Online Events and Video: No longer a Question for Associations

November 5, 2012

Lauren Mulherrin

Lauren Mulherrin is a project coordinator at bXb Onlinea marketing agency uniquely focused on activating global business stories and experiences online.

We’ve all been there … miles away from our loved ones feeling tired, stressed and desperately wishing they were by our side. Not that long ago, voices of a parent, friend or child through the phone were as close as we could get to their touch.

Now Apple’s FaceTime, Skype and numerous other platforms have given us a greater sense of connection through the use of video. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I think back to a Thanksgiving holiday where I found myself in a similar long distance predicament.

It was Thanksgiving 2010 and I had been studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, for several months. Up until that day, I had managed to avoid the homesick bug entirely, but waking up on my favorite holiday 9,235 miles away from my family was an exception.

Before I had left for Oz, I made sure that my mom not only had a webcam, but also knew how to use it. Being able to Skype my parents that morning helped bridge the thousands of miles and time between us (it wasn’t even Thanksgiving in the US yet) and gave me a sense of comfort.

Our Skype session could never have replaced their physical presence, but it was the next best thing. How we use and feel about video in our personal lives can also extend into our educational lives.

The New Era of Video: edX

The adoption of online video has skyrocketed. Seventy-five percent of all executives said they watched work-related videos on business Web sites at least once a week. Educational institutions are using this trend to reach students far and wide. This past spring, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced the launch of edX. EdX is a technological platform designed to offer online versions of courses featuring; “video lesson segments, embedded quizzes, immediate feedback, student-ranked questions and answers, online laboratories, and student paced learning.”

MIT President Susan Hockfield said, “EdX represents a unique opportunity to improve education on our own campuses through online learning, while simultaneously creating a bold new educational path for millions of learners worldwide.” Hockfield’s views on edX are similar to mine in regards to the online extensions of events.

The Dilemma

Associations are being faced with the dilemma of not only finding ways to extend their great content, but also attracting the incoming Millennial generation. Like Hockfield states about edX, online extensions of association events are an opportunity to improve education and they are creating a bold new educational path for millions of learners worldwide. Millennials are familiar with video technology and are starting to expect it as an extension of their events and education.

While some may look at the Millennial generation’s expectation of video and online extensions of events as another argument for our entitlement stereotype, that is not the case. Just as we Skype with our family miles away because the technology is there and adds value to our relationships, associations should stream sessions because the technology is there and adds value to our membership.

To be sure there are many associations doing it right. However, it is increasingly evident to my generation (GenY, the Millennials) that most are behind in this important aspect of their business. The fear of cannibalization of face-to-face attendees is hard for many associations to shake. What associations need to keep in mind is that online extensions are not a replacement for attending a live event, but are rather the second best seat in the house.

Millennial Perspective

I had the opportunity to discuss edX with two of my friends that attended MIT. Jordan Medeiros, MIT ‘06 said, “I think there are certain aspects of the educational and college experience that cannot be mimicked through online education and are important to the social development of our future generations.” MIT President Hockfield agrees that, “edX is designed to improve, not replace, the campus experience.”

I think we can all concur that the online extensions of association events are no substitute for the face-to-face experience; however, similar to embracing video to enrich our personal lives, it is time that video is embraced for continued education.

Tarikh Campbell, MIT ’09 believes that, “EdX is not only a supplement for everyone in college, but now an option for everyone who can’t go to college.” Again the parallels to association conferences abound. Online extensions of sessions from annual conferences allow not only those that attended to reprocess all that they learned, but also gives those unable to attend a chance to learn and grow within their industry.

The Solution

It is no longer a question of whether or not associations should embrace the online extensions of events; it is a matter of developing a team and strategy to implement this value-addition to association membership.

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