Track 9 Room Topic 1: The digital divide - experiences and experiments with virtual events

The digital divide - experiences and experiments with virtual events

Potential and limitations of virtual meetings

Started 12 months ago

The Corona crisis has forced us to work differently from in the past, when face-to-face meeting was the go-to way to meet, exchange ideas and make decisions. We're now adapting quickly to this with Professional Congress Organizers, Events Tech and platform developers working rapidly to adjust their products to the rapid change in demand. The new model brings problems of connectivity, time zones, the technical limitations of software, and the recognised difficulties in interacting online as opposed to face-to-face. But the model also brings opportunities - more people can participate, less time is spent travelling, and carbon footprint can be greatly reduced. 

What's your thinking on the this? What are the problems you face and/or the advantages you see? What are the latest developments in stimulating co-creation when we're not in the same room? Who's already doing this well and what can we learn from each other?

Join in this conversation and let us know!

Those of us working in online learning say that “it works and it is here to stay”. But what does that mean? It is not about replacing face to face learning. Beyond the corona crisis, there is room -and need!- for both face to face and online learning to exist, complement, to collaborate. We are only giving first steps in this direction. The Delft Symposium is an excellent opportunity for all water capacity developers to share and to learn from this experience.

Going online is on its own an effective step towards more accessible knowledge, more efficient use of scarce development funds, and significantly reduced CO2 emissions associated to the symposium. The Delft Agenda is not written yet and is already showing the way forward, a promising start!

How will learning and teaching change in the next years? How may water governance, dialogues, participation, transparency, be part in this move towards virtual work? Are we strategically prepared for this or are we going with the flow?

We have gathered some good practice resources for distance communication, distance teaching and eLearning at our DUPC2 knowledge sharing platform. There you can also find webinars on these topics. The aim of the platform is to share knowledge with our partners from the Global South. We would like to know how they are dealing with the current COVID-19 situation. What digital solutions do they use? What works well? What are challenges?

Many organisations planning events - both big and small - have taken the decision to move online. Some, like the European Geosciences Union's General Assembly, included an extensive range of live text chats; others have relied more on video recordings played through webinars. With so many of us using so many different technologies just now, it's a great time to learn from each other's experiences.

If you've attended an online conference recently, let us know what kind of functions were available. We'll share the findings on technologies and approaches through @CapDevSymp and #CapDevSymp over the coming weeks.

This year, IHE Delft's traditional Graduation Ceremony annually held at the end of April could not take place. I was part of the small team that took it online. The main aim was to allow our graduates to celebrate their achievement and to give them an appropriate send-off, even though COVID-19 distancing measures seemed to be stacked against this. 

The team was given the freedom, support and trust we needed to get this event off the ground in 25 days (!). It turned into a festive occasion for our graduates, and the event had more impact than anticipated, as graduates' friends & family "back home" were very involved because they could see the event live and interact directly through chat. We were happy to have had an exernal organization (Het Regiehuis) help us with creative and interactive elements. However, there were still many things that did not go as smoothy as we would have hoped. 

We used quite a few online tools simultaniously to allow our graduates & select staff to interact live with the event. The different live streams (YouTube, WebEx, Zoom, Kahoot) were not completely synchronous and caused big time lags of (unexpectedly) several minutes, which of course took away from the feeling of live interaction. Also, we realized afterwards that we could've used a simpler, more instant communication tool between all participants leading up to and during the event. We used email, which was not ideal for seeing if people had received information, relaying questions & answers or for last minute hiccups during the event itself.

However, we were happy that the feedback was very positive overall. For those who are interested, this is a quick video overview of the event. The full recording of the graduation (warning: almost three hours!) is here, and the article about the event is here. We congratulate our 141 graduates, this would not have been possible without them! ;-)

I attended some of the EGU sessions and I have a mixed feeling. Sessions were mimicking the real live sessions where authors material would be available laterally in a column for our perusal. Then, at a given time slot and managed by the session conveners, authors would post in a chat box a couple of paragraphs about their work and the discussion would be open. The duration depended on interest and moderation style. Somehow I could concentrate more on some of the content of the presentations, but this depended a lot on the skills of the authors and also on my capacity to concentrate and not get distracted by other stimulus. The chat would work well if we did some homework, but this is still not in our mind frame so I guess the final result was not so effective. It was fine to replace but not as a future option.

I found what we achieved here with the webinars and video-conference rooms better and more engaging. The conference rooms, limited to 14 had the disadvantage of limiting attendance, however it was much more engaging and the discussion was actually quite good. The webinars were also interesting and the chat questions, if well moderated, work quite well.

Since beginning of March I did three keynote lectures or seminars online. It is hard to speak to a camera alone with no feedback (this can also be solved), but with proper training can be engaging for audience and as effective (or even more) than real talks. 

I usual take a plane per week no average, normally I travel more than five times per year to conferences or to partners to give invited talks. The network is important and has to be done, but probably it can be achieved with online activities and I could save money, impact and health reducing substantially my travelling.

So I am for this transformation, which btw has to include education as well.


I am currently dipping in and out of a four-week virtual conference focused on social media, where the live sessions are difficult for me to follow because of a combination of the time difference and home life. However, the over 100 hours of livestreamed sessions by 300 speakers are recorded and accessible to me at any time, and will remain so for at least the next 6 months.

The participants can easily communicate with the speakers (live) via the chat function in the webinars, and connect with the speakers & the other 10,000 registered participants through Slack. There are Slack channels set up for various purposes including for networking, finding jobs / sharing vacancies, what's on now, support, AMAs and many others. This allows the discussions to continue after the sessions, and allows for easy info sharing & networking. A great place to learn about the tools that make communicating online so much easier, coming from those that specialize in them.

covid19 make us opens the boundaries of space and time to share ideas and information. as a result of this situation, it is as if we are being asked to think fast and adapt to continue to do social interactions (humans actually), and humans are fully successful in doing that by improvising technology. human beings as social creatures cannot avoid their social inconsistencies.removes the potential limit for direct interaction and accelerates all processes.
humans who are social creatures can obtain social perfection. we can be in 2 or 3 locations at once to interact directly and together solve problems. this is an advantage, I can directly meets you and discuss together talking about the same thing.

This virus closes human social traits, but humans instead adapt and make human social quality rise to a higher level.

As a PostDoc, I often organise small seminars (2-3 hours). Even tough these events often host very high level speakers, they are often little participation if they go in person. This year we organised this seminar (also with contributions from IHE Delft) that was turned into a webinar due to the COVID crisis. It was a success, demonstrating that for short seminars probably the online format is always the best. People who would have never been able to participate even in normal times, join from home/office with no issues.

The webinar format can be great for such small meetings (they can also be recorded). I know that this is widespread in North Europe, but it is still underrated in countries like Italy. On the other hand, we risk a "saturation" effect - with multiple webinars available, one should be very careful in selecting the right ones really useful for her/his research.

At last, I don't think large conferences such EGU can withstand if they go online. EGU 2020, Sharing Geosciences Online was a good attempt, but its success to me was somehow overrated.

I am currently out of the office, returning to the digital office on Tuesday, 2 June 2020. If you have an urgent request, please contact my colleagues via

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