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Co-design

Our first science fair

Keeping informed, motivated and inspired in a remote workplace.

It’s been a long year for us all, and the pandemic has sometimes stifled collaboration and caused frustrations. I’ve heard so many colleagues say that they miss the ‘ad-hoc’ conversations around the office, usually with people they wouldn’t normally work with. These are sometimes the most important conversations because they spark off a different way of thinking, or a new idea. They are the hidden motivation and inspiration that we perhaps took for granted.

It can be difficult to keep up with other teams and what they’re working on at the best of times, but since the pandemic that became even more difficult. We decided that a science fair was a great opportunity for us to bring together lots of teams from across Jisc to showcase and demonstrate some of the projects and experiments we’ve been working on.

Achieving a ‘face to face’ experience, online.

My task was to think about how this could be achieved, we talked about using existing platforms such as Zoom and Teams as a way of presenting the work, but that felt very formal. We wanted to experiment and find ways of replicating (as much as possible) a face to face event, such as a poster session.

We explored technology available, such as Gather and Wonder, but each had their pro’s and con’s. Gather gave us some interesting features for replicating a real event, but at times didn’t feel very intuitive and a little like an 80’s computer game. Wonder looked sleek and professional, but certainly didn’t match with the functionality we desired that Gather had to offer. Searching revealed several other options, but Spatial chat offered similar functionality to Gather with a more professional look.

Spatial chat uses your proximity to allow communication with others; the closer you get to them, the louder they become. It was a good way of replicating a real exhibition hall, with people wandering between exhibition posters. The session allowed us to share our work, try out something new and also have a chance to network with others across the organisation.

What next?

As with all new technology and events, there are improvements we can make. We’ve provided feedback to spatial chat and are encouraged that they are continually looking to improve the platform. We have also learnt from the experience and have plans for how to make our next science fair even better.

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