Synchronous webinars for teaching and learning

A practical guide for effective and engaging use for moderators/presenters

Pedagogic considerations

  • Provide plenty of support early in the session, particularly for those new to online  webinars. This should include joining instructions.
  • Clearly explain the content and objectives of session.
  • Introduce sessions with an ice breaker.
  • Ensure the webinar has a focused topic.
  • Obtain / give feedback.
  • Use visual, audio and kinaesthetic methods and visual clues.
  • Prompt frequent discussion.
  • Hand (microphone or video) locus of control to participants.
  • Sum up and sign post.
  • Record sessions for reflection/sharing.
  • Keep activities simple, short, focused, and learner centric.
  • We cannot emphasize this enough: ACTIVE PARTICIPATION OF LEARNERS.  Avoid the broadcast mode of delivery. 1 hour of (poorly designed) slides constantly changing, narrated by the author, will result in disengagement, very rapidly.


Practical considerations

  • Spend plenty of time rehearsing features and session structure, with someone who has prior experience.
  • Ensure you have a quiet location with no background noise and turn off email, phones and other distracters.
  • If using voice or video (to present or ask questions), a high quality headphone / microphone headset is recommended to eliminate feedback through PC speakers, and remove background noise.
  • Give out clear instructions to delegates prior to sessions.
  • Allow up 10 – 15 minutes to ensure delegates are comfortable with the interface. Try an icebreaker session to help this aspect.
  • Outline your session with an overview.
  • Keep the session to approximately 40 minutes.
  • Interject delivery with questions and answers, voting and feedback.
  • Avoid desktop sharing which uses a lot of bandwidth.
  • Use the chat room / voting sparingly.
  • Grab a copy of the chat to reflect upon (post in a forum).
  • Record sessions for review.
  • Have a contingency plan, e.g. using phone conferencing, Skype, or discussion fora.
  • Strictly adhere to the allotted times and avoid lengthy overruns.

Additional Points to consider:

  • Combine webinars with other tools (e.g. email, wiki, discussion fora), to run shorter concluding live discussions, following lengthier asynchronous collaborative working.
  • Post out a comprehensive set of joining instructions for everyone involved. If anyone will experience difficulties, it will more likely be first time users. Try to get everyone to login early, or better still  run a trial session. This eliminates lengthy and unnecessary problem solving at the beginning of sessions.
  • In our experience the majority or problems occur at client (participant) end, usually concerned with the audio not been picked up by (some of) the delegates.  Ensure all delegates check their systems well before sessions to receive/transmit both audio and video.
  • Session moderators will need to become comfortable with multi tasking in a live online environment. Plenty of practice and the use of learner/delegate centric activities is key – as opposed to the broadcast model.
  • It is easier to monitor who is taking part than a traditional lecture. Regularly use the tools (raise hand, polls, etc) available to try to engage with all delegates.
  • It is recommended that the session leader has a moderator (two, for high stakes sessions) to assist them. The moderator can manage the questions posed in the chat pane. If no moderator is available, try experimenting with having a nominated student to assist with this task. Try this approach before any sessions.
  • Including students as nominated leaders in break out rooms is certainly a good way to help maintain focus. Also this provides greater incentive for the student(s) to help them take incentive and control in the learning process.
  • Research has revealed that it is generally felt that webinars are just as effective as face to face teaching.
  • It is much easier to re-purpose an online session for use during a face to face lecture than the other way round. It is therefore advised to design live sessions with distance learners in mind, i.e. plenty of support, and active and peer supported learning design.
  • Polling is favoured by many, although it is a concern that session leaders will just use this tool alone, excluding useful tools such as web guides. Experiment with a range of features to promote interaction.
  • Experiment with break out rooms to split larger cohorts into smaller (more manageable) peer learning groups.  This is the ideal setting for a micro teaching session from each group.  This approach exemplifies the necessary “learner centric” pedagogies crucial for effective use of webinars.
  • Thorough preparation is absolutely key to effective use of these tools. Although, a simple short meeting scenario would require only an agenda, as per face to face delivery.

Further Reading


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