So, I had the opportunity on Tuesday to lead my first webinar. It is not something that I have done before, and it was an interesting new experience. I was working with McGraw-Hill for this one, helping them demonstrate Connect History to faculty members around the US. I can’t say we had a huge turnout, as there were only 4 faculty members on the webinar, although we had about twice as many McGraw-Hill employees there as well. My job was to talk for about 20 minutes and demonstrate how I use the Connect History platform. I was sharing my desktop in the process, so that the people there could see what I do with Connect History in my classroom. Then, I took questions for the rest of the time. As I said above, it was an interesting experience. I have participated in webinars before, but it was my first time leading one. It was not a particularly difficult thing to do, as it naturally feeds from the experience that we have as instructors anyway. It is just a different thing, as you are there with no direct audience, talking to a computer screen without being able to see anyone else. I do feel that I effectively communicated what I was supposed to, and I think the participants were satisfied (all except one who would never be satisfied, from what I can tell).
In a broader sense, the webinar format certainly makes me think about delivery of material online in general. I can’t help but think that some format like this would be great for an online course. The only problem is that it really does require everyone to be on at the same time to get the basic interaction down. Otherwise, you are just working with a static delivery of material anyway. If you could commit your students to being online all at a certain time to hear you lecture or discuss, you could do a lot and not take up classroom space at the same time. It is an interesting idea, scheduling an online course to take place at a certain time, even well outside the normal times that we would meet face-to-face. Certainly this does not get me past the lecture, as I have been talking about here, but I can’t help but see a more personalized experience like this being much better than the required time that a student has to come and sit in class. Of course, I would still be requiring the students to be there at a certain time anyway. I wonder about a running discussion or something like that, where students could come and go over the course of hours, and I would just be there to moderate and guide for that time. I wonder if that would be more effective that the old standby of a discussion forum.
What do you think? Have you taken any webinars? What do you think of the format? Could we do something like this as teachers and enhance/change the online experience?