This summer at Cardiff and Vale College (CAVC) has been full of new experiences. One of the most impactful has been turning our usual two-day CPD course into a two-week festival of fun.
From voucher incentives for those with the most attendance points, to an online coffee shop and even a virtual escape room, the whole programme saw top engagement.
Moving the festival online
With COVID-19 lockdown prohibiting group gatherings, our normal face-to-face CPD was out of the question. But we still wanted to make sure that staff were able to access training, and perhaps more importantly, to get together.
So, we set about turning the planned two-day event into a two-week online festival, which we called CAVC EdFest.
Using Microsoft Teams, we set up a festival space, using different streams within the group as ‘stages’ for different content topics.
What started out as a solution to a problem has turned into an innovative approach that we will take with us into the future, even when campuses are once again fully functional.
How we did it
First of all, we had to translate the original two-day programme into a two-week, remote one.
The timescale change was initially just based on accessibility. We weren’t necessarily trying to ‘go big’, but people’s working patterns and behaviours have changed through lockdown. If we shared content over only two days, there would almost certainly be people who couldn’t make any of the sessions, due to childcare or other commitments.
We were able to organise external speakers to deliver sessions remotely, streaming to our ‘stages’ within Teams, via video. And all staff – both teaching and support – were sent a clickable PDF ‘festival pack’ which had a timetable, blurb about each session, and some housekeeping info.
Embedded links in the festival pack led directly through to sessions or other information in three clicks or less.
The programme consisted of both synchronous and asynchronous materials all hosted on a dedicated Microsoft Teams site. CAVC is a Microsoft Showcase college, so we already had that infrastructure in place, it was just a matter of adapting it to our needs.
We are also lucky to have a talented technology enhanced learning (TEL) team which facilitated the event. This included pairing up each external speaker with a producer, who ensured everything ran smoothly behind the scenes.
I wanted to look closely at the balance between synchronous and asynchronous content, because they serve different requirements, but also need to work together. It’s easy to upload resources to a site, and just tell your staff ‘there it is, off you go’, but that’s not great for engagement.
It’s important, with asynchronous content, to mix it in with live stuff, to give responsibility to attendees and to hold them to account. And those live sessions were really powerful. We had sessions on meeting learners’ needs online, with staff taking part in deep questioning, and giving meaningful feedback. The attendance levels were incredible.
Week 1 attendance summary - text version
- 62 hours of CPD
- 3,796 individual live attendances
- 51 sessions
- Number of live attendances across mandatory sessions:
- 492 people - highest attendance
- 377 people - average attendance across sessions
- Average live attendances by session type
- 64 people - average attendance across sessions
"An incredible first week at this year's CAVS Edfest! A remarkable number of attendances across mandatory, practice development and enrichment sessions. This has all been made possible with a team of staff planning and delivering engaging sessions! A big thank you to the quality and TEL teams! And of course, to you for attending and creating this festival buzz!"
Making it fun and accessible
We were particularly conscious of making the entire festival as accessible as possible.
Live sessions were recorded with Microsoft Stream, so anyone who couldn’t make the slot was able to catch up afterwards. It was also important to make sure we collected feedback from all attendees, so we could monitor what worked, and what we might need to change in the future.
We set up a Flipgrid board, so that all feedback could be collated in the same place – it was nice to see people talking about the sessions they enjoyed, and what they’d learned.
The fact that the whole festival was a safe space to make mistakes was also essential to its success.
For instance, I led a live session with more than 350 staff watching, and I had tech issues. I’m known as someone who is good with technology, so for staff to see me struggle, and know that it happens to everyone, was really valuable.
The festival also gave staff experience of presenting to a large audience online, as well as being an online learner. Putting staff in the shoes of their students meant they developed that essential insight – experiencing the benefits as well as the challenges of remote delivery.
Keeping it relevant
COVID-19 has obviously changed so much of how we deliver teaching and learning – not just through lockdown, but likely from now on. We therefore wanted to make sure that CPD was as relevant as possible – not just offering sessions on online tools and pedagogy, but on wellbeing as well.
We dedicated an entire ‘stage’ to wellbeing, as the pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone, and the health of our staff – physical and mental – is of utmost importance.
We included sessions on motivation, getting good sleep, managing your own wellbeing, etc.
We didn’t just focus on teaching and learning; we made sure there were sessions that were relevant for all staff, including for HR, business support, commercial support, and other departments. The feedback we got from non-curriculum staff was incredible. They said they really felt included and upskilled, because they were able to access all sessions, not just those directed at their job roles.
Ultimately, even when we’re able to run in-person courses again, I think much of our CPD will remain online.
EdFest has proved how good the engagement can be when courses are designed and delivered well, and with the technology available to us, there’s no reason to try and cram all this learning into two days of in-person courses, which many people won’t be able to attend.
Online delivery not only makes the whole programme more flexible, but reduces the environmental and cost implications of travelling, and still provides a great space for collaboration. The future of CPD is blended.