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:
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.
Probably one of the tools that teachers use “too much” is Powerpoint. As a result I would suspect that there are many VLE courses out there that mainly consist of uploaded Powerpoint presentations.
I do find it interesting how embedded the use of Powerpoint is in education. In the late 1990s I was delivering lots of training sessions on how to use Powerpoint to lots of curriculum staff at the college where I worked. Back then I heard many of the “reasons” (and in many cases the excuses) why the curriculum staff couldn’t use the software, how their learners were different, how it wouldn’t work in their subject. However I did persevere in outlining the potential, the possible benefits and the longer term impact that using a tool such as Powerpoint could bring to teaching and learning.
It was nice a few years later (after I had left the college) to find that the training had had an impact and Powerpoint was well used by the curriculum teams. I was particularly impressed with Hair and Beauty who were not only creating innovative presentations, but were sharing them across the department.
Jump forward ten years and Powerpoint is extremely embedded into most colleges and often not only overused, but badly used. Though of course there are lots of positive and innovative uses of Powerpoint, so mustn’t be too negative about it. It is also often an useful starting point in getting staff to move on in their use of learning technologies.
If you do need to upload a presentation to the VLE, then my preference is to use a service such as Slideshare or Speakerdeck, this converts the presentation, and then allows you to embed the presentation into a label or page on the VLE. Slideshare even allows you to add an mp3 audio soundtrack file to run alongside the presentation. This of course implies that you are using a traditional linear presentation, if you’re not then this is not the road to travel down, as these services break any form of interactivity in a Powerpoint presentation. If you are using an interactive Powerpoint presentation, then it makes much more sense to upload the Powerpoint file, rather than convert it. You are making an assumption that the learner has access to the Powerpoint software. This, in a world of iPads, tablets and Chromebooks isn’t always a given.
Uploading Powerpoint files to a VLE, is most certainly not cutting edge in terms of using learning technologies, many of the people reading this blog probably were doing this back in the early 2000s or even earlier. However experience shows that there are still plenty of curriculum staff out there who don’t have that background or experience and for them uploading of Powerpoint files to the VLE is at the beginning of their journey into using note just the VLE, but learning technologies as well, more effectively to support and enhance learning.
One of the reasons I like Prezi is that it allows learners accessing the presentation to see the “whole thing” and then focus on the area of the presentation they want to review or see again. In many ways you could use Prezi presentations as part of a flipped learning approach in terms of collation of resources and links. Prezi have added a new feature that allows you to add audio to the paths in your presentation.
This is quite easy to use, the only downside I found was that I couldn’t record direct to Prezi, I had to make the recordings separately and then upload to Prezi.
I made a copy of my PSP Prezi and started to add audio to it.
I think it adds another aspect to Prezi making it much more useful for remote and flipped delivery models.
I would prefer though to do what I can do with Apple’s Keynote and record a “soundtrack” as I present the whole presentation. At the moment I need to record individual tracks over a single flowing audio track. The end result for some parts of the presentation means that you don’t get a nice flowing narration, you get an automated railway station announcement.
A somewhat quieter year this year with just over 100 blog posts posted to the blog.
As I did in 2011, 2010 and 2009 here are the top ten blog posts according to views for this year. Interestingly, the VLE is Dead – The Movie blog post which was number one last year and number two for the previous years, does not appear in the top ten , it was the 15th most viewed post.
The tenth most viewed post was my in-depth review of the Keynote app for the iPad. I wrote this review more for myself, to get a my head around what the app was capable of. Whilst writing the blog post, I was very impressed with the functionality and capability of the app, it was a lot more powerful and flexible than my first impressions of it.
I spent some time trying out the various mobile ways of accessing our college’s ebook collection which is on the ebrary platform. This was a review of the iPad app, I was both impressed and disappointed. It was much better than using the web browser on the iPad, but was less impressed with the complex authentication process which involved a Facebook connection and a Adobe Digital Edtions ID. Very complicated and as a result less than useful for learners. Though it has to be said once the book was downloaded it did work much better than accessing it through the browser. The only real issue is you have to remember to return the books before they expire!
MindGenius is not the best mind mapping app for the iPad, that has to go to iThoughtsHD however if you have MindGenius for the desktop then this app is an ideal companion for starting mind maps on the iPad and finishing them off on the computer.
In January of 2012, Apple had one of their presentations in which they announced iBooks 2, iBooks Author and an iTunes U app that built on the iTunes U service in iTunes. At the time I wrote three blog posts about those three announcements. All three of those blog posts are in the top ten, the one on iBooks Author was the seventh most popular blog post in 2012. It looked at the new app. I’ve certainly not given it the time I thought I would, maybe I will in 2013.
Over the last few years of owning the iPad, I have downloaded lots of different apps, some of which were free and a fair few that cost hard cash! At a JISC RSC SW TurboTEL event in Taunton I delivered a ten minute presentation on my favourite iPad apps. The sixth most popular blog post of 2012 embedded a copy of that presentation and I also provided a comment on each of the apps.
The fifth most popular post this year was from my ongoing series of ways in which to use a VLE. This particular posting was about embedding a comic strip into the VLE using free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet. It is quite a lengthy post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE. The series itself is quite popular and I am glad to see one of my favourite in the series and one of the more in-depth pieces has made it into the top ten. It was number eight last year and tyhis year was even more popular.
In January of 2012, Apple had one of their presentations in which they announced iBooks 2, iBooks Author and an iTunes U app that built on the iTunes U service in iTunes. There was a lot of commentary on iBooks and how it would reinvent the textbook. Looking back I think I was right to be a little sceptical on this one. Maybe in a few years time, we will see e-textbooks that change the way in which learners use textbooks.
The blog post on iTunes U, which followed posts on iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, is the second most viewed blog post this year. I discussed the merits and challenges that using iTunes U would bring to an institution. Back then I wrote, if every learner in your institution has an iPad, then iTunes U is a great way of delivering content to your learners, if every learner doesn’t… well I wouldn’t bother with iTunes U. I still stand by that, I like the concept and execution of iTunes U, but in the diverse device ecosystem most colleges and universities find themselves in, iTunes U wouldn’t be a solution, it would create more challenges than problems it would solve.
Is there a role for mobile devices in the modern library? What are the issues, challenges and opportunities of using mobile devices to support learning and resource discovery in the library? From communication, collaboration, storage, notes, books, journals and more, mobile technologies are changing the way in which users can and are using libraries.
news and views on e-learning, ILT and tech stuff in general…