We recently sent all our members a survey questionnaire to help us ascertain your preferences as we move forward with our programs in a very uncertain future. We were very gratified that over 200 of you responded!
This is a great testament to our community, and we thank you for your responses and candour but especially for your loyalty and your continued enthusiasm sand support.
In fact, the largest number of comments by far were very laudatory and complimentary to our TALYR team for the job we do on your behalf. Many of you indicated that you would not change a thing. While this is very gratifying to all of us on your Board of Directors, we all know that there is always room for improvement, and we intend to continue to seek out your opinions and do our best to always improve our programs for our members.
As part of our accountability back to you, we wanted to provide an overview as to some of the specific feedback we heard from you, and where appropriate, what actions we are taking.
Health and Safety Concerns
On a day when Ontario hit a record number of Covid-19 cases, it is hard to see the end of the pandemic. But we are all hopeful that there will be some return to some semblance of normal, eventually!
Respondents were VERY CLEAR, however, that they are less likely to return in person until and unless they feel completely safe doing so. The vast majority therefore want us to delay any attempt to return to in-person program until and unless we can mount it safely, and without restrictions (e.g., masks, distancing, reduced attendance etc).
In-Person vs Zoom Going Forward
Interestingly, when asked for your in-person vs Internet/Zoom preferences for the future when we could safely meet again without restriction, opinions were mixed.
A full 20% of you indicated you still would prefer Zoom ONLY programs, even if we could meet safely and unrestrictedly in person. About 30% prefer going back eventually to ONLY in-person programs. About 50% of you said you would prefer a mixed program of in-person and Zoom.
[Note: there may be some confusion in terminology that would need to be further probed. When we referred to a “mixed” program we meant that some lectures might be in-person only, while other lectures might be Zoom only. This needs to be clarified further, since some may have interpreted this to mean a lecture being available in-person and via Zoom simultaneously. The question was meant to be “either/or” – at this time we are not anticipating live streaming or otherwise “simulcasting” on both platforms at the same time.]
Not surprisingly, there were some very mixed feelings about the relative benefits of an in-person meeting vs a Zoom webinar:
+ As expected, many members value the social interaction that comes with having an in-person meeting.
+ However, many also value the convenience and ‘intimacy’ of Zoom (i.e., in your own home). Bad weather, commute times, difficulty in finding parking etc were common comments in favour of Zoom.
+ Comfort level, audio visual and sight lines were common complaints for our previous in-person meetings. Many were not happy with the (old) Aurora Cultural Centre venue – common complaints were mainly about AV, sightlines and so on (can’t see, can’t hear).
+ Many had looked forward to switching to the Odeon Cineplex or similar venue with tiered seating to get better sightlines and better audio. Many were therefore very happy the Zoom alleviated these issues for them.
+ The ability to get speakers from farther afield was a noted benefit of Zoom, whereas in-person events likely are limited to speakers within driving distance of the venue.
People overwhelmingly indicated they thought the Zoom webinars had value and would be willing to pay something for them in the future. People recognized that of course we need to be able to cover costs, and some wondered what our expenses were for Zoom vs in-person.
Regarding topics, many topics got broad support but the most favoured were Global Issues; Health, Medicine & Well-Being; and Social Issues. (61%, 58% and 49% of all respondents, respectively).
The 2 least favoured topic areas were Sports, Athletes &Recreation; and Financial Health (2% and 8% of all respondents, respectively).
Membership and Demographics
Our respondents were 80% female and 20% male. Most questions were answered similarly by both genders.
Less than 25% of members have been with TALYR since its inception (either continuously or intermittently). About 76% have been with TALYR for at least 3 years but a full 30% joined just this past year.
Approximately 15% of respondents live in areas farther away that we have considered as our traditional “catchment”. Interestingly, over half of those from “outside” our usual area joined just this past year, presumably since Zoom presentations afforded them the ability to participate but not have to commute to a given venue.
Recording of Lectures
The other major theme that emerged was the issue of recording of lectures. People have had to miss in-person lectures in the past due to conflicting commitments, ill-health or other, and in the era of Zoom/Internet webinars, the question has intensified as to whether we could record our sessions for later playback.
At the moment, TALYR has a strict policy that we do NOT record any lectures, both to protect the Speaker’s Intellectual Property, but also to protect TALYR should there be any inadvertent infringement of Canadian Copyright laws. That said, we are currently working with other Later Life Learning organizations in Ontario to get a legal opinion and to see if there is a consensus that we can come to about recording Zoom lectures for future playback and under what restrictions etc.
In a similar vein, others asked whether we could “livestream” an in-person lecture to give members an option of attending in-person or staying at home.
As indicated earlier, the issue of some sort of livestream or simulcast is not under consideration at this time. It is costly and too demanding on our meager people resources. Further, research shows that it is not always the best experience for the audience, and especially not for the speaker, to have to cater to live and virtual audiences the same time. We may revisit this issue/technology in the future but for now it is not on our to-do list.