CSD-Educators: the CCDC Virtual Workshops Experience

For this CSD Educators blog we wanted to share with you our experience hosting our first CCDC Virtual Workshops. The CCDC Virtual Workshops are interactive live sessions aimed at training our community remotely in using the CSD Software, and we launched the first series of three 90-minutes sessions in November 2020. We wanted to deliver a proper workshop, where you had the chance to try exercises yourself, ask us your questions, discuss together the issues you encounter and interact with us. After much thinking, planning and experimenting, we brought to you the CCDC Virtual Workshops.

In this blog you will read more about the format, the numbers, and what we have learnt from this experience.

 

The Format

The first series of the CCDC Virtual Workshops included three sessions: Searching with ConQuest, Visualising with Mercury and using the Aromatics Analyser. The first two sessions were aimed at beginners to provide new users the tools for their first searches and visualisations with the CSD using software in the CSD-Core suite (ex CSD-System). The third session focussed on our Aromatics Analyser from CSD-Materials, and was aimed at more experienced users since it covered more advanced features of the CSD-Portfolio.

In planning the workshops, it was central for us to keep in mind our aim. Indeed, we wanted not only to show the attendees the feature in action, as in a webinar, but also to give them the chance to try it themselves and ask questions as they go. We wanted to deliver a “real” workshop but virtually, informative and practical.

How did we decide to do it? With the “Show One – Try One – Explore More” format, that became our motto. We hoped this format could reach our aim and help us maintain engagement despite the limited direct and personal interaction of a virtual event.

Example of agenda

An example of the typical agenda of a CSD Virtual Workshop

 

Show One. This is the part where the attendees learn about the features, so it was us showing examples and exercises. We divided the Show One part into two. Firstly, we presented via slides the software and functionalities of the day. Then, a live demo showed practical examples of how to use that feature and read the results. We hoped that combining the two methods would be inclusive of different learning preferences.

Try One. This is the time for the attendees to try the software themselves, following individually a self-guided workshop. This was a quiet time as everyone was working hard on the tasks, but the tutors were on hand – as they were throughout the workshop, to answer more question, untangle issues and use break-out rooms to help solve more complex problems. Including this part and ensuring tutors were available to help was very important to give the Virtual Workshop the “real workshop” feeling.

Explore More. This part was fun, both to organise and on the day, as we wanted to try and interact with you more than in the question-answer dynamic. This part could be either a quiz or a challenge for the attendees – or even both. The quiz, with interactive polls, was a way to have fun together, but also to reflect on what we had learnt during the session. The challenge was making you use what you learnt, with a bit of creativity and competition. This allowed us to share and have fun together.

YAHNOL structure image generated with Mercury

Example of an image realised during the Challenge in the “Visualising with Mercury” Virtual Workshop.

 

While preparing for the events, we tried and tested all the material, platforms, tools used, and tried to minimise any difficulties that the attendees might find due to their home-working set-ups and unfamiliarity with the video-conference platform. In advance of the sessions, we sent out the training material and installation instructions. This enabled the attendees to install, update and check they had the correct version of the CSD Software ready for the session ready for the Try One part. Sharing the material in advance had a two-fold aim: on the one hand, I remember that as a student I appreciated having slides in advance so that I could take notes on those; on the other hand, it would give time to the attendees to prepare the material in their preferred or accessible form, which could be downloading it and showing on a second screen, downloading it on a different device, or printing it.

All the material was made available as well as the recordings on a dedicated webpage.

For our first series of virtual workshops, we decided to cap attendee numbers so we could ensure that every participant could receive the guidance they needed from our tutors. We also knew it would not just be the attendees learning from our workshops and so we set up feedback surveys so we could find out how we could improve and evolve these events to better meet your needs in the future.

 

The Numbers

When we first advertised our CCDC Virtual Workshops, your response was overwhelming (in a good way): the workshops were all booked out in about 24h and we had to make a waiting list! This for us was a great signal as it showed that our community were missing our workshops as much as we were.

So, what are numbers of these workshops?

  • Over 270 minutes of training.
  • 92 attendees overall over the three sessions,
  • Joining live from all over the world – I could count 23 countries overall (Algeria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America). Time zones from -8 to +8: how amazing is our community?
  • 11 tutors.

The image below reports some insights. The plot on the left shows the breakdown of these numbers for each session. The one on the right, instead, presents how many participants attended all three sessions, or two out of three, or one.

 

Attendance data

Attendance data for each session.

 

Wrapping Up (A proper festive title)

From our side, we could not be happier with how you responded to our CCDC Virtual Workshops! Your reaction, the engagement during the sessions and the commitment were incredible. We know that we need and want to improve for next sessions, and we will treasure the feedback and the advice received. 

Your feedback also highlighted that the CCDC Virtual Workshops were really appreciated by you. The attendees who responded to the survey mostly found the format to work, and some even felt it was like a real workshop! In the feedback, we also received suggestions on what you would like to learn next about the CSD Portfolio in a CCDC Virtual Workshop.

Thanks to everyone that attended and provided us with feedback and watch this space as more Virtual Workshops will come in 2021!