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“I like being carried”

“I feel very taken care of”

“I could only see legs in that last session”

“Yikes, I’m feeling sea-sick”

No, those comments don’t come from a class of kumbaya gymnastics but from online participants in our BEtreat workshop for social learning leaders who were being carried around on laptops.

We’ve been developing our skills for integrating online and face-to-face participants in our workshops and are definitely coming closer to making it a full experience with fewer technical hitches. Our ambition has always been to be able to do it smoothly with technology that is within range of non-specialists.

Almost gone are the days of “hello can you hear us?” … A combination of better quality sound on most devices, people’s adeptness at using different technologies, and a different room set up has all contributed to a better sound experience.

Our new addition to the hardware at this workshop was a grip handle for a smartphone. The grip handle turned an iPhone (with camera on) into a talking stick so that online people could get a close-up of the person who was talking. (Proviso: handle design flaw overcome with a work-around of blu-tac).

The (adapted) handle worked like a charm. “The room” and “The talking stick” are both logged into Adobe Connect and appear on video alongside the onliners showing both the perspective and the detail.

As for activities we made the online folk the “host” during the (small group) café conversations. They sat as talking heads at each table summarizing key points and guiding the conversation while face-to-face folk had to move tables. Their appreciation was for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it is tiring to be moved from room to room as you watch the walls swoop by and make sense of new angles of furniture and body parts.

Some other principles we have gathered for a good face-to-face/online experience include:

  • Ratio of face-to-face to online (2:1)
  • Tech check and preparation with online people in advance (essential)
  • Keeping a chat going in the whole group sessions (ask for volunteers)
  • Multiple devices to bring people in (each device affords a different kind of presence)
  • Easy access to all contact details – Skype, email, and phone (don’t leave online people hanging when things go wrong)
  • Design activities that put online people in control (it’s tiring to feel dependent)
  • Playful inventiveness in connecting with people “on the other side” (enjoyment of the challenge from face-to-face and online folk)

If you are thinking of joining us in 2015, these are the dates:

      July 7 – 10 (State-of-the-art)


      July 14 – 17 (Cutting-edge)


    July 21 – 24 (Academic)

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