TMCEC’s first Virtual Traffic Safety Conference comes to an end tomorrow. It was a new experience for us and for most of the participants. Mark Goodner sat down (virtually) with TxDOT Grant Administrator & Program Attorney, Ned Minevitz, to ask some questions about the conference.
MG: Ned, the Virtual Traffic Safety Conference is wrapping up this week. I know you and other TMCEC staff, especially Matthew Kelling, put a lot of time and effort into it. Are you pleased with the result?
NM: Absolutely! With this conference being, to my knowledge, TMCEC’s first full-blown online conference, I was a bit nervous that we would not be able to pull it off—I feared that it may end up being the proverbial “guinea pig” that future TMCEC conference planners looked at as how not to host a virtual conference (laughter). TMCEC’s exemplary staff made sure that this did not happen. I think we all feel a great sense of pride and achievement that we were able to offer such a great conference on the first go. One participant comment stuck out to me. It said “TMCEC has this virtual conference thing DOWN!” How cool is that?
MG: How does this conference differ from other TMCEC virtual offerings?
NM: TMCEC is experimenting with a bunch of different virtual conference formats right now. The Virtual Traffic Safety Conference is a “hybrid” conference that blends synchronous (live) and asynchronous (pre-recorded) content. The sessions were primarily pre-recorded, but we offered two live Q&A sessions with the faculty. Participants were given a window of two weeks (July 27 through August 7) to complete the 12-hour conference at their own pace. We also offered “watch parties” where participants could interact with each other through a chat feature while all watching the same course. Other TMCEC virtual conferences may be 100% synchronous. There are really a lot of different virtual conference formats and at this point we are trying them and seeing what works and doesn’t work.
MG: Does virtual training have any benefits over live, in-person training? What are the drawbacks?
NM: The most obvious benefit is probably convenience: participants can get the credit they need from the comfort of their living room! And for asynchronous events they can get this credit when they want, so if a conflict arises one day, they can just watch it the next day or that evening. Of course, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction between participants, TMCEC staff, and faculty. We hope to get back to that soon. But if I were to make a prediction, I do not think virtual conference offerings will go away once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. For all of the negatives stemming from the pandemic, I think one positive is that it gave TMCEC the opportunity to explore new and different ways to provide our constituents with the best education possible.
Thanks for the insight, Ned!