Ontario Beekeepers Video (Webinar) Program
Prepared by Jeff Lee, BCHPA Metro Vancouver rep October, 2013
This review of the Ontario Beekeepers Association webinar and DVD program was requested by BCHPA President Wayne Neidig for possible consideration of a similar program by BC Beekeepers.
The following information was gathered from interviews with Les Eccles and Melanie Kempers, two of the paid staff of the OBA’s tech-transfer team.
The OBA, a 450-member organization, has for the last three years operated a web broadcast program for the speaker and education components of its spring meeting and fall Annual General Meeting.
The system involves broadcast of the meetings to a subscription-only server, to which subscribers sign on and pay a fee.
As an ancillary service, the OBA also records the speeches and lectures for republishing in DVD format and offers them for sale to clubs and members. An example of the material is attached at Appendix 1.
Like the BCHPA, the OBA appears to be challenged in attracting member engagement. According to Kempers they have about 3,000 beekeepers in Ontario but only about 450 are members of the OBA. By far the majority of members are small-scale and hobbyist beekeepers; they don’t have a large segment of commercial beekeepers as members.
Ontario is also geographically diverse and the OBA has found members may have to travel up to 18 hours to attend meetings. This, obviously, affects attendance levels.
In the spring of 2011 the OBA began to explore how to get members to participate remotely.
The OBA was also looking at ways to encourage member engagement, principally through live-streaming of meetings and the production and sale of resulting videos from those meetings.
The OBA has an education, research and knowledge transfer division called the Tech-Transfer Program. (I look at the TTP separately at the end of this presentation.)
As only one part of its services, the TTP operates the webinar program as part of its larger mandate to provide workshops, education materials including books and videos and research materials.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food provided $80,000 in seed funding for the TTP, part of which goes to operate the webinar and recording services.
The OBA also received $50,000 from the University of Guelph (home to the Honey Bee Research Centre).
The two grants also include a requirement for the OBA to rewrite two course manuals and produce how-to videos that will accompany those materials.
The ministry also provided some capital startup funding to help in the purchase of the camera and ancillary equipment. (OBA’s capital budget is attached later in this paper.)
Explanation of the webinar/DVD recording system
According to Les Eccles, the lead on the TTP, the webinar service is used only for the OBA’s spring education session and the education component of its fall Annual General Meeting.
There is no attempt to broadcast or record the business meeting portion of the AGM for further distribution.
Eccles said the basic system involves a high-definition video camera, several remote microphones, and the use of a computer for monitoring subscriber involvement.
The OBA uses a commercial meeting subscription service, www.gotomeeting.com, as the backbone of the system. It pays the service a daily fee of $40, or a monthly fee of $99 a for up to 100 viewers, the cost of which is easily recovered from the OBA’s participant subscription fees of between $30-35 per day.
I deal with gotomeeting.com more directly in the next section.
Subscribers sign in from a remote location (home, work, etc.) and can watch the proceedings live. They can also post questions in a chat form.
The OBA combines its gotomeeting system with a video camera for future recordings.
The system is a one-person operation. It has to be monitored by someone at the meeting, who can relay the posted questions (there is no conference-calling speaker).
Eccles says setting up the camera is relatively simple. There is no camera operator – it is pointed at the speaker – but the computer monitoring person can realign the camera if necessary.
There are no additional lighting stands used, although they can be added if the conference is held in less than optimal light conditions.
Presentation slides and videos used in the speakers’ presentations are piped directly to the subscribers and are not reproduced via capture from the video camera. When slides are shown the subscribers only hear, and do not see, the speaker.
Eccles says on average the OBA attracts about 10-12 subscribers per session.
It charges $30-35 per subscription, which more than covers the cost of the web service provider and helps to offset the other related labour costs.
At this point the OBA is also recording the lectures for republishing later in DVD format. This is a more costly affair because it requires time-consuming secondary editing.
However, Eccles and Kempers say this is also the more lucrative portion of the program.
DVD videos of the seminars are made available for sale either in sets or singly, depending on the purchaser’s wishes.
The system also allows for the OBA to edit and produce for online distribution through Vimeo (similar to YouTube) segments of the recordings.
The OBA sells the set from the fall AGM and workshops for $60, and the spring session for $40. Often, however, purchasers only want specific talks or sessions. They can buy any DVD containing those talks for $10.
Kempers says in the first year of operation the OBA sold about 20 copies. Many of the association’s member associations bought whole sets to use at club meetings as part of their local programming. However, I note that the OBA doesn’t yet appear to advertise its library of sellable DVDs on its website, which may also account for the low sales volume.
In an interview last week a Gotomeeting.com official told me it offers two subscription levels: $49 per month for up to 25 viewers, or $99 for up to $100. The monthly subscriptions are cancellable at the end of the session and therefore won’t roll over.)
The service allows for the recording of voice and screen details such as Powerpoint presentations, but DOES NOT record images seen through the camera.
The recording is then saved in a Windows Media File format that can be used for later distribution.
However, if you want a video recording of the speaker as well, it would require combining that file with the gotomeeting file.
Gotomeeting.com also recommends speakers use a USB-enabled headset for best audio recording. They have other technical details that help in quality control.
Livestreaming for the OBA is an important tool for audience participation but as yet hasn’t proven to be cost-effective. It is also labour-intensive as it requires a person at the conference to monitor and manipulate the system at all times. There are some technical limitations if one wants to livestream images as well as voice and documents.
There may be some options for free livestreaming but that would also mean the BCHPA may have to forego monetizing the program.
DVD production is also an important tool for audience participation and transfer of information. There is likely a higher value in cost recovery and a targeted program could lead to long-term useful video production of educational elements, how-to seminars and the like.
The BCHPA could produce these videos and make them available for download off of a locked Dropbox site upon payment by subscribers. Or it could simply make the videos available for free as part of its public education program.
Capital cost of the OBA webinar/DVD program:
Details supplied by OBA
Webinar hosting costs: $49-$99 per month, (25-100 viewers)
Gotomeeting.com technical requirements:
1. Minimum internet connection of 1 MB upload and download speed.
2. Windows XP or Mac OS 10.6 or newer operating systems.
3. USB headset for speaker. (Can be wireless mic if moving around).
ADDENDUM on the OBA’s Tech-Transfer program
The OBA has also made a significant investment in a technology transfer program aimed at helping new and experienced beekeepers alike.
It was first established in the 1990s by Dr. Medhat Nasser and base funding is provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
It also relies on funding from the Agricultural Adaptation Council, a not-for-profit organization made up of 67 Ontario agricultural, agri-food and rural organizations.
According to its mandate, the Tech-Transfer Program is to:
” . . . conduct research for Ontario’s beekeeping industry, to facilitate a honey bee breeding program in Ontario and to transfer information, skills and methodologies to the beekeepers.”
The program employs four people. The focus, according to the OBA, is to develop a current Integrated Pest Management approach to beekeeping in Ontario. It says:
“A large component of this is the breeding program. Tech-Transfer also tests a variety of treatments for the control of varroa mites. The goal is to be pro-active and to limit the number of treatments that must be applied to the bee hive each year.”
Importantly, the OBA’s TTP is also aimed at delivering educational workshops for all levels of beekeepers.
“Educational, hands-on workshops are conducted every spring by the Tech-Transfer Program, at various locations in the province. Introductory Beekeeping, Integrated Pest Management & Beekeeping and Introductory Queen Rearing are the current workshops being conducted.”
The OBA makes the program’s results available both at its annual general meetings but also to local beekeepers associations, other beekeeper associations in Canada and the US, and to school and community groups with an interest in honey bees.