Preparing the webinar

 

Webinars are – for most of us – a new way to communicate and collaborate with others.
We all have learned to communicate and work with others who are with us in the same room. We started practicing this already at the dinner table at home and continued through kindergarten and school. Collaborating with people online in real time, however is new for most of us, and thus needs more preparation and forethought. The basics are definitely the same: Humans are communicating with each other, but the online – screen experience, does change a lot.

Here are some things we have found important to to consider:

Arranging the “meeting room”

Most web conferencing systems allow meeting hosts to arange the conference room. A meeting room consists of various tools – “pods” – which offer various services. There is for example a camera pod, which shows video streaming from participant webcams, a chat pod where particpants can communicate via text chat, note pods where hosts can post messages to the participants or invite them to write together e.t.c. A host will arrange these pods according to the needs and purpose of the webinar.

Sending invitations

When the meeting-room is ready the meeting system usually has a link to your room. The simplest way to give access to the meeting room is to send or post a link to the room where participants can access them. Usually they can enter the room simply by clicking on the link!

Hosting the webinar

Alastair… how about some words here?

Greeting participants

When participants “enter” the room for the first time the layout that meets the eye is usually new to them, and you should expect some anxiety regarding the workings of the system and making a fool of oneself in front of strangers. To make the induction into the “room” and the group meeting in the webinar you should consider helping the participant get aquanted with the workings of the system.

Creating the basis for collaboration

Collaboration, especially in large online groups has been the main issue of our collaboration in this project. We find it the most interesting part of running webinars and the most demanding one too. Here we have to deal with andragogical questions about creating collaborative spaces and enabling collaboration between people who are mentally present and close through the screen technlologies but locally remote, some even sitting in different time zones on the other side of the planet.

Maybe our clearest contribution in this area is a paper on an approach we chose to call “Webigagement”. Here our Danish partner developed with her partners a model for preparing and carrying out webinars based on Gilly Salmon´s 5 step model for supporting online learnig:

On the note of preparing a group of participants to participate and even collaborate during a webinar: See a blog post from David on making participants feel welcome

For concrete methods for collaboration see below.

Sharing ideas and information

During webinars we usually want to present “new” or interesting ideas, methods, tools to a group of people. There are many ways to organize such “presentations”, but we should be aware of the fact that most participants are siting in front of a relatively small screen and have a lot of “things” which can distract and interupt them. So it is crucial for the success of our event and to the learning outcome that we help participants to concentrate on the content we present. Here are some ideas:

Collaborating with participants

As we have mentioned earlier, webinars are all about interaction. If we are interested in one-way broadcasting we can simply use videos or live streaming services and do not need web conferencing systems which offer and invite collaboration

Ending the webinar

“All is well that ends well” is a saying most of us are aquanted with and even an experience we have made in our personal and professional lives. Ending a learning event on positive notes helps people remember what they learned and encourages them to incorporate it into their lives.

What next?

How do you leave your participants… what happens after the event / webinar?

Technical aspects, hurdles and possibilities

Running webinars is still a technlologigal question as well as a pedagogical / andragogical one. Through our experimenting we have often run into various interesting and even frustrating aspects and limitations of technlology as well as playing about with many interesting possibilities this type of technology offers: