Posts Tagged "higher ed"

“Hella Drop Shadow”: Presenting and Teaching in the Era of the Backchannel #HighEdWebNotes

Posted by on Nov 20, 2010 in conference, higher ed, opinion, pseweb, socialmedia


As Twitter’s growth and hype continue, it seems like everyone is getting in on the act — athletes, actors, politicians, and even educators are joining the virtual conversation. But what happens when that virtual conversation becomes the main event? How should presenters and educators prepare themselves for this reality? And what responsibilities do audience members have when thoughts shared amongst friends can suddenly become “trending topics?’ Join us for a conversation focused on the need to understand how the crowd in the cloud and the sage on the stage can coexist to create an environment of engagement, respect, and conversation, including first-hand observations of some recent “tweckling” incidents (some closer to home than others).


  • Robin Smail, Disruptive Technologist, Penn State University
  • Patti Fantaske, IT Specialist, Information Technology Services, Penn State University

  • Lori Packer, Web Editor, University of Rochester


How powerful is it? Of all the ppl who weren’t here last year, only one person hadn’t heard about “hella drop shadow” (aka the Great Keynote Meltdown of 2009).

Backchannel has always been around:

  • now we have a megaphone
  • no longer contained to geo-physical space
  • not just public, it is pseudo permanent. It is findable.

Social media is forcing us to change how we do things.

Monitor the online and in room backchannel – speakers are partnering to watch each other’s back(channel)s.

The days of fifteen bullet points per slide are over: unless of course you are using an accepted new technology such as Google Wave, or Prezi.

Challenge for speakers is to be compelling enough for the audience to pay attention.

Are presentations many to many now?

There needs to be a referee – an ombudsperson – who stops and says there is a question on Twitter, please answer it.

Backchannel in the Classroom:

  • Hotseat – participate via Twitter or Facebook, via laptop or mobile. Purdue University
  • Harvard Question Answer
  • Goal with software is to not require users to change their behaviour.

Backchannel can go bad on good speakers:  “spectacle at web 2.0 expo … from my perspective” (dannah boyd)

  • dannah is a brilliant academic and sought after speaker who had a negative backchannel experience when presenting at web2.0 expo (she was the only academic speaker at the event and her format was much different than that of the non-academic speakers)

The same way we can tweak online ads from day to day, minute to minute to get the best performance possible … Conferences/events can use the backchannel to provide the best experience possible.  They can protect the speaker, act as a moderator, and can act on issues impacting the experience of the attendees. i.e. Mark is able to hear the wifi isn’t working and get it fixed.

With danah boyd, did the organizers fail? Putting the backchannel onscreen with the speaker – taking away the audiences choice whether to pay attention to the speaker or go into the backchannel. dannah also didn’t know the set up of the stage/backchannel screen until she got onto stage.  Is enough thought going into the physical and tech set up at events? Over and over speakers can’t see their slides, the screen is too dark, or in this case, the panelists are behind a podium and can’t be seen by the audience.  At eduweb09, the podium where my laptop was setup was about 20 metres from the screen where the slides were shown – to point to the slides, I had to jog across the stage and talk and point, and then jog back across to click forward to the next slide.  Could have been improved if screen and podium were closer to each other, or if a laser pointer had been provided, or if the speaker had a remote control clicker.

As a speaker, I have a choice to be scared or to take control and own (the backchannel).

The audience is the paying customer.

Rule with radio, television is that when it goes south – you end it. No matter how long the session is supposed to be. Used to be at you walked out, now people enjoy watching the crash too much to look away.

My take from hella drop shadow at #heweb09 was that the speaker and his content did not match the audience.  Maybe he was a poor selection, or maybe (definitely) he was poorly prepared (for us).  It is critical to know who you are talking to – what they know, what are they interested in, what’s their background. That said, was there any value in leaving the speaker on stage? He couldn’t be heard, his slides were sloppy and unprofessional, and his content was out of date and self-driven.  I’ve never taken a speaker off stage, but I’ve definitely considered it and watched the backchannel and audience for cues that things were headed South.  Would I have the guts to stand up and end a presentation if it were of no value to the audience and damaging to the speaker? I hope so – but I haven’t yet.

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Higher Ed Redesigns: NIC & NSCAD 0

Higher Ed Redesigns: NIC & NSCAD

Posted by on Apr 14, 2009 in higher ed

North Island College

Screenshot of NIC Redesign (Spring 2009)

Screenshot of NIC Redesign (Spring 2009)

NIC’s redesign has the usual three-quarter/full width banner as the major visual just below a top persistent navigation.  The banner appears static (no change over time, or on reload).  The banner points out that a NIC degree costs about $20,000 than the same credential at an urban college.  The two young ladies aren’t overwhelmingly plastic and aren’t looking at the camera, so points for lack of stock imagery definitely (obvious stock is a huge pet peeve of mine).  I really think the design of the horizontal navigation, and really the whole homepage is very well done – everything feels like its had the touch of a great designer.  The design is very professional, without being cold or corporate.

Screenshot of NIC redesign, second level landing page

Screenshot of NIC redesign, second level landing page

Both top horizontal navigation bars are taken through as persistent navigation.  The most prominent bar has broad topical choices: Programs & Courses / Become a Student / Student Services / NIC in your community / About Us.  Student Services and NIC In Your Community are very nice to see – I would love to see the analytics on how they compare traffic-wise to the more typical options (Programs, Admission, About).

The secondary bar focuses on the schools program areas: Upgrading / Business / Community Well-Being / Fine Arts / Health / Trades & Technology / University Transfer / More.  This is something not every institution could do but when there are only 7 major areas to highlight, it’s a nice approach.  This would be a great approach for a school that has one or two flagship programs.

The bottom half of the single-screen homepage is broken into four columns: News, Events, Notices/Deadlines, and Ad/Banner space.  Overall the redesign is a nice mixture of static splash and dynamic news/events content.  The nice thing about this homepage is that it will be very easy to keep current – no graphic design required, just adding headlines/events and uploading PDF’s.  (I’m not condoning news in PDF format – if you’re going to do this, you also need to have an HTML format for those of us who are lazy and casual).

Nova Scotia College of Art & Design

Screenshot of NSCAD web redesign, Spring 2009

Screenshot of NSCAD web redesign, Spring 2009

NSCAD’s redesign is another single-screen approach, again with a prominent banner below horizontal navigation, followed by columns of dynamic content (news, features, etc).  The banner element is a nicely paced slideshow of several student pieces, beside a static headline/text block that elaborates on “Why NSCAD?”  The simple white with colour accent design is nothing new, but comes across as mature, creative and excellent.

The second half of the homepage is broken into three columns: Spotlight On/ News / Events.  The double width given to the Spotlight section balances nicely with the column break above between the text block and 3/4 width banner.  There could be more visual elements – such as an image to support the “Spotlight” feature, or more ad/seasonal banners – but the simple approach is probably why the design pulls off the white + colour accents approach with such sophistication.

nscad-redesign2The horizontal nav from the homepage is carried consistently through to the second level, nicely highlighting the user’s current area of the site.  The persistent navigation is supported by sectional left column navigation, again letting the user know where they are within the larger site as well as indexing other pages in their current section.  The site also uses breadcrumbs.  From a usability standpoint, these three systems paired with a strong search tool (I haven’t tested it, so cross your fingers) makes for a very easy to navigate site.

The right column is set up with horizontal grey separators breaking up content chunks that are different on every page – making sure that every page has the opportunity to be visual, without forcing content developers to fool around with the template.

So those are my thoughts – what do you think? Overall, I think both redesigns are very strong – although I’d like NIC’s news to link to html rather than PDF, but that seems like the only major glitch.

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