The Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio successfully hosts a virtual poster session with 1,000+ attendees using bulb.
Campus events are necessary. They create excitement for students and educators, and they bring the entire learning community together. It’s an opportunity for students to network with other professionals. What happens when a global pandemic cancels these highly-anticipated events? How can students, faculty, and alumni come together to share their work?
The Long School of Medicine UT Health San Antonio hosts a poster session every Spring—“Research Day”. For this event, Long School of Medicine (LSOM) Faculty, Post Docs, Residents, Medical and Graduate Students are invited to share their research on large-scale visual posters, then present them to event attendees and a panel of judges.
Before COVID-19, Research Day was an in-person event. Attendance and participation has steadily grown year-over-year. Knowing the excitement around this day, Dr. Jennifer Sharpe Potter, Vice Dean of Research, Courtney Peebles, Manager of Research Operations, and Ashley Jordan, Senior Program Coordinator, Office for Research, knew canceling this event was not an option. In a time of uncertainty and stress, especially in the medical field, they wanted to create something for everyone to look forward to. They quickly began working on finding a way to host a virtual poster session.
Not only were Courtney and Ashley successful in creating the framework to host a virtual Research Day, they created an opportunity for more people to participate, and found a way to share vital research to a broader audience. Here’s how they successfully did it.
How to make Research Day virtual
The first step for Courtney and Ashley was to identify the platforms they needed to make this happen. They broke the event out into four steps, and decided to use a seperate platform for each step:
- Survey Monkey to gather poster applications
- bulb to upload, showcase and share posters and audio recordings - bulb was also used by the community, judges and other participants to comment and give feedback on the submissions
Since this was the first time The Long School of Medicine did anything like this virtually, they expected to learn from the process. Rather than listening to their concerns, like whether people would show up or if they were using the right tools, they decided to just go for it. The team would be happy with any result because it’s better to give their students this opportunity than not at all.
The benefits of using bulb for poster sessions
Although virtual events can never replace in-person ones, there are unique benefits to hosting a virtual poster session using bulb. The school noticed:
- Participants were more engaged in each other’s work. Comments and likes were made on almost all 90+ posters.
- Posters became dynamic. bulb allowed participants to create interactive posters and even create templates.
- Going virtual allowed more people to submit their poster to the event. Before COVID-19, if a person wanted to participate in the event they needed to attend the event in person. Due to the demanding schedules of medical professionals, this often inhibited people from participating. With the flexibility of being able to attend virtually, this barrier was removed
- Event organizers were able to have real-time updates, and a unique view of participants’ work.
- Going virtual expanded the reach. According to Google Analytics, 15,000 people viewed the bulb pages. Anyone could attend the poster sessions from anywhere in the world, even clinicians that usually can’t make it in-person were able to see the work of trainees and residents on their own time.
- Instead of posters ending up in the trash, or people only being able to access them at the event, the information was saved and shared out afterwards. The dean showcased all of the posters in a school announcement for their entire network to click through and have for reference.
Virtual “Research Day” was so successful that Dr. Potter and her team will likely continue to host poster sessions online.
After the event, seven faculty members have reached out to Dr. Potter’s team to see how they pulled it off. And students continue to use their bulb digital portfolio.
Students added more experiences and learnings to their professional portfolio beyond their posters, so they could easily share their work with other professionals in a time like this. With bulb, they’ve been able to stay connected and expand their opportunities.