Sunday, April 16, 2017

What is a Webinar?

A Webinar is a seminar conducted using Web browser based video-conferencing software. The webinar usually follows the conventions of a seminar, starting at an advertised time, with a moderator introducing a speaker. The speaker is usually accompanied by a slide show and occasionally short prepared animations or video sequences. The audience can ask questions via a text chat window, or by audio (monitored by the moderator). There may be polls where the audience answer multiple choice questions.

While some webinars have live video of the speaker, this is not necessary and may cause problems for participants with limited bandwidth. A still photo of the speaker at the beginning of the session is sufficient. Similarly, while audio questions from the audience make the seminar more engaging, this can cause technical problems and many webinars use only text chat for audience participation.

Webinar software also has provision for the speaker to draw on the screen and show a live application. These features are also rarely used, due to the tehcnial problems they can cause.

Most webinar systems allow for the session to be recorded, including the audio, video, and text chat. The moderator needs to remind the participants that the session is to be recorded and who will have access to the recording. They also need to indicate when the recording ends.

Webinars are a useful synchronous (real-time) supplement to the more usual asynchronous (non-real-time) on-line recorded video, text and text based forums. Webinars are used because they are more engaging for the participants than just watching a video, or posting to a forum. However, the real-time nature has its limitations, in terms of scheduling and the ability of some to participate and so should only be used as a supplement.

Some commonly used products for webinars are Adobe Connect and Blackboard Collaborate. A free open access product is BigBlueButton (provided free with Moodle Cloud).

ps: One tip is to provide the date and time for a webinar in the local time using the formal official time zone designation. If international participants are expected, then also provide the time in UTC.

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