“For us, being able to create events like this that improve access to students across the State of Georgia — especially those in rural areas — is the best takeaway and the greatest thing about Drupal’s web platform.”
-Laura Evans, Education Manager
The GPB Digital Media and Education team is passionate about leveraging their website to provide unique educational experiences. They have partnered with Mediacurrent for the last four years to evolve their Drupal site, including a recent redesign of their Education Matters blog and proactive support of their Drupal platforms performance.
As part of this partnership, GPB recently engaged Mediacurrent to prepare for a high-traffic event, a live-streaming underwater tour of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary drawing 47,000 student viewers over the course of one hour.
Bolstering the Blog: One of the most effective vehicles for promoting the Gray’s Reef event was GPB’s Education Matters blog.
GPB worked with Mediacurrent to redesign their blog, with the goal to increase engagement and improve usability. Mediacurrent helped make it easier for their team to add content and have flexibility with blog post design. Mediacurrent moved the blog from node body fields to using the paragraphs module. Each paragraph can have its own heading and inline images, lending the content team a greater degree of control. Whether it’s updating blog content or adding video and links, content editors are empowered to take ownership of the GPB Education page.
With Mediacurrent’s help, Education Matters rose to become #1 on GPB.org, driving even more traffic than the sports blog.
Preparing for a High-Traffic Event: GPB began promoting the event several months in advance on GPB.org and social media. Partner organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Georgia Department of Education, and University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography all did their part to spread the word to a national audience.
Since this was a new event, GPB had high hopes for good attendance but there was no real baseline to predict the audience number. They had to be ready to scale to support any traffic load. In advance of the event, Mediacurrent ensured that the website was primed to accommodate the traffic surge. Mediacurrent adjusted site cache settings and performed prechecks on the server for sufficient memory allocation. Carl Zornes, Digital Media Development Manager at GPB, describes the Mediacurrent team as “superstars when it came to server setup.”
Viewer turnout far exceeded the original estimate of about 5,000 viewers. Fortunately, Mediacurrent was on standby before and during the live event. To prepare, Mediacurrent changed the cache control expiration settings to one day for the event and ensured the page cache was "warmed" for fast page load times. As K-12 students from across the country tuned in to explore Gray’s Reef marine life, Mediacurrent monitored requests for Varnish and cache ratio as well as webserver logs. With Mediacurrent’s assistance, server load and memory usage remained in normal ranges throughout the event— accommodating an audience that was nine times larger than expected.
Improving Education Access with Virtual Field Trips: Budget, time, and planning are major constraints for many school districts who believe in the educational value of field trips for students.
GPB planned the Gray’s Reef Live Exploration event to offer a fun and interactive way for students to learn about marine biology without leaving the classroom. An expert from Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, and a research scientist at the University of Georgia, Center for Applied Isotope Studies served as interviewees and on-site experts, fielding Q&A from students.
Well-attended by Georgians in state, K-12 and middle school students from across the country got in on the action by logging in to watch the undersea adventure. Feedback from educators was excellent. One middle school teacher commented that the event was “fun and informative for us land-locked Colorado kids.”
Additional praise came from a 5th grade teacher who said, “I hope that not only GPB offers more programs such as this, but I hope it is contagious and other businesses, institutions, organizations, etc... begin to offer learning opportunities such as this. I was impressed with the entire program and the trivia and blend of Twitter and technology use was clever and engaging!”
- The audience for the live event was approximately 47,000 viewers
- 91 teachers, students, and organizations interacted with the event using #GraysReefLive or by mentioning Gray’s Reef Live.
- 815 questions were submitted during the live event through live chat and Twitter.
- In a post-event survey, 87% of attendees agreed that the event was informative; 85% said they were likely to participate again in a similar live exploration.
Building on the success of Gray’s Reef, GPB plans to produce more Live Exploration events, bringing Georgia landmarks to life and into classrooms via live streaming.
In line with their mission to provide Georgia students with a strong educational foundation GPB recently engaged Mediacurrent on a bilingual, accessible website for incoming kindergartners and their families. As part of this Support partnership, Mediacurrent worked alongside GPB developers. A pre-launch audit of the website, including a design review and consult on accessibility, were critical to launching an inclusive site for students of all abilities.