Sunday, May 10, 2009

International Day of the Midwife 2009: reflections and plans for next year

This week Deborah Davis and I hosted the virtual 24 hour International Day of the Midwife event. We asked midwives all over the world to join the event by volunteering to either give a live presentation, or contribute an asynchronous resource.

Thank you
At this point I would like to thank Otago Polytechnic for providing access to Elluminate, and the midwives who gifted their time to make live presentations or provide asynchronous resources. I have recorded the live sessions and posted the links to them on the wiki.

I am also hugely grateful to the few midwives who kept me company through the day, especially Pauline Costins (Perth) and Deidre (Holland). And last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank Jo and Phil Hart, as well as Carole McCulloch for all their support, help and advice they gave me about Elluminate at the drop of a hat. As soon as I put out a call for help on Twitter, they responded – they made the logistical managing of Elluminate so much easier, and I have learned a heap from them – THANK YOU!!

Last year I organized a series of online seminars for midwives which were very successful. I meant to do the same this year, but workload has prevented me. I played with the idea of a 24 hour virtual event as a means of catering to all the world’s time zones, and then about a month ago Deborah and I had the idea to combine it with International Day of the Midwife on May 5th.

We advertised the event to our personal networks as well as three international midwifery email groups, two education email groups, five Facebook groups, and two midwifery specific forums, one midwife wiki and Twitter. The most effective of these modes of advertising in terms of attracting presenters and participants were email groups.

Live events
The live events attracted extremely small numbers, averaging six people per session (including speaker and facilitator). The Second Life events attracted the biggest number of participants. I was thrilled at how well Elluminate worked. We only had one session that did not work, and I think that was because we were too ambitious in what we were trying to achieve.

The two things that ensured the smooth running of the Elluminate sessions were having people on-hand to trouble-shoot problems, as I have already mentioned. The other thing was getting people to check the technology and have practice runs before the live event.

Image: 'birth05'

Asynchronous events

We had a wide range of asynchronous ‘events’ or resources ranging from videos to PowerPoint presentations, slidecasts and the production of a Wordle. At the time of writing this reflection, the resources that have been visited the most are Animoto video “International Day of the Midwife” on YouTube (233 views) and my own reflection about being a midwife on Slideshare (183 views).

I asked participants to complete a survey - 10 people responded. When asked about the quality of the events, 66% people said they were were very good and 33% said they were good. All the participants felt the 24 hour event should be repeated next year. Here are the suggestions from participants for topics to be explored next year:
  • All ideas welcome. I like watching videos and slideshows. I love expanding my knowledge and discussing with other midwives.
  • A 'fun' activity and meeting for students
  • How to improve relations between students, midwives, doctors and other health professionals
  • Women and reproductive health
The main change people would like next year is for more notice so they can tell their friends, colleagues & networks about the day (44%).

My personal reflections
My initial reaction was that the event was a failure – the numbers of people who attended the live sessions do not justify the amount of time that Deborah and I put into the project, both in terms of development of the program and facilitation on the day. As you can imagine, organizing the event was hugely time consuming what with developing the program, sorting out the technology, advertising, making resources and maintaining the wiki.

On further reflection, I now have a different take on the day. I am extremely proud of what Deborah and I managed to achieve in just one month, with no support and on an entirely voluntary basis. For me, personally, the day was hugely successful. I ‘met’ midwives from Pakistan, USA, Holland, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Switzerland and Cyprus – midwives I would never have communicated with before the day.

The other thing I am mindful of is the ongoing value of the resources and recordings. Whilst there may have been small numbers attending the live sessions, the recording are available for people to access, as and when they need to. So the contribution of the day to international midwifery knowledge is un-measurable at this stage.

Collaborating and networking
Particularly exciting has been the connections I have made with midwifery educators who have a similar interest in Second Life – I am very hopeful that these connections will lead to further collaboration. One exciting conversation I had was about online education and the opportunities we have for sharing educational resources on commonly viewed sites such as YouTube -we all agreed that sharing resources is hugely advantageous for us as educators. But more importantly, student midwives throughout world will benefit hugely. If one educator shares one resource on YouTube or else where, that is a great outcome for the day.

Plans for next year
I asked participants if we should repeat the virtual 24 hour event next year and the response was an over-whelming affirmative. Whilst numbers of participants were small this year, the consensus was that if we keep working on events like this, people will become more familiar with the concept and more confident to use the technology. This year’s event is modeling what is possible to achieve in terms of networking and sharing information.

Here are the changes I would recommend next year if we repeat the event:
  • Plan the event much earlier so we can get people to commit to the project - a number of people were interested in presenting but were too busy at the time.
  • Start advertising the event earlier.
  • Coordinate more effectively with the ICM.
  • Ask some 'big midwifery names' to present, to attract a bigger audience.
  • Get a team of people together who can facilitate throughout the time zones so that the burden does not lie with just a couple of people.
  • Have a team of people 'on-call' to address technological problems.
Peer-reviewed conference?
There is an argument that to attract academics we should make the event a peer-reviewed virtual conference, to give more credibility to the event. But I am very resistant to that idea. I want this event to be very easily accessible, so would not want to put up barriers to midiwves who are not academics. For me, the emphasis of the event is on networking, not academic research outputs.

What topics would you like to see addressed in this event next year? What would encourage you to 'attend' - what are the barriers that would prevent you?

Image: 'midwives deliver!'


Leigh Blackall said...

A failure! Streuth you can be hard on yourself. The two later points you make in your personal reflections, easily negate the shallowness of measuring success by numbers of people attending at the time. I hope you will keep doing this, each year, and enjoy watching your hard work grow and grow. You have something on which to base funding applications on next year, you have growing interest - even in the face of a sector slow to take up technology. Keep at it, start organising the next one now! Where is the funding at?

Sarah Stewart said...

I like your idea of getting some sort of funding or sponsorship. The main reason is that I may not access to Elluminate as I will no longer be an employee of Otago Polytechnic, so will be looking for a way to access that program. I know it is a propitiatory platform, and I would prefer to use a free tool. But I to say that Elluminate is always so reliable, and we had virtually no problems using it on the day.

Before I start thinking about next year, I must write up our experiences of this year and submit to a journal - anyone got any ideas about where to submit it?

starpath said...

Your use of a wide range of technologies to bring people together was outstanding. And voluntary! Conferences often have sponsorship, so why not this one? As more people get confidence using the technologies you are very familiar with, they will participate. Congratulations.

Leigh Blackall said...

I would bank on Otago Polytechnic sponsoring with Elluminate access at the very least.

Pam said...

I think the event was a huge success and would love to see the event repeated again and again so that it becomes a permanent fixture on the calendar. I also believe getting more advertising into maternity units who have internet access and so staff who are on duty have time to attend the events around the clock.
Sarah you and Debs are both an inspiration and we greatly appreciate you time and commitment to this event.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you all very much :)

Marianne said...

Dear Sarah and Deborah
Thanks a lot for organizing this meeting. I found it interesting to get in touch with other midwives from other countries and I learned some important things (next time I would prepare myself better for the use of the technique). Besides the techniques the real-time conversation was challenging me, as I had to speak in a foreign language.
I hope you will repeat it next year again.
Thanks again and regards
Marianne Haueter, Switzerland

Lisa Hanson PhD, CNM, FACNM said...

I think this was adventurous, exciting and challenging. Sarah and all, you challenged and supported us to use technology to link together as midwives. I was so honored to be a part of it! Kind regards and blessings to all of you, Lisa Hanson, USA

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you, Marianne and Lisa-look forward to repeating thing a little more professionally next year.