We have found that participants find it very engaging and enjoyable to work together on mind maps during a webinar. Usually it works best in smaller groups, such as 3-5persons in each, but it can also be done in larger groups when the purpose is, for example, to do a short brainstorming session.
Mind maps are a visual representation of what you have in mind. They are a hierarchical image of ideas with the subject or question in the middle with main branches and sub-branches branching out from the middle:
Mind maps can help people structure their thoughts and the method also intrinsically opens up the mind to new ideas. Moreover, when working together in a group on a map people can conduct very interesting and deep discussions on a theme in a very simple manner. For example, questions about where to place a specific branch quickly lead to deep discussions about how participants understand the subjects they are discussing.
When we run “hybrid” webinars, where a part of the group is together in a room and another part online it can be interesting to have the local participants creating mind maps on paper and the groups online creating mind maps with online services.
Sometimes we take pictures of the local mind maps with our cell phones and make them accessible to online participants. And sometimes participants in the room also create online mind maps. After the group work session, we gather all the participants together again so each group can present their results. The online groups show their mind maps on a large screen in the meeting room so all participants both online and in the physical room can see the results and hear the presentation. And for the local presentations the cameras are panned onto the presenter and the paper mind map. This sharing process with both online and on site participants helps all participants feel that they are all part of one group.
There are various tools we can use to collaborate on mind maps in real time. Here we will discuss only one, but here you can see an overview of a majority of the mind mapping software on the market which offers online collaboration.
MindMeister is probably one of the best known online mind-mapping services. One of its strengths is the ease with which one can collaborate on mind maps with others. That is the reason we chose this service to discuss here.
With MindMeister it is very easy to create a map and make it accessible for others to collaborate without signing in. We usually just post the link to a map in the webinar chat window and when the participants have clicked on the link they can begin mind mapping together. Try it here
MindMeister uses the so called “Freemeum” business model, where you can use some of its services free and to get more functionality you pay a monthly fee for the service. The free account allows you 3 free maps. One of these could be used as your online collaboration map. For documentation you can create a pdf version or download it to your computer and then delete all the branches for the next webinar use… But of course if you use it much you will get great benefits by being a paying customer.
We have found that just posting the link in the chat and encouraging people to try, they very quickly find out how to create and manipulate the mind maps.
You can give your participants a “clean slate” to brainstorm their ideas on a topic, and ask them to organize the ideas together after having collected a number of ideas. See more on brainstorming here.
Or you could prepare the mind map with useful questions in order to help structure their discussions.
As mentioned above we usually ask the groups to present their findings. If we do go to the trouble of encouraging participants to work together during a session, it is necessary to bring the results of the group work into the “plenum”, into the common space of the webinar participants:
- Participants are usually eager to share their results and to get feedback from the webinar organisers and their peers
- It is common decency to give them a space to communicate their responses to your questions or tasks
- We usually offer group work sessions in learning events because we believe people learn more when they work with a topic, and work together on it. And that they often learn more and/or deeper by experiencing their peer’s learning and hearing their experiences.
You might want to consider making group results available online after the event. For example if you publish a blog post with a summary of the event with links to a recording and further learning materials. This can be done by downloading mind maps from the mind mapping services as images or pdf files and posting photographs of mind maps made on paper or whiteboards. Alternatively you can post public links to the maps or embed them into your blog or other web documents:
Other mindmapping services
There are many other mind-mapping services which offer online editing and some even offer collaborative editing. We have decided to cover only MindMeister her, becease it seems to be the one which best serves our purpose here. MindManager is one of the best known mind-mapping programmes, it offers many possibilities for collaboration, but not without the users first loging in to the service or downloading the programme on their computers.
Here are lists of other mindmapping services
Further readings on collaboration in webinars
- Collaborative tools “Plain vanilla” On the collaborative tools built into most web conferencing systems
- Collaboration on documents Learn how to get participants to write together
- Collaboration on canvases Use canvases to offer totally unstructured or very structured collaboration
- Collaborative mind mapping Mindmaps can help participants structure their discussions on the run and give them a better overview of their ideas