Virtual Again: Recap of the 2021 CollegeSource Virtual Conference

by | Jul 15, 2021 | Training

Wow, what an incredible event! We are thankful for our product users from across the country who signed up for our 2nd Virtual Annual Conference. After a year of virtual everything, we weren’t sure what to expect. As usual, our community showed up in a big way ready to learn, discuss, and engage with their peers and us. 
The 2021 CollegeSource Virtual Conference, free for all CollegeSource software users, was held June 21-23, 2021. There were 40+ live and on-demand sessions with Q&A and 4 pre-conference sessions. Our Client Advisory Board (CAB) and resident product experts (i.e., the Wizards) led interactive roundtable discussions, panel sessions, and moderated message boards. Attendees who registered also had the opportunity to socialize and meet with other attendees via the conference app. Like last year, attendees could tune in live to participate during the conference week and have access to watch recordings for several more months.
Did you miss any sessions? No worries. There’s still time to watch! All session recordings will be available in the conference Virtual Hub through October 31, 2021. Registration will also remain open for all users of CollegeSource products as well. Check out the conference website to register and access the sessions.

Highlights and Statistics

This conference turned out to be the largest event we’ve ever had! We had nearly 2,000 registrants, over 1,750 logged into the portal during the conference week, and attendees spent over 26k minutes logged in with just under 17k session views. The pre-conferences were so popular that we had to add another session! 
Highest Live Attendance: 
Opening Session, Key Tools for Annual Equivalency Review (TES), TES Updates and Product Roadmap, and TES & Transferology, Better Together – Part 1: Evaluations. 
Most Watched On Demand: 
Common SQL Queries, TES Demo, At the Tipping Point: uAchieve Training Evolves, and Troubleshooting Degree Audit Exceptions.
Most Facebook Live Views: 
Welcome to Conference Week, Wrapping Up Conference Week, and Interview with Virtual Training Experts.
2021 Virtual Conference Stats

Networking and Social

I think it’s safe to say that while virtual learning is convenient and improves access so more people can participate, networking through a screen is a considerable challenge. So to engage our attendees, every live session had a moderator so that attendees watching live could ask questions. We held Zoom roundtable discussions with breakout rooms by topic that allowed attendees to move to different rooms as desired. We brought back guided Chair Yoga and closed the week with a Zoom Happy Hour / cocktail-making tutorial where we interacted and responded to comments from the live audience. Recipients of our 2021 Sourcies Awards graciously sent in acceptance videos, helping give the award presentation a personal feeling (watch them here). We encouraged attendees to network within the conference hub and share photos to win prizes. We sent daily emails and pushed real-time notifications in the hub. We streamed live on Facebook before and between sessions.
The sessions are fantastic, but these small opportunities to “see” and “talk” with our users are by far our favorite part. Based on our feedback, all of those little things made a big difference and made this an excellent experience for our attendees.
Networking participants on Zoom at 2021 CollegeSource Virtual Conference

Positive Feedback

Our goal is to provide the best possible experience and learning environment for our users. The survey responses are essential to our planning, and we’re grateful our users take the time to let us know what we did right and suggest ways to improve. We learned a lot from last year and considered the feedback we received from attendees to try to make this the best virtual conference possible. Here are a few of the most notable comments:

  • “I attended a bigger conference this year that was underwhelming and I thought this one would be the same but was pleasantly surprised! Each trainer was engaging, entertaining, and extremely knowledgeable. I also enjoyed the chats, seeing attendees pictures from previous pre-pandemic conferences, their pets, backyards, etc. It was engaging in a way that made me feel like I was interacting with everyone in person. Thank you.”
  • “I was appreciative that you still held a conference, virtually – since F2F was out of the question at the time you had to make the call. It being free for users was above and beyond!! Thank you for that.”
  • “I liked that it was accessible to me. At this point in my career there is no way I’d be selected to attend an in-person conference. Having it online is so nice because I can watch and listen and ask questions based on my needs. Plus I can access the content again on my time which is nice because my job can be randomly busy then dead and being able to watch videos is so nice!”
  • “I enjoyed the sessions, pre-conferences, message boards, and networking. I liked the virtual structure of having a few hours in the morning to attend to work, and then being able to block off the afternoon for the conference. While there were a few times I had to step away, I was able to go to a lot of sessions. I also really like that there are pre-recorded options and that the live sessions are available to watch later. I can watch them anytime with my schedule, which is great!”
  • “This was my third virtual conference this year and this was by far the most organized. Probably due to the fact that it wasn’t organized by volunteers. I appreciated that it was full of helpful sessions, but not too many choices to make it overwhelming. Thank you for only making it about 5 hours a day so I could get some of my daily/weekly tasks done.”
  • “I enjoyed the topics discussed. I thought the sessions were long enough to cover important information, and short enough to not feel like I was in a super long meeting.”
  • “I enjoyed the freestyle flow and all the conference leaders were fantastic! I felt it was informative for people well-versed in the different technologies and programs. This was my first conference with CollegeSource so I am sure the in-person is better! Everyone seemed to know each other and remember each other from previous years. I am looking forward to the in-person in my institution sends the evaluators next year.”

What’s in Store for 2022

Virtual conferences have come a long way in a short time. The way people work and live has changed. What the future holds is no longer as predictable. But we know that online events are here to stay and that when it’s safe and feasible to travel, many of us would like to learn and connect in person again.
We will be reviewing the surveys and exploring our options for next June, but it seems pretty clear that our users would like to see us offer a hybrid option in 2022. Many institutions have imposed travel restrictions or face tight budgets, and users who have been able to attend because it’s been virtual and affordable want to continue participating.
We appreciate your comments, and if you have anything else to share about your experience, feel free to reach out to ma*******@co***********.com and let us know. Stay tuned for future announcements, which we will share on our news feed.