives who have been able to attend research groups that have been organized in the UK, especially as those midwives are able to 'access' midwifery researchers who are leaders in the profession, not just in the UK but also internationally. So this is the rationale for organizing an online meeting - to increase access to information, support, networking and collaboration that those of us who work in isolation would not normally have.

This is a good idea in theory, and there has been interest expressed in this concept, but sadly only one other person turned up to the meeting. We had a great chat about our research and have plans to collaborate on several projects after Christmas, although we will probably use Skype for our personal communication.

So why have my two online midwifery meetings been relatively unsuccessful?

I think the key reason is that midwives are still relatively unfamiliar with online tools - they lack the confidence to 'give it a go', especially with the level of computer skills required to use Elluminate. Having said that, my colleague who joined me tonight calls herself a technophobe, and she found the session relatively easy to access.

Midwives also have to see the benefit of this form of engagement. Life is extremely busy and stressful at the best of times. So unless there is a clear benefit to the midwife, then it is unlikely she/he is going to take the time out to attend such a meeting. No doubt access to computers can also be problematic. Maybe, the timing is bad being that it is very near to Christmas?

So where to from here? Is this worth pursuing - is it worth me putting energy into organizing regular meetings next year or should I drop it for the time being? Is this something midwives are interested in and have the time to engage with? If I pursue it, what should I make the focus - midwifery in general or midwifery research?

If I pursued this and planned monthly meetings, I think I would use the same format that Leigh Blackall does with his online meetings - 10 minutes presentation and then open discussion. How would you feel abut taking part and giving your time to give a presentation, especially if there was no payment?

So there a few questions and issues to mull over. I would really welcome any thoughts, comments or volunteers to be a speaker next year!

Reference: Stewart, S. 2006. Delivering the goods: Midwives use of the Internet. In M. Murero & R. Rice (Eds.) The Internet and Healthcare. Mahwah, Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Image: 'meeting adjourned'


Sarah Stewart said...

From: Chris McCourt


I used an expert guest speaker in our online seminars - masters in
midwifery course - and that did work very well. It helped to give an additional focus and attraction, though these seminars already had a
clear focus, discussing specific topics within the course. The students had to do some preparatory reading and then discuss and debate key questions. Some students were nonetheless, not very willing to engage in online discussion, which was a real shame for the other participants.

I found that those living in isolated places, and big countries where distance is a real deterrent to face to face meetings, were more keen

I think having a specific topic focus and a key speaker to kick start would be a good idea. People are so busy and hard pressed these days that even then, they may not get involved unless they can see something clear that could come out of it.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you very much for that, Chris, and I agree 100%. It has to be as easy as it can be and have a benefit for the participants. What I probably need to do is some market research to find out what and if midwives would like to attend. I have posted this to the midwifery research list, so will wait and see what people say, if anything. Probably need to ask NZ midwives as well, to see if there is a more local interest in online meetings.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Sarah,

I don't know, whether it is the topic or the time. For me in Central Europe, 10 pm is a bit late to go online,. although I would be interested.

regards, ans

Carolyn McIntosh said...

What a shame, sorry I was busy socialising and not able to come. We had a good time by the way.

I think maybe there are two points here;
1) The time of year. So much is happening at this time of year. Everyone is busy and time seems to run away. Maybe not the best time to be trying to get this going.

2) As others have mentioned here having a clear focus to engage people. It seems really nice to say "lets all get together and have a nice chat about things" but if there is no clear focus then I think people will wonder what they are actually going to discuss and this will put them off attending.
The focus needs to be something that will pull people in, something they really want to hear about.
I am wondering about Sally Baddocks co-sleeping study. I am always really interested to hear her talk about this. As postgraduate students too this could be an opener into discussion about postgraduate research, opportunities, difficulties etc.

I suppose what I am saying is I don't think you should give up yet. I think that this still does have possibilities. How about advertising through the NZ email group? You could get in touch with Vanessa about this perhaps. Give it some time. If it continues to bomb then I would reconsider but I think it is too soon to give up now.

Leigh Blackall said...

On Wednesday night my wife and I try to get along to a Tango dancing social night.. some nights we get there, some nights we don't. Some night we seem like the only ones coming. Thats the nature of a community group. The important thing is that we know it is on if we need to go. Consistancy is the key. You could start to structure your meetings, bring in experts etc, but then you really would have something to lose if no one came.. or you could try and go more informal and social about it.. use it for student meetings some nights, virtual wine tasting another night, even a birthing!! :) and then you can build up to something and have less to lose - like you are feeling now.

Sarah Stewart said...

I am using Elluminate regularly for teaching sessions and meetings, however the link you gave it was not connecting. I would like to discuss midwifery education and practices.
I felt bad as I wanted to join on-line meeting. Is it possible for you to check from Elluminate people they are nice and usually they help me whenever I need it.

I am looking forward to join these meetings and we need such meetings.


Rafat Jan PhD, RN, RM
Associate Professor
Aga Khan university School of Nursing
Karachi, Pakistan 74800

Sarah Stewart said...

Another email response:

a million apologies for not being able to make this much waited for meeting last Thursday evening Aust time!
I had to go out at short notice and was not able to be back home in time so I am very sorry and very frustrated indeed!
Are you going to have another go?!?
Kind regards

Sarah Stewart said...

From an email:

I'm sorry I missed your e-meeting. How did it go? I did look at it a bit, but I think I would have had to be on line at 3am, so I let it go...I will try to get connected with you on your blog. I want to learn how to participate in that forum.

Sarah Stewart said...

A further email comment:

Was absolutely delight to read about your online research meeting/chat
and I was really sorry that I've missed it, because had already booked a holiday in OZ – middle of the bush, no PC/internet cafĂ© for days….
Now reading that only one person turned up I am even more sorry that I missed it. Keep going! What a great idea, to have a monthly 'midwifery salon' with presentation and all!!! Will hash something out to contribute!