Webinars: reaching a wider campus – extending our teaching and training

Some thoughts on our first VITAL online training session – Weds 20th Feb

webinarModelmodified
Eagerly anticipating the start of the webinar – cup of tea at the ready..!

The eLU have just successfully trialled offering VITAL training for University staff via a webinar. After recently attending quite a few excellent webinar sessions run by national bodies (JISC, ALT, TechDis) and having run a couple of successful webinar ventures nationally with Ed Dev colleagues last year, we could see some very valuable potential in using this format for our in-house learning technology training, namely:

  • No need for people to trek across campus to a training room – just access from your office PC – in fact from anywhere.
  • Shorter sessions are now possible on some of the lesser-known but hugely useful tools and facilities in VITAL (in this instance Rubrics cards – see note at the end of the post).
  • Sessions are recorded for anyone to be able to access any time after the session.
  • The ‘chat’ text box records the discussion and the questions from the session.
  • Give staff experience of the webinar format and so consider how it could be useful in their own practice. 

We can see multiple applications of the webinar format, particularly as the campus expands, our international partnerships go from strength-to-strength and more CPD courses are offered online by schools and departments. From our own point of view we are always looking for new ways of reaching as many people as possible, and to develop ways in which to deliver our teaching and training, and to pass on our experiences of doing this.

What is a Webinar? The webinar format is an online session which is joined from an office PC and all that is needed to participate in the session is a pair of headphones for your computer and an internet connection. A microphone can also be useful but not essential as text ‘chat’ is mainly used for side-communication in many sessions. The session comprises the elements of a face-to-face session but run virtually, so depending on the presenter and the session there will a video stream, an audio stream, interaction via either of these and/or a chat box. Interactions such as polls and quizzes can form part of the session. The whole can be recorded and edited and offered for general access afterwards.

We used the Adobe Connect system for our session, as the University has its own installation (here) which can be accessed and utilised by anyone with their usual MWS accounts.

So some initial thoughts and reflections on using webinars in this way include:

  • worried danIt is quite scary as a presenter the first time you run a webinar (click image left for face of fear)! Be prepared for this!
  • You need a co-pilot to manage the chat room and pick up on questions, problems, conversations developing and so on (see image at the bottom of this post).
  • Good pre-session materials are needed to help people understand the concept of a webinar and the environment you are going to use, as much as the content of the session itself.
  • Rehearse the session you want to run in as much fine detail as you can – you will find that some of your planned interactive items don’t quite work or need better guidance materials on what attendees have to do in the session.
  • It is a very positive and satisfying experience to run a webinar session and understand how, in the absence of face-to-face interactions, the toolset available in the conferencing software offers a different kind of personal contact and interaction.
the gulf between us
Where is everyone?

We tried out a number of ideas for ways in which attendees could interact, from running simple polling questions and discussing the results, to asking people to switch to a different browser and access a VITAL module to try out what had just been demonstrated. All of these were managed with varying degrees of success but there is very little we wouldn’t do again.

If anyone would like to watch the edited recording of the session on marking by criteria with the Rubrics facility then please do get in touch with the eLearning Unit. If you would like to find out more about using the Adobe Connect system for running such a session yourself and to get any advice on how to run a webinar then we would be delighted to share our experiences in more detail with you. As we said at the start of this post, there are multiple applications for this kind of  session and we are very keen to explore these with you.

Tünde and Dan

About VITAL Rubrics: Interactive, electronic versions of criteria sheets can be created, attached to most assessable items in a VITAL module and used for marking. Cards can be used to generate a grade or can be used qualitatively, they can be made visible to your students before they submit their work or after, and they allow for extra written feedback if required for every level on each criterion. Further, criteria cards can be shared amongst marking teams, as well as adapted, re-purposed and re-used.

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