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[Fall Workshop 2014] Summary Feedback

This year we decided to try something new for ETUG’s Fall workshop program: an unconference to open things—to get more involvement from all attendees in identifying the topics they want to talk about and  for them to facilitate these sessions. Yes it was a bit risky, but a few of us on the program committee had a gut feeling it was just the sort of thing ETUG is ready for.
Overall, the response to this format change-up is very positive. Take a read of the following feedback provided to us by 24 participants. (Note: A total of 75 attended the workshop this year.)  If you participated but did not get a chance to give us your input yet, here’s the feedback form.

For how many years have you been attending ETUG workshops?


This was my first year 5 22%
2 years 3 13%
3 years 4 17%
4 years 2 9%
5+ years 7 30%
Every ETUG since the beginning of time (or so it seems). 2 9%

Have you attended an unconference before?


Yes 6 26%
No, this was my first unconference. 17 74%


 What aspects of the unconference did you enjoy the most?

“It was also great to have people do their pitches in person – and I enjoyed seeing a couple of folks team up unexpectedly.”
  • The pitches. Every conference should have pitches regardless if it’s unconference or not.
  • The pitches were great! A bit more time to chat with colleagues.
  • The opening session pitch is a great model, hopefully for people to feel included.
  • hearing the presenters pitch their session because I feel I got a better sense of what the session would be like, as compared to reading an abstract
  • The pitches gave a great understanding of the speaker’s topic. Everything sounded interesting.
  • It was really exciting on the day to hear the pitches and decide what sessions to go to.
  • As always, the networking, but this time I thought it was great to see the pitches. It was so great to get to choose what to go to this way, rather than a written blurb.
  • The pitches were great. Also the more unexpected sessions (pirate box, graphic facilitation).
  • I liked the way the presentations rolled out, based somewhat on some pitches done pre-conference, and some spur-of-the moment ideas.
  • The pitches – to get a sense of the breadth of things people were interested in/working on.
“I liked the organic feel of the day – nice and casual yet full of great ideas and info”
  • Community contributions, a bit more informal atmosphere, meaningful topics
  • I embrace stepping off into the unknown! It also encourages people to be less “forced” and more informal and casual about sharing their learning.
  • I loved the organic development of ideas and timing. It was nice to be able to ask session leaders to shift times so I didn’t have to miss sessions I was interested in.
  • The flexibility and emergent nature of the sessions. It draws on the expertise that is in the room.
  • I especially enjoyed the social aspect of the unconference. Often times at a conference there is not enough time to mingle because we are busy running from 1 session to the next, afraid to miss anything. With an unconference the timeline allows more flexibility and a lot more time for small breakout conversations, catching up & mingling.
“I liked how it was a choose-your-own-adventure style! And that the topics were more relevant to you.”
  • I liked the spontaneity.
  • Impromptus nature
  • The energy that self-creation renders
  • The level of activity was fantastic, a lot because (I think) that rather than polished prepared presentations the sessions were more driven by doing and discussing.
Other Responses
  • Really enjoyed the hands on picture drawing at the end of the day – great way to end the conference for me!
  • The innovation, flexibility, fun, networking, learning, content of the presentations. I learned a lot–great take-aways.

 What aspects of the unconference did you enjoy the least?

“Nothing at all – it was great!
  • Not much!
  • n/a – there wasn’t anything I didn’t enjoy about the unconference aspect.
  • Nothing, I thought it was great.
  • I liked it all
  • none.
  • n/a
  • mostly just the fear that it wouldn’t work (… but it did!)
“I think it may take a little more experience with unconference sessions to get the hang of it.”
  • Some sessions seemed a bit like regular conference ppt/lectures on a speeded up time frame. I love the idea though maybe we need to think though what makes an unconference session great and use that as a primer for people preparing a session?
  • At first it wasn’t clear to me what was going on. For instance, it was part way through the pitches that I realized that they trying to gain an audience for their session. At first I thought the pitches were the sessions. Sometimes I’m a little slow. 😉
  • It was a bit confusing at first. I had watched the video about unconferences but I wasn’t sure whether we were all being asked to come up with a session when the post-it notes were handed out. It all worked out well though.
“The space didn’t match well with the unconference principles.
  • Many of the presentations were very formal and traditional – so hard to get up and leave, since we were all in classrooms with the presenter at the front of the room. Social norms rule – it feels rude to get up and leave and walk past someone who is talking. Perhaps a more open space where people could really move around freely – and a focus more on conversations rather than presentation would have worked better.
  • Hard to leave a session unobtrusively.
  • the room was a great size and the amount of light was really super, but with the sun shining it simply got too hot
“Not much structure.
  • I did miss a keynote but that’s too much conference like…
  • While I appreciate the concept of unconference, I would have been just as happy to have the program set, and that time spent on a keynote.
Other Responses
  • Perhaps next time, find a way to capture the final session times, rooms, etc. on more than one whiteboard – post a QR code so we could recall an image with our cellphones? I found many people walking in the hallways trying to remember which room a session was in or when it started. No big deal – just might run a bit smoother next time.
  • Just not enough time to talk to everyone!
  • the time conflicts
  • Trusting that there’d be a topic I’d like – – and also that sometimes topics got scheduled at same time w/other times not having something I was interested in.

How did you hear about the ETUG unconference?


Email notification 8 35%
The ETUG News 5 22%
Etug.ca 4 17%
Twitter 3 13%
Facebook 0 0%
Friend or colleague 8 35%
ETUG rep 2 9%
ETUG Let’s Talk (Scope.bccampus.ca) 1 4%
BCcampus.ca 6 26%
Other 2 9%

How would you rate the clarity of the pre-unconference info and orientation provided to you as a participant?


Very Clear 11 48%
Clear 11 48%
Unclear 0 0%
Confusing 0 0%

How helpful was the unconference orientation provided the morning of the workshop to frame the day?


Very helpful 14 61%
Helpful 7 30%
Unhelpful 0 0%
Very unhelpful 0 0%

Do you have any comments or suggestions for the workshop committee on how to improve on the organization and facilitation of ETUG unconferences in the future?

“Because we were organizing outsiders for the session on privacy and security, not having a committed time was a bit ambiguous. Not a show stopper, but something to think about”
  • For this one, the presentations were about the right length (because of the number of presentations). In the future, if more people want to share, you might consider shortening the sessions to fit more in. Or just limit the number of presentations.
  • presentation rooms that facilitate the ‘law of 2 feet’. A bit more time between sessions.
  • The unconference was awesome but it would be really cool if there were “themed tracks” and those themes could be provided to participants/facilitators before the event. Then each theme could have a designated area – e.g. Room A – DIY hands-on workshops; Room B – all brainstorming sessions; Room C – chilling out & refreshments; Room D – all visual arts…etc. These themes could also be provided before hand to give participants an idea where they’d like to hang out for most of the unconference.
  • I think that the Steering Committee provides an extremely responsive structure to support the ET community. Un or regular conference design included.
  • you could also allow people to suggest a topic that someone else might then pitch..
A mix of both may be a really good conference format. “
  • What about a hybrid unconference/discussion sessions? Pitches could come from anyone who wants to facilitate a discussion on a topic relevant to ed tech – why it’s really important to them. Then perhaps some guidelines for facilitating discussions? This might help us avoid presentation/show and tell mode.
  • To include the keynote like component perhaps ask big name speakers to pre record a 5 min snippet. The group could vote on what keynote micro talks they would like to view
Please repeat it! Wonder if there is a way to do this online?”
  • No–everything was very well done.
Other Responses
  • Intended with all respect: I feel that there is a bit of an “inside group” of regulars–would just like to find it a bit easier to break in–maybe some kind of icebreakers to facilitate networking?
  • I like the idea of a blank template for participants to make a schedule since the schedule was in the atrium in the afternoon and sessions were going on in there and I forgot the session titles were on the doors. 
  • I think that video was excellent – perhaps it could have been played to start the day to remind us. 🙂
  • the unconference orientation info was clear and useful to me – but I had participated in unconference sessions before. I wonder what it was like for others?
  • A little more time allocated to networking

What did you think of the amount of time alotted for participant-led sessions? (45 min)


Too long 3 13%
Too short 2 9%
About right 19 83%


Do you think the venue (BCIT downtown) was suitable for an unconference?

“Yes – nice venue
  • Convenient via public transit
  • It’s great – it’s always nice for us folks in the boonies to get to Vancouver, and downtown works better than, say BCIT-Burnaby or SFU on the hill.
  • Very good.
  • Yes, perfect!!
  • Yes.
  • sure
  • Yes, the atrium with the classrooms around it seemed just right. Lots of natural light.
  • great!
“It was ok but not fantastic”
  • Yeah, it wasn’t bad. The rooms were maybe too big or something? Or too long and less wide? Hard to facilitate discussion when you’re in traditional classroom rows….
“No, the space didn’t match well with the unconference principles.”
  • Many of the presentations were very formal and traditional – so hard to get up and leave, since we were all in classrooms with the presenter at the front of the room. Social norms rule – it feels rude to get up and leave and walk past someone who is talking. Perhaps a more open space where people could really move around freely – and a focus more on conversations rather than presentation would have worked better.

Do you think ETUG should do another unconference for Fall 2015 instead of the regular conference format?


Yes 18 78%
No 1 4%
Not sure 4 17%


If you attended the ETUG pub on Wed. night, what did you think of Steamworks? Do you have any suggestions for pub/dinner night for future?

“Pub night was fantastic. Learnt a lot from my table mates and it was very enjoyable. Steamworks is a great pub, well located too.”
  • Loved it
  • Steamworks is great, other places would be fine as well.
  • Steamworks is pretty good, a bit loud & a bit short on seating but not bad
  • it was fine, no suggestions (I don’t know Vancouver that well)
  • Alibi Room – http://www.yelp.ca/biz/alibi-room-vancouver
  • Great venue! Nice food. Good beer selection.
  • Great setting, a bit hard to mix between tables
  • Was okay. Food options not great but we ate somewhere else afterwards.
  • the pub was great, nice to have a private room, food and beer were good
  • Food and atmosphere was good.
  • It was a good venue – but the food/menu was just okay (as with any pub). Could we do drinks somewhere and then move for a more interesting dinner if it worked?
  • unfortunately the service wasn’t stellar (several drinks orders were wrong and/or mixed up)