(Thanks to Deborah Davis for photo)The Virtual International Day of the Midwife is over for another year. Here are a few quick personal thoughts and initial impressions about how it went.
We still have a couple of things left to do. I have to sort out the recordings and put them on the VIDM wiki - I am planning to make them available in a number of formats so they can be disseminated as widely as possible.
Deborah Davis and I will be writing a formal report which will contain feedback from participants and the results of the online evaluation survey. We'll also be making some recommendations in the report about next year as well as more general observations about online professional development for midwives.
How many people attended?
During day time hours (New Zealand time), the average number of seats filled was 50. During the night, we dropped down to 30-35 seats. That does not tell us how many people 'attended' overall, because I know of at least three places (including a maternity unit) where more than one person was watching one computer. At the same time, we know that a number of people attended more than one session. Nevertheless, this is a huge increase compared to last year when we had an average of six people attending which included the speaker and facilitator!
The provisional results from the evaluation survey (75 responses so far) indicate 25% of participants were midwifery students, 21% were midwives, 15% were midwifery educators and 5% were midwifery researchers. Five per cent of participants were parents and 16% were 'other'. These results will be adjusted once the survey has closed.
This survey is still open so if you'd like to complete it, please do. We're also interested in hearing from midwives who did not attend - the survey will give you the opportunity to explain what prevented you from attending, and help us understand what needs to be done to support you to attend next year.
Where did participants live?
The majority of people came from New Zealand, Australia, USA and Canada. We also had visitors from Norway, Sweden, Slovenia, Brazil, Holland, UK and Portugal.
How did the technology work?
I do not like to promote one product over another especially when the products are proprietary. Ultimately I would prefer to use a free web conference tool. However, we were sponsored by the Otago Polytechnic Educational Development Centre who gave us free access to a virtual meeting room called Elluminate which worked extremely well. The only technological problems that I was aware of was on the participants' end. One speaker in Cyprus was unable to connect which was a disappointment, and I know institutional firewalls were a barrier to some people accessing Elluminate.
So how did it go?
I was blown away by the number of people who attended and their enthusiasm for this form of professional development and networking. It became addictive...a number of people said they couldn't leave because they were afraid they would miss something and consequently stayed up all night. Even in the three sessions when speakers did not turn up, we were able to have general conversations in which people took an active part.
All the speakers were brilliant and shared an amazing range of topics, information and resources from personal stories about clinical practice to PhD research. Three main themes emerged: how to keep birth normal, dealing with recruitment and retention issues and how to be an online midwife.
"thanks so much to staff members, although I can't attend in the all sessions, but I have been able to feel how the midwife in the world can reconcilable in an event, without having to leave our chair.. ^_^"
"I am so excited to be able to access the sessions I missed. I especially want to hear the ones about informed choice and how place effects birth. Thanks for this great resource."
"thank you so much for this wonderful event, can't wait for next year :-)"
"Thank you so much for oranizing this event! It has been wonderful!!"
"What an awesome thing you have done Sarah and Deb! Fantastic effort, brilliant outcome, so many happy midwives and a feast of great input for everyone to share and enjoy from now on! Whoooot! Thank you so much for your organisation, coordination and stunning vision. Exceptional. Hope you're sleeping well after the 24 hour labour of love."
One of the most exciting comments made to me was by Merrolee Penman, who is an occupational therapist, education and researcher. Her colleagues and she have been so inspired by what we have achieved that they are going to put on a similar event for the World Federation of Occupational Therapists International Day in October.
Thoughts about next year
I thought it would take five years to get to a point that we have arrived to now (in only two years). I think a lot of the success of the event is because of the way we integrated social media into the planning, marketing and facilitation of the event...more about that in my next post.
We will definitely put on the event next year but it has got too big for Deborah and I to manage on our own. So we will be looking for volunteers to join an organising committee to help us out. One of the things I will be keen to do is enrol more facilitators so I do not have to stay up all night :)
The other thing I would like to look at is how we can share the recordings and resources with midwives who not have access to the Internet...to explore how we can use mobile devises as well as disseminate CD materials.
My personal thoughts
I am extremely proud of what we have achieved and how successful the day was - this is the first of its kind in international midwifery. The numbers of people attending match and beat those of other very famous virtual conferences I have attended in the past. Now we need to look at how we can increase midwives access' to events like this, and also encourage face-to-face conferences to integrate virtual events into their more traditional formats.
My personal learning has been about online facilitation...not so much in learning about it, but rather gaining more experience with it...knowing how to support people...having the confidence to handle unexpected difficulties...being creative when speakers do not turn up...making sure people feel included...
(If you would like to learning more about online facilitation, please feel free to join me on the online course "Online Facilitation" which starts in July).
In my next post I will talk about how we used social media to plan, organise and facilitate the VIDM, and why I disagree with those people who are leaving Facebook.
If you have any thoughts or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment here. What would encourage you to attend online conference and professional development activities? What would stop you?