Evaluation 2020 is now Eval20 Reimagined! by Sheila B Robinson

Greetings AEA365 readers! Sheila B Robinson here, loyal Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor, thrilled that our favorite evaluation conference was able to pivot and become an online learning experience.

Still on the fence about attending? Check out the main conference page for all details and answers to many of your questions.

Lessons Learned: I’ve attended (and given!) more online presentations and workshops than every before, and while several in-person conferences I had hoped to attend in 2020 were canceled, one big one also pivoted to online, and it was a huge hit. Here’s what I’ve learned these last 7 months of having my face in a screen:

1.) While online experiences earlier in the year were a bit rocky, improvement has been dramatic as both presenters and participants have learned the technology (e.g., we rarely have to tell people how to mute and unmute their microphones anymore).

2.) Presenters are thinking more and more about engaging audiences online, and making use of technology features such as breakout rooms, virtual whiteboards, and polling.

Hot Tips:

1.) Set yourself up for comfort. I always have a beverage, snacks, tissues, mints, pens, paper, and sticky notes within arm’s reach.

2.) Stand when you can. Standing breaks are essential for long days at the screen. I don’t have a fancy standing desk, but do have an inexpensive adjustable laptop stand that does the trick (not to mention a fine collection of large evaluation textbooks!). I also have a balance board that I trade out for my desk chair that gives me some movement and have used a giant inflatable exercise ball as a chair at times.

3.) Block out time NOW to watch what you miss. You know that two of your favorite sessions will be scheduled for the same time slot, right? Happens at every in-person conference too, but this time, you’ll have access to EVAL20 recordings for 3 months. I’m notoriously bad at watching webinars I sign up for and miss. I found for a recent conference, though, if I put missed in my calendar for the days immediately following the conference, I watched them, as if the conference itself was still going on.

4.) Connect with others during the conference. If you’re someone who enjoys the social connections at an in-person conference, all is not lost. At a recent online conference I attended, the chat boxes were lit up almost constantly. If it’s a distraction to you, it’s easy to ignore and stay focused on the presenter. But, if you’re someone who can carry on conversations, react to the presentation and ask questions in real time, do it! Especially knowing I could rewatch the sessions if need be, I really appreciated the connections I had with other attendees and enjoyed seeing their reactions and questions. At times, I was watching, chatting, and even texting with others at the same time! There’s even recent research that suggests that “social presence” is important and helpful for some people in online learning environments.

However you enjoy the conference, I hope you DO enjoy the conference. See you in the virtual hall in a a few weeks!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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