Category Archives: jiscel12

Webinaring it

.: Any question??? :.

Webinars are quite popular these days, they allow multiple participants to gather and learn about stuff. They are in many ways a virtual classroom.

Unlike tools such as Moodle which allow for (mostly) asynchronous learning activities, the core of a webinar is that the learning is synchronous; everyone is online at the same time, all doing the same stuff.

It is possible to use other tools such as Google Hangouts or Skype for a small scale experience, but professional webinar tools such as Adobe Connect or Blackboard Collaborate allow many more participants and offer much more functionality, as well as recording facilities.

Webinars allow for:

  • Live Video
  • Recorded Video
  • Video Conferencing
  • Presentations
  • Whiteboards
  • Collaboration
  • Quizzes
  • Polls
  • Breakout Rooms
  • Simulations
  • Learning Objects

These tools allow teachers to design their curriculum to be delivered to a range of remote participants on a device of their choosing, regardless of connection or location. I have seen people use iPads, Android phones, as well as laptops and PCs, to access webinars.

In many ways a webinar should not be seen as a replacement for a classroom session, though it in many ways does replicate such sessions virtually, it should really be seen as a solution to not having a session.
Webinars can be used occasionally, useful for guest speakers or across campuses. They can also be used as a core part of the delivery of a blended delivery programme. From a curriculum design perspective, webinar tools (alongside tools such as Moodle and Google+) allow you to deliver a blended curriculum to learners who may not be able to access a traditional learning environment on a regular basis. For example imagine a course where the learners attend once a month at the campus, but meet weekly in a webinar, and have additional support and materials delivered through the VLE (Moodle), whilst using a closed Google+ community for collaborative activities, sharing, discussion and peer support.

Webinars are a great tool for widening participation, inclusion and increasing accessibility.

I have been delivering webinars for many years, sometime to small groups or individuals, and also to over a hundred delegates at an online conference. I have used a range of different webinar technologies, and understand the advantages and challenges of the different tools, both from the perspective of a presenter (host) and a participant.

Levers of Change

Last week I delivered a keynote at the JISC Innovating e-Learning Online Conference.

James Clay will be asking delegates to consider some of the conversations we have had over the last ten years and challenging us to consider why we keep asking the same questions, why we are sometimes slow to take action and to really look hard at our responses to change. James will offer some of his own observations around why we seem reluctant to learn from the past and argues that this is as important as looking to the future.

What I wanted to achieve with this keynote was to explore the reasons behind what we decide to research and to investigate what does change in organisations.

The slides I used were as follows and I think I broke the record with 143 slides.

The presentation was delivered online using Blackboard Collaborate and over a hundred people “watched”.

I made use of the environment to engage the audience and to get them to interact with me and each other.

Overall I was pleased with the presentation and the outcomes. I also got some really nice feedback too.

Valuing CPD

Victoria Street, London

I’ve recently (been) signed up for a one day event in that London town.

The event cost is £325 and the train ticket is over a hundred pounds.

That isn’t cheap!

I think it will be an useful event and (probably) value for money.

However when you consider the costs of the JISC Innovating e-Learning Online Conference at just £50 and what you get for that, you might want to consider attending.

As one delegate from last year said:

“I think it is a brilliant return for the investment and consider this to be a major part of my CPD each year.”

There is a packed programme and in addition to the usual week of presentations and discussions, there is the activity week, a chance to have a go at stuff.

For £50 you aren’t probably going to find something of similar value anywhere else in the UK.

Of course also as it’s online there are no travel costs either.

Virtually

Conference

Virtually every conference you attend will have keynotes and presentations. One of the strengths of any conference is the level of debate and discussion that takes place, however symposiums aside, most of the discussion at a physical conference, aside from the few minutes for questions, takes place between small groups over lunch or coffee. There is little time for reflection and of course these chats over coffee are never recorded or noted down, making it difficult to refer back to them when back in the office. Also though they are happening across the conference, there is very little or no interaction between the different conversations; so people are not learning from each other or building on the discussions of others.

With an online conference however you will find much more discussion and debate takes place than at a traditional conference. Not only that, the conversations happen over time, allowing for reflection and checking sources. It’s also all written down. This makes it very easy to check back and see what someone said before making a different point. Sharing links and ideas is also so much easier too.

For me this is the real value and one of the key advantages of an online conference. It’s one of the reasons I look forward to and enjoy the JISC e-Learning Online Conference.

Due to the textual and asynchronous nature of the discussion it is possible to engage in the conversation either immediately or after a period of reflection over the days of the discussion.

It’s a real opportunity to take the time to debate the issues that arise out of the presentation with fellow practitioners and experts. You can challenge the experts as well as yourself and other practitioners. In many ways it can be easier to engage with the presenters than it would be at a physical conference.

You know the conference where the chair asks, “are there any questions?” and it can be intimidating to put your hand up. Even if you do, there are usually others and there is very little time for lots of questions. Keynotes can be even more intimidating especially with six hundred odd delegates in the auditorium.

It’s not that an online environment is not as challenging, more the online environment evens the playing field for delegates and presenters. It is, according to people I have spoken to, much easier to ask questions in an online conference than at a physical conference.

Also sometimes you don’t want to ask questions of the presenter, but ask questions to the delegates. This is virtually impossible to do at a traditional conference, but is very easy to do in an online conference.

Another advantage of the online conference is that if you do have a question for the presenter, however you want to check something first, you can. Before you ask your question, you can go back and read that paper you referenced last year, check with a colleague via e-mail that the evidence for the study is online, etc… try doing that in the “few minutes for questions” you get at a physical conference.

So if you haven’t already can I suggest you sign up to the JISC e-Learning Online Conference 2012: Shaping the Future. If you have never attended an online conference before, now is an ideal opportunity (and great value at £50). If you have attended a JISC e-Learning Online Conference before, but didn’t engage, maybe time to give it another try.

Still, the coffee is usually better

Still, the coffee is usually better

It’s that time of year again, yes the JISC e-learning team are running their online conference again, and once more I will be blogging at the JISC Innovating e-Learning online conference, Shaping the Future.

So what is it about an online conference?

Well it has all the features you find when you attend a physical conference, but it is all done online. With the JISC Online Conference, you get live presentations (through Collaborate), an online platform for asynchronous disucssions and sharing (through Moodle). There is the innovative thinking space (again) and an opportunity to try out new tools and techniques.

For me the main reason for attending an online conference, as well as the excellent presentations, is the engagement between the delegates. Most physical conferences I have attended have in the main been passive affairs, I sit, I listen, I think, digest and reflect. Discussion and debate does happen at these conferences, but usually informally over coffee. At the online conference the debate and discussion takes place using a textual asyncrhonous discussion forum over the days of the conference. As a result it allows for reflection, it enables delegates to refer and check other papers and sources, and for all delegates to read that discussion and if they want to, add their own comment.

Other reasons why I like online conferences, is that I can attend the conference even when doing other things. I can still attend meetings, see people in my office, teach, even go to other places. At the last few online conferences I have had to go to London during the week of the conference, and have using 3G and coffee shop wifi hotspots continued to take part in the conference even though I am away from my desk.

Having said all that it is useful too to make time for the conference, shut the office door, work from home for a bit, wear headphones, move to a different office, work in the coffee spaces in the college or university.

You can see presentations again, you can ignore them and (virtually) walk out without feeling you may be offending someone as their talk doesn’t relate to you as you thought it did.

Unlike a physical conference, the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2012 Online Conference remains open for reading until well after the conference has finished to allow participants to catch up on what they missed. So unlike missing the train to a physical conference or falling ill, it is possible to still get a lot out of the online conference.

There are advantages to attending the conference, but reduced travel and accommodation costs, no travel time and no need to leave the office, are additional advantages that you really need to consider. The conference has always been outstanding value at just £50, but in these tough economic times, when even finding the funding for train fares to free events can be a challenge, there is something about paying just £50 for five days of presentations and discussions.

There are advantages to attending the conference, but reduced travel and accommodation costs, no travel time and no need to leave the office, are additional advantages that you really need to consider.

Combine that with the activity week, no need to miss too many meetings and you might need to start asking yourself why you’re not going?

Of course the real value of the online conference is the programme, one that will inspire and challenge you. It has variety and interest. In some future blog posts I will look at the programme in more detail. However I am looking forward to the opening keynote from Dr Sue Black.

Oh and the coffee? Well you and I both know that the coffee at conferences often leaves a lot to be desired, at least at an online conference you can attend while drinking a decent coffee in your local coffee shop, now that can’t be all bad?

So if it is proving difficult to attend all the conferences you want to, one you shouldn’t miss is the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2012 Online Conference, maybe you too can help shape the future. Register now.