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Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Attending my first unconference – Educamp comes to Edinburgh

On Friday, I attended my first unconference. It turned out to be one of the most fulfilling days I’ve had in a long time.

UKEduCamp, this year hosted at the University of Edinburgh, is for people working in digital roles within the higher and further education sectors in the UK.

This was my first time attending UKEduCamp, but I’d learned about them after Neil attended UKEduCamp last year in Sheffield.

Neil’s blog post about attending UKEduCamp in Sheffield last year

If you’re not familiar, an unconference is simply a conference where there is no predefined schedule!

Yes it is still advertised and promoted like any other conference, but instead of the schedule being set well in advance, it’s set by the attendees on the day, based on the topics they want to discuss.

But (I hear you ask) how does that work, and how does that not just end in anarchy? The organisers follow a simple process of inviting delegates to pitch ideas for sessions, and them organise them into a timetable grid that then sets out the day.  It all ran incredibly smoothly, on time, and resulted in a diverse range of topics.

From an empty schedule to a fully packed one in under an hour

Starting at 10am with an empty schedule and around 100 people in the room, the organisers introduced us to the format for the day, and set very clear ground rules. Not long after, many of us lined up, giant sticky-notes in hand, to pitch our session ideas, and by 11am we had a full schedule for the rest of the day!

That diverse range of topics included (to name just a few): service design, user experience, creative thinking, staff recruitment, public policy engagement, and even a session for people who just wanted a good ol’ gripe!

My colleague Carla and I proposed a session we titled “Breaking the data silo”, which was all about bringing data together to help the organisation make better decisions, and using that data to enable richer website experiences for our users.

Photo of the schedule for the day. Showing sticky-notes stuck on a wall in a grid.

The schedule for the day, after sessions had been pitched and the schedule constructed.

Photo of a slide showing the high level plan for the day: 1 pitching sessions, 2 get ideas into a grid and merge similar, 3 go to sessions, 4 or you don't, 5 lunch at 1pm, 6 coffee throughout the day, 7 pub at 5:30

A slide showing the high level running order for the day.

Reflections on the day

Most of the sessions were in a round table discussion format, rather than presentation style.

For me, this was one of the reasons the day was so fulfilling. It provided lots of opportunity to share experiences, best practice, connect, and compare approaches.

My biggest takeaway was realising that so many of the challenges my colleagues and I face are shared by many of the other attendees at their institutions. That was exciting, because it means that there is huge potential for further sharing and collaboration.

I came away from the day feeling like I had gained a lot, in part because throughout the day I was able to engage with so many people on such a broad range of topics.

A huge thank you to all who put a lot of time and effort into organising the event! Fantastic job everyone!

Find out more about UKEduCamp from their website

Neil Allison’s blog post after attending UK EduCamp in Sheffield last year

The content in this post was derived from a post I first made on LinkedIn.

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