Webinar in a MOOC

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We helped Karolinska Institute arrange a webinar as part of their MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Introduction to Urology which ran Sept – Nov 2015. Here are Maria Kvarnström’s reflections on the experience.

A long time has now passed the webinar on Karolinska Institute’s MOOC Introduction to urology took place. However better late than never (!) and here are some of our thoughts on the webinar we offered as part of the MOOC.

We think that the webinar went really well in terms of interesting discussions and creating an inclusive atmosphere for the participants who seem to appreciate getting the opportunity to meet the course instructor in person for a live event – an extra dimension to a MOOC! We prepared very thoroughly with special attention on dealing with large numbers of participants. We decided to put a limit of 300 simultaneous participants and close the webinar room when that level was reached. This was we were not sure about how the performance of the room would be affected with so many participants. We had also worked out methods for saving valuable bandwidth with a mass audience: low quality video, only one video stream in operation, if necessary freezing the video, reducing presentation file size etc. 

However – to our surprise –  the massive “invasion” of participants we expected and were prepared for did not happen! “Only” 34 participants (team excluded) attended, why was that?? One possible reason was that participants had to register to get the link to the room (as we wanted to have some control on the number of participants). Maybe that was perceived as an obstacle and it would certainly have been easier if we had just published the link to the meeting room with an open invitation? The drawback with that is that we would have no indication of the level of interest and could have been taken by surprise if hundreds had tried to log in. This made us wonder whether the MOOC participants were really interested in meeting others? Maybe the concept of webinars is not familiar around the world so participants did not understand what kind of great opportunity it was? Maybe most of them thought it was more convenient to watch the recording of the session when it suited them. Maybe they simply didn’t notice.

Well, we are still glad we did it! We do think that it increased the learning experience for those who attended and the whole session worked extremely well and there was good involvement from the participants. One possible conclusion is that the webinar should have been more clearly signposted in the course structure from the beginning with a clear encouragement to take part. Furthermore we have learned a lot ourselves by doing this and the collaboration in planning and doing it has extended our personal learning network as a bonus.We are confident that the use webinars in teaching will continue to expand and be considered as a valuable way to support learning.

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