On Sunday, May 1, 2011, I hosted the first live streaming video coverage of an event at our Provincial Center in Chardon, Ohio, and I did it from my home in Maryland! Over two-hundred sisters were on-site for the four-hour meeting and through the wonders of technology—another 35 sisters at 25 other sites were able to follow the meeting live and submit questions to the presenters in real time.Thankfully, the webcast went smoothly, but it didn’t just “happen” that way.
The use of technology to enhance communications and strengthen collaboration was one of the goals that came out of a six-month study on the use of technology that took place during the first six months of 2010. As a result of that study, our province committed resources to move forward in the use of technology.
In January, 2011, we hired a full-time director of technology and shortly after that we hired a full-time manager for our help desk and network systems. They have been hard at work upgrading our infrastructure at the Provincial Center which supports our Provincial Center Community, Administration, Health Care Facility and an elementary school as well as upgrading and standardizing computer hardware and software for both the Provincial Center and the sisters who live outside the Provincial Center.
The Perfect Event
The May 1 event was the perfect opportunity to try out web conferencing as some sisters would be unable to be present due to distance or ministry commitments. Wanting to be there live—was enough motivation to get them to give the Internet version a try.
The On-site Team
The week before the event our on-site team was busy working out the logistics: connectivity, camera placement, lighting, sound, retrieving the online questions, computer interface, etc. The sound interface was our biggest challenge. We held several practices until we got it right. This involved a few trips to the store for longer cables, a digital microphone, and some other hardware. On the day itself we had a sound/camera check with the day’s presenters before the meeting began.
We selected Quick Visuals with AV from Great America Networks Conferencing. I have used a number of other web conferencing platforms and by far this was the easiest both for me as a host and for the attendees. It is flash-based, so the attendees had nothing to download. The set-up and administration tools were very user friendly. Oh, and the cost for a one-month license for up to 50 participants was less than a plane ticket!
Build on Success
As web-conferencing goes this was a basic meeting with simple interaction, which is the best way to introduce new technologies. It was successful and we will be able to build on this experience in the future. The sisters are already thinking about other ways we can use technology to be more inclusive and effective in mission. As Sisters of Notre Dame like to say, “God is good.”
Do you have any technology “firsts” to share?