Education Week's Winning Online Summits Become Even More Valuable in These Times

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As Education Week geared up for another Online Summit this week—with more than 2,300 registrants signed on—it is clear now that, knowingly or not, the long-time publisher was amazingly prescient in starting these as an ongoing series in 2018. (There was one previous iteration in 2017.)

To provide a refresh, Education Week Online Summits invite educators to access timely information about a range of critical issues in K-12 education easily by using their phones, tablets and other handheld devices, or desktops and integrating their learning directly into their usual workflow.

"This cross-departmental partnership led by the editorial team's deep, rich content in a multitude of K-12 areas provides learners meaningful continuing education from experts in the field and practitioners in schools," said Matthew Cibellis, director of programming, live & virtual events, for Education Week. In 2019, Education Week won both a Connectiv Innovation Award (see more info here) and a SIPAward for the Online Summits. (Enter the 2020 SIPAwards here.)

The video-friendly, chat-heavy Online Summits take place monthly from 1 to 3 pm ET. This week's topic was Uprooting Inequities in Schools and had almost 1,000 live attendees. “In this virtual summit, Education Week reporters and expert guests discuss the hard work behind uprooting inequities such as challenging educators' longstanding biases and practices, re-allocating resources across schools to support opportunities for all students, and more.”

Needless to say, this summit was the first one produced totally remotely—attendees, guests and staff. "Unfortunately, this meant that we could not hold a live, in-studio livestream at the conclusion of the event,” says Cibellis, “We thought through all the options, but none were satisfying. Instead, readers received a post-event written summary of key takeaways they can use for further professional learning.”

Three major sponsors signed on, thus the profitability. Leading all the way up to the event, Education Week staff continued to add articles and blog posts to their "booths." Staff communicated on a Slack channel, thus keeping needed discussions in-house.

Some speakers had to back out and educators are indeed busy closing schools this week, but given the atmosphere we’re in—with so many people working from home—the huge crowd was expected. Sponsors were happy.

“At the last minute, I worked directly with the editors and our lead reporter to explore how equitable access of online learning impedes the learning for some students, and in a day, they developed a new discussion around Coronavirus and Equity we’re calling, ‘Remote Learning Under the Coronavirus: Grappling With Equity,’” Cibellis adds. “Despite the newsroom’s overloaded plate, we’re thrilled they took this on and really ran with it bringing in two exceptional guests in just a few hours.”

Here are more reasons for the Online Summits' continued success.

Readers’ access to reporters. The Online Summits provide readers with a unique opportunity to interact directly with reporters, practitioners and experts. Attendees can participate actively as peers in reporter-expert-peer/peer conversations around niches within K-12 educational topic areas.

Comprehensive discussions. The topics are diverse and newsworthy because they come from editorial. Today’s summit will feature 14 guests with topics ranging from the implications of the Coronavirus to the how of creating an equitable education for all. And sponsors too have the opportunity to share their lens directly with readers on equity in K-12 schools.

Discussion rooms. During the event, Education Week journalists and guests staff online "discussion" rooms on a host of topics within a broader niche. When not produced remotely, "attendees" can also watch a livestreamed post-discussion interview with the reporters who "break it down" for them.

They make money. The model has been "so profitable" for Education Week that their newsroom submitted to the sales and marketing team an FY2020 roster of new topics (and some updates on former topics) for them to budget against. (Microsoft has been a past sponsor.) In February, "development of independent content for [that] virtual summit [was] supported in part" by a grant from the Spencer Foundation. Since then the Kern Foundation has come on board with a significant grant for a summit around building character in K-12 students set for the fall of 2020. There's a line at the bottom of the landing page for each summit: "Would you like to learn more about sponsorship opportunities?" That leads to an EdWeek Marketing Solutions page with a summary of all previous Online Summits.

A great livestream with valued takeaways. Who doesn't love takeaways? The livestream that usually follows the first 90 minutes of each summit provides key takeaways, learnings and insights that participants can download in pdf form. “The livestream ran really smoothly [last time],” Cibellis reports. “We saw really awesome retention of viewers—we had around 93 live viewers and that number didn’t fall at all throughout the full half-hour livestream. That’s a first. [As of about a month ago], we have had 305 views of the livestream. Our average on-video time is 11 minutes and 7 seconds; 59% of attendees watched our livestream, and we have 18% watching for 30 minutes, which is frankly, remarkable for any video let alone our Online Summits.”

Editorial staff gets positive exposure. The Online Summits provide a showcase for Editorial Week's newsroom expertise and the deep, rich content knowledge they provide. By lifting the profiles of editorial people, it gives them more gravitas and followings for the rest of the work they do. People might want to attend in-person events just to meet them or subscribe to read their articles.

Low costs. Costs are limited to the platform itself, which is also used to produce their online job fairs, as well as the staff time necessary to produce the event, carry out discussions and respond to reader questions.

It's unique. Cibellis says that audience members would be hard-pressed to get this type of online learning experience in their field anywhere else—and especially for free.

Added resources. More information is available in the form of Resources for attendees.

It’s virtual and things can happen but it’s virtual. Getting Reading Right was probably our most balanced and successful summit, Cibellis said. “The overall audience response was very positive in spite of an early-on event glitch with the tech.” Discussions are taking place around holding a multi-location live tour on that topic for 2021, but, of course, that will have to wait.

 

GETTING READING RIGHT ONLINE SUMMIT RESULTS (from earlier in 2020)

Fully registered audience: 2,540

Attendees: 517 live


Editorial Discussions:

Maddie Will – How Colleges of Education Are Approaching Early Reading– 179 comments

Sarah Schwartz– Improving Comprehension with Emerging Readers- 120 comments

Sarah D. Sparks and Catherine Gewertz - How Do Kids Learn to Read? What the Research Says- 236 comments

Stephen Sawchuk - What Teachers and Professors Say About Early Reading: A Look at Our Survey Results – 108 comments


Sponsor Discussions

imagine having this many conversations with prospective clients over 90 minutes! These are their best results until this week's event.

Istation (a sponsor) – A Practical Conversation about the Science of Reading – 111 comments

Texthelp (a sponsor) – Turning Struggling Readers into Striving Readers – 250 comments (They had a very popular guest)

 

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…