Our Experience: Online iWeek

iWeek 2020 was the first ever fully digital iWeek since the beginning in 2008. Plans for the annual iWeek began already in January and first meeting took place in February, when we started we had no idea it would become an online event.

Originally we were meant to host art exhibitions, installations, music performances, workshops and more in TAMK’s Mediapolis. In the beginning some of us, like Anna Haaraoja had very different tasks.

My own tasks would have included making sure that the participants have all the gear they need and updated knowledge of schedules. All this crumbled due to the Corona outbreak and for some time I had nothing to do because we and I had to re-think my role in the process.

Anna Haaraoja, Producer

When Mediapolis closed we knew we could either cancel or change it up. Sohvi, who’s been coordinating iWeek for 8 years still wanted it to happen, and with the encouragement of Manager of Media and Arts, Timo Kivikangas, we started working to make an online iWeek.

I am so grateful that, at TAMK, people are open-minded and ready to accept challenges!

Luiza Preda, Exhibition Curator

After the initial shock of the lock-down, Anna decided to conduct interviews with music students from Mediapolis and Tampere Music Academy to learn about the early affects that it was having in the music industry. There are six interviews in total.

It definitely was a challenge as it was a new aspect for all of us. We really came together to make iWeek happen. We made sure to set clear responsibilities from the beginning and respected each other work boundaries, and it resulted in us being able to put together a great event in a short period of time. Each one of us was fully committed in putting on the event. No one knew how to turn this into an online event, but we did it!

Without our student team Isabella, Luiza and Anna, it would have been much more difficult, since I don’t have so much experience in social media platforms.

Sohvi Sirkesalo, International Coordinator

Our first steps were figuring out what platforms to even use and for what events. We took it one step at a time, considering every part of iWeek as an event and converting it to a digital event, such as the exhibitions which now exist on the website. Our main goal was to make it as easy as possible to follow and join.

For the month of April our team worked hard to make sure the event would happen; Sohvi reached out to our partners and international lecturers to find who could do online workshops, Anna planned online concerts using traditional event management skills to build a concert from the living room, Luiza contacted artists and collected their information for the online exhibitions, and Isabella created the digital platform, this website, as well as marketing the event on social media and starting a TAMK student showcase of artwork.

Our team was amazing and Anna and Luiza made the process so much better with their hard work, and great ideas!

Isabella Presnal, Marketing Manager

It turned out that the online workshops were not so easy to organize, some of our guest lecturers didn’t want to do online course; there were problems with their internet capacity or programs, they didn’t have enough experience etc. The idea of virtual international week was so new, – too fast, too soon.

But some of the partners were ready. We have had online cooperation courses during years, like songwriting workshop and INTAC, an art collaborative course, that has been running for 10 years.

It wasn’t an easy task, changing everything digital, but it came together and it was very satisfying to see everything gathered on the website.

With a fully digital event, we were able to invite more people, for example from partner universities, to attend the events and participate as they could join from home. 

We had a more participants that we typically have in a physical event. We had over 110 people sign up for events, almost half of which were from other schools! There were more people than ever before from countries like Canada, Mexico, China, Uruguay, South Korea, etc. Usually, people are from other European countries, and typically if they come from another continent there’s only one teacher or professor, and no students.

Now we had students, professors, artists, and more from all over the world!

An online event made it easier for people to join and attend the event, as all they needed was access to Zoom and stable WiFi. It allowed for a similar yet also different type of participation, as people were active in the chats and discussions or just a viewer.

From my point of view, the biggest challenge was when it came to human interactions and discussions. It is indeed easier to stay in your bed and participate in a workshop, but this changes the way you respond. You are hidden behind a screen. In the online meetings, the small chat disappears also. There is not a lot of space for getting to know the others or asking them questions about themselves.

Luiza Preda, Exhibition Curator

We found that many people were shy and tended not to open their cameras during the events, event the online concerts, even if asked to open them to create the feeling of being together.

I think it’s because usually one wants to stay quiet and not seeking attention during the live show. In the digital platform this creates a feeling that the host is alone in the performance because reading the reactions from the audience is not possible.

I have noticed that people tend to multi-task during the online concerts. I do this myself too, if I’m in the audience and I think this phenomenon is very interesting! Some people would for example play games while they follow the concert in the background.

Anna Haaraoja, Producer

During the week the participants became more active, the panel discussions and lunch meetings were easier to join. In the end all the participants, both our staff and the partners abroad were enthusiastic and we got lots of new ideas!

I feel that we were able to have more discussions between people because there wasn’t a barrier between the speaker and participant. It was easier for people to join in, and participate in the discussion or just listen in, and I think that’s the beauty of an online event. 

Isabella Presnal, Marketing Manager

For the most part, our events were a success, however, on Monday during the first Online Concert Anna was Zoombombed with bullies and rude people. It was a situation that had been anticipated due to the security issues with Zoom, but none of us had really expected. After this unfortunate situation, we set out to ensure the rest of the week was safe and secure.

We also noticed that the invitation links sent to the participants were sometimes stuck in the spam filters of the recipients. This was something we had no power to affect. In other words, one recipient would receive the invitation and other wouldn’t.

Everyone understands the challenges that come with hosting an online event, just as there are challenges that arise in a physical event. We learned along the way and everyday was better than the last.

I think that they were surprised how well everything went and they got many ideas for their own work and university. Some of them missed the sauna, lake and karaoke though…

Sohvi Sirkesalo, International Coordinator

As a team we were all able to grow and learn from this experience. None of us knew what was in store for us when we had the first meeting, thinking we’d have our normal iWeek. None of us really knew how to put on an online event, but we did. Thanks to these hard times, iWeek 2020 became much more coherent and a bigger audience was able to participate in it.

It was wonderful! Plenty of worries and stress, many mistakes, misunderstandings, so many things to learn but I loved it. Definitely, worth it!

Sohvi Sirkesalo, International Coordinator

These challenges taught me a lot about myself. Being part of the iWeek team, I not only needed to invite people to our daily activities, but this situation required more engagement from our whole team. Sohvi, Isabella, Anna and I had to show our faces to all participants, ask them questions, talk with them, make THEM active and eager to open up to the others. I have learnt that you miss a lot if you are shy. You should always be curious and ask all the “stupid” questions. The aim is to make the conversation flow. I am very glad I had the chance to be 100% involved in it!

Luiza Preda, Exhibition Curator

My personal feeling of the outcome is positive and I’m happy that after the shock that the lock-down caused, we got ourselves back in track.

We felt that people might not feel like using online platforms. Despite the huge effort our team made for marketing the event, we thought to ourselves that at this point of the lock-down, people are more and more tired of using online meeting platforms.

Anna Haaraoja, Producer

I enjoyed the experience! I really appreciate that Sohvi put together such a great team and kept it small. While I’ve been part of marketing events before, such as the Arctic15 conference and even last year’s iWeek, this was the first event I was fully in charge of marketing. It was 10 times more work than I anticipated after we pivoted to an online event. Thankfully I had already started the marketing plan in January and had a clear plan of what to do on social media. I appreciate that I was given the freedom to undertake marketing in my way, and have a team that supports what I am doing. I am thankful for the work experience and gained a new perspective. 

Isabella Presnal, Marketing Manager

So what’s in store for the future?

Well, next year the International Office has decided to create the biggest ever International week and combine the degree programs. It will allow fro more collaboration between the different programs and we’re all excited!

We’ve seen that a digital event opens up more opportunities and discussions around the world. An idea of regular online discussions developed during the week and we’ll work for that. We hope to see a combination of a physical and digital event in the future and have even more people attend from around the world – without even traveling. this experience gives us ideas for that too – many things can be done with out travelling.

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