Expanding Online Quizbowl and Improving the Online Tournament Experience

Anything that's on topic but doesn't fit elsewhere, including related events that might be of interest to quizbowl players.
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cchiego
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Expanding Online Quizbowl and Improving the Online Tournament Experience

Post by cchiego »

[Note: What follows applies mostly to the HS and MS level as the College level seems to have been somewhat less affected by these issues]

So far, the demand for online quizbowl seems to be high (and, encouragingly, the guides to online quizbowl from NAQT and PACE are both well-done and detailed), but the supply of online tournaments and staff for such tournaments is relatively low. Established, well-organized teams seem to have adapted fairly well to online quizbowl and filled up tournament slots, while more occasional attendees, less-organized teams, and teams from more marginal regions seem much less likely to have made the change to competing online.

Additionally, despite some discussion about the potential beneficial outreach effects of online quizbowl, it seems no more than a tiny handful of teams from non-pyramidal regions/states have participated in any online events (though such participation is welcome!). With no end of COVID and related restrictions on in-person events in sight for the majority of the US through at least the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, here are four questions that I'd like to hear people's takes on:

1. What can be done to help get more teams or state organizations/alliances to host online? Though there are some "superhosters" out there, a lot of teams that would normally have run events aren't hosting. It would behoove quizbowl to have more events to help increase the geographic diversity of involved teams and to help shoulder the burden of hosting. Given that teams don't need to fundraise as much for travel, what else could be done to get (and help train) more hosts? If there are any schools out there who are considering hosting but haven't yet decided to do so, what could the quizbowl community do to help?

2. What can be done to recruit and train more staff for online events? This seems like a real limiting factor based on the many lengthy (sometimes up to 15+ team!) waitlists on the NAQT schedule right now. Online events do seem even more staff-intensive than in-person events, so it's imperative to get lots of trained staff to account for technical issues and have more TDs to help run logistics and deal with issues as they arise. I do think keeping tournaments relatively short can be helpful here so that the commitment is in the single rather than double digits in terms of hours. There may also be areas of the country with potentially interested staffers who could connect with hosts in need of staff elsewhere, though there doesn't seem to be much organization in place to facilitate this.

3. What can be done to recruit more schools who don't usually play pyramidal quizbowl to play online during this time? This applies both to more "occasional" attendees in quizbowl-rich areas and to those in other places that were more isolated even before March 2020. While geographic restrictions for events are understandable, what can be done for the schools in areas that don't have any "local" host? There are large swaths of the country with no or only a single online event planned. Even in areas with hosts, if fields are limited to 16-18 schools and a few powerhouses come with their A-C teams, that doesn't leave many slots for other schools even if they can be convinced to try online quizbowl.

4. What can be done to increase confidence in online tournament integrity and to make the tournaments better experiences? Teams may be hesitant to compete online given some of the heated accusations that emerged when tournaments first shifted online. Having every player agree to an honor code is a start; I also think keeping all timing limits at 5 seconds helps rather than extending them too long. But I'm curious if anyone's found better ways to build confidence and avoid issues here and with the general overall experience online. Keeping the event fairly short at 7-8 rounds for most teams also seems to work well for both staff and players in addition to giving clear instructions (which can be tough given how new all this is for everyone!).
Chris C.
Past: UGA/UCSD/Penn
Current: Central Coast CA
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Re: Expanding Online Quizbowl and Improving the Online Tournament Experience

Post by nick. »

Having sent a lot of emails (to both established teams and less established teams), there seems to be a few things restricting teams from joining online. 1. A lot of teams only have school issued chrome-books for computers to use, which generally cannot be used for discord tournaments. This and stingy IT departments have prevented a lot of teams from getting into the online quiz bowl ecosystem.
2. A lot of schools cut funding for quiz bowl teams or are actively preventing the clubs from running. Many teams that previously had programs now have no funding or have schools not allowing extracurriculars to run. Of those programs, the only ones that have had any success getting to tournaments it seems are teams already in discord world.
And 3, which is the biggest ones for tds, a staff shortage limiting the volume of teams that can play QB. I think a big thing that needs to be worked on (and us two can work on this together) is getting perennial staffers from regions that haven't been pulling their load in staffing online into the ecosystem. This would greatly help expand the limited staffing pool that high school, college, and middle school tournaments now all have to draw from. I would also argue that getting teams into the discord ecosystem greatly increases the chance that they can stay around and go to online tournaments, and especially working on creating regional servers that stay active could be huge for increasing online qb turnout.
Nick Pruitt

President of Ridgewood HS History/Quiz Bowl
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Mike Bentley
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Re: Expanding Online Quizbowl and Improving the Online Tournament Experience

Post by Mike Bentley »

nick. wrote: Mon Oct 26, 2020 1:19 pm Having sent a lot of emails (to both established teams and less established teams), there seems to be a few things restricting teams from joining online. 1. A lot of teams only have school issued chrome-books for computers to use, which generally cannot be used for discord tournaments. This and stingy IT departments have prevented a lot of teams from getting into the online quiz bowl ecosystem.
2. A lot of schools cut funding for quiz bowl teams or are actively preventing the clubs from running. Many teams that previously had programs now have no funding or have schools not allowing extracurriculars to run. Of those programs, the only ones that have had any success getting to tournaments it seems are teams already in discord world.
And 3, which is the biggest ones for tds, a staff shortage limiting the volume of teams that can play QB. I think a big thing that needs to be worked on (and us two can work on this together) is getting perennial staffers from regions that haven't been pulling their load in staffing online into the ecosystem. This would greatly help expand the limited staffing pool that high school, college, and middle school tournaments now all have to draw from. I would also argue that getting teams into the discord ecosystem greatly increases the chance that they can stay around and go to online tournaments, and especially working on creating regional servers that stay active could be huge for increasing online qb turnout.
I'm curious to learn more about school-issued laptop policies. Although given the fragmented nature of American education, it may be hard to get a good answer.

I understand that a school-issued laptop may be the only computer that a player has access to. At the same time, I'm guessing that the vast majority of people already playing quizbowl tournaments have access to non-school computers. And an even higher number likely have access to a non-school smartphone.

Do school policies generally prohibit players and/or coaches from using their own equipment for tournaments? I'd be somewhat surprised if schools have policy either way for this, at least for players. I'm guessing that no school anywhere has a policy about using school-provided cell phones for in-person tournaments but these are de-facto requirements to coordinate traveling to the event.

If there are indeed a lot of schools out there that explicitly mandate school (Chromebooks) be used for online tournaments, you likely still have the option of using the web client version of Discord or Zoom. Or tournaments can use something like Google Meet which presumably fewer schools have policies about.
Mike Bentley
VP of Editing, Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence
Adviser, Quizbowl Team at University of Washington
University of Maryland, Class of 2008
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cchiego
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Re: Expanding Online Quizbowl and Improving the Online Tournament Experience

Post by cchiego »

nick. wrote: Mon Oct 26, 2020 1:19 pm Having sent a lot of emails (to both established teams and less established teams), there seems to be a few things restricting teams from joining online. 1. A lot of teams only have school issued chrome-books for computers to use, which generally cannot be used for discord tournaments. This and stingy IT departments have prevented a lot of teams from getting into the online quiz bowl ecosystem.
2. A lot of schools cut funding for quiz bowl teams or are actively preventing the clubs from running. Many teams that previously had programs now have no funding or have schools not allowing extracurriculars to run. Of those programs, the only ones that have had any success getting to tournaments it seems are teams already in discord world.
And 3, which is the biggest ones for tds, a staff shortage limiting the volume of teams that can play QB. I think a big thing that needs to be worked on (and us two can work on this together) is getting perennial staffers from regions that haven't been pulling their load in staffing online into the ecosystem. This would greatly help expand the limited staffing pool that high school, college, and middle school tournaments now all have to draw from. I would also argue that getting teams into the discord ecosystem greatly increases the chance that they can stay around and go to online tournaments, and especially working on creating regional servers that stay active could be huge for increasing online qb turnout.
I've had some success contacting current Academic Decathlon teams, so maybe contingent on there being some organized club already existing at a school this is a good time to get in touch. Starting a team from scratch might be hard, but there are literally hundreds of existing schools in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, etc. that could potentially send teams (if people contact them and there are events with the capacity, which is another issue and speaks to a need for more geographically diverse hosts) as well as lots of other pockets of non-pyramidal teams and AcaDec clubs elsewhere.

The staff shortage is interesting; is it so much certain regions that aren't sending staffers or is it that the team-specific staffer pools that teams can tap into when they host has shrunk (parents, alumni, teachers, etc.)? I've also seen several last-minute "STAFF FOR CASH" calls going around, which doesn't seem like the best recruitment strategy. One thing I'd recommend is that if you're interested in staffing but apprehensive about doing so online (as I was earlier this year), starting as a scorekeeper or just assisting the TDs as an extra set of eyes and ears might be helpful in gaining experience and confidence.
Chris C.
Past: UGA/UCSD/Penn
Current: Central Coast CA
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