UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Reflections on #IWMW16: The Parallel Sessions

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 Oct 2016

Recent posts on this blog have provided Reflections on #IWMW16: The Talks and provided access to IWMW 2016: The Resources (links to video recordings of the plenary talks and to accompanying slides). But as the full name of IWMW events implies the Institutional Web Management Workshop series is not a conference, but a workshop in which participants are expected to actively engage in discussions and other activities related to the challenges in providing large-scale institutional web services.

Recent IWMW events have features two types of sessions which encourage active participation: workshop sessions and masterclasses. At this year’s IWMW 2016 event there were 8 workshop sessions (lasting for 90 minutes) and 8 master cheap topamax classes (which lasted for 2 hours 45 minutes).  The following workshop sessions were held:

and the following master classes:

Feedback on the Workshop Sessions

The following comments about the positive aspects of the workshop sessions were made:

  • The workshop, although very theoretical based, was really useful for me. It helped me to identify the leadership styles I use most often and which ones I need to develop further. Claire was very engaging and tried to make the session more interactive which really helped what could’ve been a very “talked at” session.
  • Another really good session from Claire that was well researched and well presented.
  • Really really good. Not a hard sell and lots of evidence shown, along with caveats. Presenter excellent.
  • Was an interesting case study, but not much time given to why it had been done and too early after launch to say what it had achieved. It was also quite different to what I expected to hear about (and I’m guessing that was the same for others). Had expected something about engaging prospective international students. And that’s kind of what the workshop part ended up being focused on, but that didn’t directly relate to the case study, so it was difficult to marry the two. Presenter was very enthusiastic about her work and the topic, though, so enjoyed speaking to her in a small group about her work and general ideas within the sector.
  • Worth it for the market research gleaned alone!
  • Not as immediately applicable to my job, and Birkbeck is a bit different from other institutions in many ways, but was a well run session and was very interesting.
  • Very well run session, got a lot of detail about how St Andrews have been doing things and good into a good discussion with the workshop participants
  • This was an interactive session which offered great networking opportunities, and allowed people to get to know each other better.
  • Great to hear about Ian St John’s experiences in a small team (of one). I attended this in the hope of picking up some tips on how to run my own small team, but it turned out that there was not as much crossover as I had expected in the challenges we face. However, it was still valuable to discuss these challenges in the workshop setting. During this session there was also the suggestion of setting up an IWMW Slack channel for web managers, which I think is a brilliant idea.
  • Just what I was looking for in terms of my questions. Despite ostensibly being a commercial pitch I think the presenter was straightforward and honest about some potential pitfalls
  • Learnt some new stuff about leadership, and can see how trying to apply some of the theories would be cool. Alas, I’m not in a leadership role so I can’t enact a lot of this. Very well delivered too.

The following comments on disappointing aspects of the sessions or on how the workshop sessions could be improved were made:

  • The story/case study wasn’t particularly coherent. The activity wasn’t well planned and facilitator didn’t do enough to engage the group. Ours was railroaded by one person and two in the group didn’t engage with the activity at all. Disappointing experience. Caveat – could be that I know too much about content strategy now and this was pitched for a newbie audience.
  • This turned out to be a workshop where the participants’ ideas differed considerably from the route taken by the workshop leaders. The approach was to ask us what we would do, rather than give tips and ideas on what would be useful. Didn’t really learn much in this one, disappointingly.
  • Interesting but would have liked more focus on student recruitment and more opportunities to share stories.

Feedback on the Master Classes

The following comments about the positive aspects of the master classes were made:

  • I learned so much about social media and advertising campaigns. Really good insight into the various tools that Dundee use and the live demos were awesome (even with eduroam being a bit sketchy).
  • REALLY good. I have been very involved in user testing in the past year. It’s become one of the main focuses of my job, partly as a result of last year’s IWMW, as we came back with ideas about stuff we needed to work on and this was one of them. This class gave me some really practical advice which will improve my user testing practices. This was probably for me the most valuable session of the day. I did find it hard going to have it so late at the end of a long day, I think 11 am would be a better time to have a master class.
  • Presenters were very good – responded to questions/ideas in the room. Kept informal but informative. Gave a lot of information which slightly surprised me, as agency presentations at conferences usually give you half the info and then tell you how good they’ll be at giving you the other half! This wasn’t a sales pitch at all, it was a genuine masterclass.
  • Very interesting and useful. Great takeaways here about how to engage people in the organisation and how to sidestep people who are getting in the way of digital transformation.
  • Excellent – practical and applicable
  • It was good and informative, although we watched three examples of usability testing, each around 20 minutes long. By the third example I felt we had ‘got the idea’ and it became a tad cumbersome. The overall takeaways from the class were very beneficial.
  • Practical and relevant, very useful.
  • Engaging and practical – packed in a lot of really valuable info
  • Lots of interesting things to do with Google Analytics and Tag Manager
  • Some good and welcome/timely ideas to be put into practise.
  • This masterclass was great by great people!
  • Some great info in here
  • A more in depth look into the strategies mentioned in the earlier talk with lots of group discussion and sharing along the way. Great stuff.

The following comments on disappointing aspects of the sessions or on how the master classes could be improved were made:

  • I was expecting this to be hands-on, but it really wasn’t. Also, in a mixed ability group you need to assume that not everyone know all of the processes – I feel like certain aspects were skipped over which wasn’t helpful. There were lots of interesting ideas but I felt like it was trying to do too much, what would’ve been better is if it was hands-on and we went through, in detail, perhaps just one or two of the techniques.
  • Unfortunately my experience of this class was very poor. The presentation was disjointed and at times downright odd, and some of the content was unconvincing. The slides were very dense in text, and these were largely read out verbatim by the presenter. Again, I will look at these slides later to see if there is anything I can take away. But there was little about content, and the presenter’s admitted lack of experience in HE gave the governance aspects little clout. A disappointment.
  • Sadly a very disappointing master class. There was far, far too much talking from the host and not enough discussion. I felt like I was in a sales pitch, and the content was very dry. I was so disappointed.
  • Was trying to cover too much content which meant a lot of the later more interesting stuff was rushed over because we were running over time.
  • Dreadful, just dreadful. This is where vendor participation really falls down when they try to push their own companies and products. The presenter talked pretty much for the entire time, with a few group discussions thrown in to tick boxes that had very little to do with the subject. If trades description law could be applied, she would have been in breach.


IWMW 2016: ratings for master classes

Ratings for master classes (1 = poor; 5 = excellent)

IWMW 2016: ratings for workshops

Ratings for workshops (1 = poor; 5 = excellent)

Parallel sessions have typically generated a variety of responses in feedback forms: the expectation that sessions will be informed by the participants’ specific interests can make such sessions difficult to organise when, as is often the case, there is a diverse range of expertise and knowledge. However two specific concerns have been raised which will be addressed when inviting proposals for next years events:

  1. the need to avoid product pitches
  2. the need to avoid giving long presentations and provide meaningful ways of providing active participation from participants. These points will be made explicitly when the call for submissions for next years event is made.

It should be noted, however, that despite the concerns raised as can be seen from the accompany graphs no fewer than 71% of respondents rated the workshop sessions as very good or excellent with this figure rising to 82% for the mast classes!


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