Webinars are an inclusive way of teaching in an online environment, where teachers can give short presentations, facilitate discussions while introducing devices such as text, images or video during the lesson.
Webinar is a format that is increasingly being used in university teaching. But how do you teach in an online classroom, which didactic approaches can you use and what does online teaching require? In this guide we will discuss the role of the teacher in a digital environment and provide ideas and suggestions on how to conduct various types of webinars with either few or many participants.
Teaching facilitated by digital technologies poses new and different demands for the lessons, which in turn is challenging in novel ways for the teachers. The teacher must get to grips with the online space in terms of using the opportunities it affords her in an educational context, the social environment, and the conditions that technology creates, if the full potentials of online teaching is to be realised.
A webinar may be understood as an online seminar with one or more presentations often focused on one single topic, which is facilitated by digital technology. Webinars will often seek to enable participation in discussions or other activities. The webinar, in the same way as an in-person seminar, is usually held as a synchronous event, where speakers and participants interact within a fixed period of time.
Most often a webinar is mediated through a video conferencing system. However, not all video conferencing systems are suitable for webinars. At Aarhus University, the video conferencing system Zoom is recommended, since it offers the tools and activities, that a webinar at the university might need.
As in all other educational contexts it is important to take preparation seriously when organizing a webinar. The planning of format, amount of participants and what kind of audience will be present, as well as what kind of activities are planned, is crucial to how long the webinar will last and how it should be structured.
The basic webinar formats are very similar to physical seminars, where participants meet up in the same room, listen to presentations, discuss, etc. However, the specific activities should, in many cases, be modified to suit the online space. The time spent on each activity may also vary.
Example of an agenda for a webinar:
In a teaching context use the following guide on how to plan and consider which format is suitable:
The number of the participants and their role in the webinar depends on what format the teacher picks. If group discussions are essential for the webinar, a ceiling of about 20 participants is required for there to be time and space for everyone to contribute meaningfully. If the webinar exceeds 20 participants, “breakout rooms” can facilitate discussion forums. The webinar can later be continued at a digital blackboard where everyone can contribute, even though group discussions are limited.
The activities during a webinar are diverse and can help make the process more interesting and interactive. The features and tools available to the teacher depend on which video conferencing system you choose.
A number of features are available in the standard video conferencing systems for teaching activities:
A common feature is screen sharing and presenting slides during a presentation. The share function can also be used, for example, to present a program, for data collection, or to display a case on a website. Participants may take part in group discussions or contribute to the built-in chat that is often a standard feature in the program itself.
As a teacher, you can use the chat feature to encourage students to continuously submit questions and comments. The “Breakout rooms” feature allows you to organize short discussion or study groups, where students can discuss a topic or collaborate on an assignment in an online space, uninterrupted. As the host of the online space, you can seamlessly reconvene everyone in one online common space.
In addition to the features offered by the video conferencing system itself, external resources and programs may be readily used in a webinar.
External programs may be used for the convenience of collaborating on an assignment following a group presentation. For example, students can discuss a concept, work on an assignment, or give the status of their progress on a digital bulletin board like Padlet. You can also conduct a poll or a short quiz to involve the participants and get an impression of their understanding of the topic. Participants may also benefit from reading a text or watching a relevant video on e.g. YouTube and then discuss it in groups.
A webinar can easily be recorded and subsequently made available on a suitable video platform. It allows people who are interested but were unable to attend, to see the webinar at a different and more convenient time.
If the webinar is used as teaching, a recording also allows students to re-watch the webinar for written assignments, reading or preparation for an exam. The video format allows students to watch and re-watch several times one specific section that addresses a subject that is essential or particularly difficult.