The 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2014, was held at Northumbria University on 16-18th July 2014. This was a relaunch of the annual event which began in 1997: following the cessation of Jisc’s funding for UKOLN it was not clear if IWMW 2013 would be the final event for those with responsibilities for managing institutional Web services. However thanks to the support of Netskills and Cetis I was able to relaunch the event, which this year had the theme “IWMW 2.014: Rebooting the Web” .
The relaunched event provided greater focus on the work which is being taken across the sector in Web management teams, with two of the morning sessions covering institutional case studies. The session on the opening afternoon provided perspectives from outside the sector and the session on looking to the future provided two talks which were based on insights provided by data associated with existing use of Web services.
When significant changes to an established service such as the IWMW event are introduced it will be important to ensure that users of the service are provided with an opportunity to give their feedback on the changes, the organisation of the event, the talks and parallel sessions and the social events which aimed to provide opportunities for developing one’s professional networks. An online survey form was provided and a summary of the responses is given below.
In the evaluation form we asked participants to rate the event’s content, organisation and the individual talks and parallel sessions on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent). As can be seen from the accompanying histograms, the scores were very high, with 75% of the respondents giving a rating of excellent for the organisation of the event (the overall rating was 4.7). We were fortunate in being able to make use of Natasha Bishop’s expertise and knowledge of IWMW event (she has been the event manager for about 9 of the previous events). However most of the local event organisation was carried out by Netskills staff. As someone who worked at Netskills in 1995 when they were first set up and has had dealings with them ever since, I was confident that Dave Hartland and the Netskills team (primarily Steve Boneham, Hanna Miettinen and Phil Swinhoe) would ensure that the event ran smoothly; this turned out to be the case.
I was pleased that the overall rating for the content of this year’s event was also very positive. As can be seen the majority of respondents felt that the content was either excellent or very good, with an overall rating of 4.3.
The comments provided about the event show the value which participants place on the event:
- Highly recommended, the IWMW event offers the chance to network with colleagues from other higher education institutions across the country. The event is always well attended and you can expect to see a variety of knowledgeable presenters and take part in individual workshops over the course of the 3 days, as well as get the chance go out and socialise and take in some of your surroundings.
- I found IWMW 2014 to be practical, encouraging, empowering, and enthusiastic. Brilliant opportunity to network with other people in the sector, and learn that you’re not just on your own. Other teams are going through exactly the same things. Definitely the best IWMW conference I’ve been to.
- Over the years IWMW events have had more positive and direct effect on my career, the working practices of my team, and the University of Aberdeen than any other developmental conferences or activity. The only opportunity for UK HE’s web professionals to gather in person, compare practices and reflect on current challenges. An engaging and thought provoking event that challenges those in the sector to look ahead and see the possibilities as well as the pitfalls.
- IWMW has been a constant in my working life since 2003. It allows me space to think, to test new ideas and to develop a strong social and professional network. With contacts built through IWMW I can contact folk anywhere across the UK on any one of a number of (often specialist) topics for a useful insight or debate.
- Should be in the calendar of every web professional in the higher ed sector. Quality sessions, a great community and excellent value for money make it a no-brainer for me. IWMW offers a unique opportunity for digital professionals to come together, share experiences and learn from each.
We also encouraged participants to give their thoughts on the disappoint aspects of the event or ways in which the event could be improved. The comments included:
- I enjoyed the Hancock museum — dinosaur, grrrr! I found the conference dinner a bit lack lustre, a bit disjointed, but hey!
- A few more ‘hands-on’ sessions for the more practically minded. Perhaps include a speaker or two from outside the HE domain (though ensuring content is still relevant): Ross Ferguson clearly demonstrated how ‘non-standard’ approaches can reap rewards in the HE sector.
- Better accommodation — my room was disgustingly dirty and the bed damaged my back. Yuck! Ouch! The food was a bit meh! too.
- 1. Industry speakers on general web trends and innovations -expensive and not specific to universities but it would be good to look outside. 2. Move away from discussing corporate websites and CMS to DIGITAL, the full picture, the web is everywhere. 3. Get attendee numbers up, best when more people there, more investment and promotion required….tricky I know.
- Numbers – in terms of attendees and in terms of the sessions volunteered by the community seemed to be down this year. Do we need to work harder through the year to foster the community and bring us together? My feeling is that the mailing lists are a bit tired, and for newer entrants to the sector do they even know they exist? Not sure how I came across the community when I joined Edinburgh in 2006, but I knew nothing about it during my time in Sheffield (1999 – 2003). Would a Linked In group and/or a Twitter hashtag be useful additions to ongoing comms? And more direct calls to the older hands to encourage participation amongst the newer folk? I just think that if we had a more active and open group (or set of groups – you mentioned different streams at the US conference which could be useful) through the year we might end up with a bigger and brighter annual event. (Not that I’m saying the conference isn’t great, because it is and long may it continue!)
Others also commented that they felt the accommodation and conference dinner was disappointing (although some disagreed with this).
The Plenary Talks
It was pleased that all ten of the plenary talks, together with the final panel session were all highly rated, with all speakers receiving an average rating of good, very good or excellent.
The most highly rated plenary speaker was Ross Ferguson, Head of Digital at the University of Bath; 78% thought his talk on “Using the start-up playbook to reboot a big university website ” was Excellent and 22% felt it was Very Good. This was an average of 4.8. Comments on his talk included:
- Ross was really interesting and I found this talk the most motivational one I attended.
- Brilliant, fantastic, breath of fresh air and nicely delivered as well.
- Loved it! He had no need to apologise at the start. I was very encouraged to hear him talk about what we are trying to do at St Andrews.
- Best presentation – most relevant to how my team are currently working and interesting approach to dealing with some of the University politics/pressures. Would be interested in hearing from other staff who are currently still at gov.uk as its quite transferable to our sector.
- Every year there is one stand-out talk for me, and this was it for 2014 an inspiration
- The way it should be: great to see how it can work with the right support form management. Engaging presentation and I’m sure the highlight for most.
Tracy Playe’s talk on “” Why you don’t need a social media plan and how to create one anyway which opened this year’s event was also highly rated: 48% thought it was excellent; 24% felt it was very good; 20% felt it was Good and 8% felt it was poor. This was an average of 4.47 . Comments on her talk included:
- A great opening session and excellent speaker to kick things off. Lots of opinion, good advice and the theme running throughout was nice. Lovely slides.
- I loved Tracy’s talk! Couldn’t have hoped for a better speaker to open the event
- Very relevant and interesting idea. Good practical examples too.
- Awesome, very relevant.
- Loved this one, Tracy really knows her stuff!
I should add that an innovation this year was the final panel session in which four experienced web managers from a range of old and new universities and large and small institutions were asked to give their thoughts on the topic “What is our vision for the institutional web and can we implement that vision?” and invite feedback from the audience.
- Loved this, would have liked to have spent more time on it. Think it’s important that we do so we can always be pushing forward rather than just catching up.
- Well-stewarded discussion.
- Some good points. I do wonder about whether it’s possible to have a single vision for the future with the range of institutions in the sector. Would have been good to understand why the panellists had been selected. Presuming you’d want a mix of: old and new unis, big and small, marketing and tech people. Maybe the panel could be a bit bigger. Definitely need to have more of an intro to each panellist so we understand better where they’re coming from
- I thought Stephen Emmott chaired it well. Good input from those on the panel
- format worked well, good panel
This year initially eight parallel workshop sessions lasting for 90 minutes were scheduled, but two of these were cancelled due to lack of numbers. In addition there was a 45 slot for birds-of-a-feather sessions, with the two cancelled workshop sessions being provided as birds-of-a-feather session. As ever, there is more diversity in the feedback for the parallel sessions, with some people finding the session they attend very useful but others finding them too simple; too advanced; not covering the expected area or have other reservations.
- Despite me being tired, boiling and having a dead battery, I found this talk by Martin Hawksey to be a true eye opener in to Google Apps Script and it’s capabilities. It was pitched at exactly the right level.
- Excellent session. Very well thought out structure, great interaction, great content. Good talk – interesting exercises. Will make use of this in future.
- Quite a few parallel sessions – would have been good to attend more than 1!
- It was very good, It covered something a bit basic so perhaps have more detailed descriptions of what will be covered?
- Very interesting session presenting the content-led aspect of the technology/content/digital workspace. Confidently and characterfully delivered.
The conference dinner took place on the first evening. On the second evening there was a wine reception at the Hancock Museum. The following comments on the social events were received:
- Drinks overlooked by stuffed animals… nice (especially the giraffe). I’m not averse to the odd pint; but some non-alcohol focused events might have been nice. You also need to get someone to sponsor biscuits/cakes in the coffee breaks!
- The event itself is the social event, if that makes sense. Anything else is icing on the cake
- Well organised, friendly
- I attended the reception at the Great North Museum, which was perfect.
- Catering at Northumbria University could have been better, though it’s probably on a par with ours! Enjoyed the museum and exploring Newcastle – pleasantly surprised!
- Event 1: Dinner itself was very nice. The setting was a step down from previous events and I felt that the smaller tables did not lend themselves to the networking of previous years. Nominating a specific venue for after-dinner was a good move and I’m glad many attendees made it to the same location. Event 2: the museum was a lovely venue and well-situated for attendees to then move on to their own preferred activities.
- Conference dinner was better than expected, pub was very pleasant and walk by the river delightful. Reception at the museum was great.
It seems clear that the IWMW 2014 event was successful. However the numbers, with 125 participants, were down slightly on last year’s event and significantly on the peak of 1997 at IWMW 2009. Those who did attend this year’s event (which included a significant number who had not attended previous IWMW events) seemed keen on continuation of the event.
But if the event is to continue there will be a need to ensure that it is financially viable, which might include revisiting existing sponsorship arrangements and seeking additional sponsorship opportunities. We will also need to revisit the costs for attending the event which have remaining fixed for a number of years. There is also a need to get feedback on possible changes to the scope and format of the event. Feedback is also being solicited from those who did not attend this year’s event in order to understand the reasons for this.
We are also exploring potential links with other organisations in the UK and beyond who may have interests in exploring ways of engaging with those with responsibilities for providing institutional Web services.
Finally we are also looking at the ways in which support for those providing institutional Web services is being taken in other sectors. This will include an analysis of the content and format of events such as the HighEdWeb conference which is aimed at US university web managers and commercial events such as the J.Boye conferences.
The HighEdWeb 2014 conference is interesting as this year’s event, which takes place on the 18-22 October 2014 , will feature six thematic session tracks, with 70+ presentations by industry leaders; pre- and post-conference half-day, add-on intensive workshops; outstanding keynotes; and a number of social and networking events.
Is this an appropriate model for future IWMW events? Or should we aim to keep the event on a smaller scale which provides opportunities for informal contacts and meetings?
The IWMW: Planning for the Future survey form is now available. Whether you’ve attended several IWMW events, participated for the first time this year or have never attended one of the events we’d love to hear from this. This is your opportunity to help shape the future for the development of IWMW!