Delivering lectures online and running webinars

What

Online ‘lecture’ tools (such as Blackboard Collaborate) screencasting and podcasting software allow content to be delivered online. Delivery can be in ‘real time’ or recorded. These approaches all facilitate student access to content both in terms of their location and time. Webinarsh (web-based seminars) delivered using Collaborate can be used to support real time engagement involving both face-to-face and online participants. Alternatively the online lectures and webinars can be delivered exclusively online.

Why

As the diversity of the student population grows, students are under increasing pressure to balance their studies with their work and family commitments. This can make it difficult for them to attend lectures and so they miss out on an opportunity to interact with their peers and lecturers. Students using Collaborate can still take part in a lecture, either by joining the live session or watching a recording of it and joining in with asynchronous discussion e.g. in Blackboard. Those joining the live lecture can interact with their peers, use built-in student response systems, ask questions, draw on whiteboards, and have a rich experience. The recording of the session means that all students are able to benefit from reviewing the lecture at a later date and this can promote accessibility and inclusivity.

Recordings of ideas, information, discussions and other content using video, audio and screencasts can provide a useful way to capture key ideas so that they can be accessed or revisited later.

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With a colleague, discuss how live or recorded media can enhance engagement and learning in your course. If you are attracted by the possibilities, think about who you could invite to talk to your students via webinar, screencast or podcast – the reach is global. In your teaching, what sort of media interventions could enhance learning? – There are so many possibilities from mini lectures, professional conversations using Hangouts or Skype, user-generated content such as podcast ‘magazine programmes’, or even a regular student-run radio station.

See the links to Media-Enhanced Learning for innovative practice in this area and see below for further thoughts on using webinars.

About Webinars

What

A webinar is an online seminar or tutorial and can be used to replicate traditional face-to-face teaching methods in an online or distance course. It provides a virtual classroom where tutors and students can use audio and text to communicate, write on interactive whiteboards, view presentations, show live programs on their computer and work in smaller groups using virtual breakout rooms. Sessions can be recorded for later viewing.

Why

Webinars provide a way for students to interact with each other and their tutors in similar ways to traditional teaching. Their ‘live’ nature and the ability for students to see and hear each other helps to create a sense of community among the cohort. They provide an engaging way for students to discuss topics and share ideas in a distance learning context. Recordings of sessions can be made available for students to watch at a later time, which is extremely useful for revision and catch-up.

Benefits

A webinar provides a way for students to communicate with each other and the tutor and effectively replicates the traditional seminar/lecture. Hearing (and possibly seeing) tutors and other students and interacting with them in a live environment allows a sense of community to be built within the cohort. A webinar provides several methods of communication, including audio/video and text, and allows students to ask and respond to questions immediately, which helps limit the spread of misunderstandings. Webinar tools could also be used by students to communicate with peers for group work independent of the main teaching schedule.

Who – What does the teacher do?

  • Sets up virtual room for the webinar
  • Notifies the students of the session
  • Delivers presentations
  • Facilitates student discussions
  • Makes the recording of the webinar available to students afterwards

Who or what does the student or student group do?

  • Attend the session at the designated time
  • Engage in discussion with tutors and other students
  • Watch the recording at a later time

How does this support learner engagement?

  • Supports live interaction between geographically separated tutors, students and guests
  • Recordings allow students to review sessions at a later date

How – what technology is involved?

  • Blackboard Collaborate (see your Blackboard course)
  • Google Hangouts
  • Skype

How demanding will the technology be to introduce to others (e.g. remote students, ALs, etc.)?

Inclusivity

This is an approach that is most effective when participants are able to be online at the same time and therefore may cause issues with courses with students spread across the world, or when sessions are running at times that would be inconvenient for distance learners (such as during normal office hours). This can be partly addressed by making recordings of the sessions and creating other ways for students to interact and share their ideas, such as online discussion forums.

There may also be cultural issues surrounding the use of webinars because they may initially appear to be limited to lecture-type activities. This means that some students may be reluctant to interact because they feel that the tutor should be the source of information and that they should simply be receiving it. Where students are actively involved, they may have serious reservations about being broadcast or recorded. This can be addressed by checking with participants beforehand and by setting out expectations for the use of webinars, and by tutors taking a facilitator’s the sessions by being selective how they draw students into the conversations.

Webinars tend to use voice as the primary communication method and this may cause problems for some students due to language difficulties or hearing/speaking problems. The use of text chat and icon-based responses in the webinar environment can help to address this issue.

Further resources:

Building interaction into lectures using webinar – Case study – Tim Parker ACES 2016