Spend some time exploring both the tools available and your session design, ideally with a colleague who has experience of delivering webinars. Learn how to use the software beforehand and have help on standby if you need it. The more comfortable you are with multi-tasking in an online environment the better. In Blackboard, you can do this by going to your practice course and trying out the Course Room. In Teams, have a test run with a colleague by inviting them to a meeting.
Plan your session
Plan the online session just as carefully as you would for a face-to-face session. Think about the shape of the session and what you want the learners to achieve, by referring to your Learning Outcomes. Incorporate active learning and avoid a transmission or broadcast model of delivery.
- Send out comprehensive joining instructions in plenty of time and ask participants to check their audio/video in advance of the session where possible.
Prepare your learning materials
- Upload/prepare your materials early before the session start time. These will need to be in PDF, Image format (JPEG, GIF) or PowerPoint files.
- PowerPoint slides – Avoid animations as in some platforms they are removed when they are uploaded. If you want to progressively reveal formation (e.g. points on a bullet pointed list,) make a new slide for each step. Where an animation is essential to understanding, consider using Share Content features, like screen or applications. You may prefer to save your presentation as a PDF before sharing, to reduce the file size.
- Plan your Polls beforehand and write the questions on slides in your presentation.
- Decide how you would like learners to access any handouts, e.g. place them on Blackboard before the session. If you have any external participants, contact them by email in advance of the session.
- Open the room at least fifteen minutes before you are due to start, to allow for early arrivals and to let participants check their technical set-up. Go into the room in plenty of time to start the session promptly.
- Invite participants to log in early. Use a welcome slide (examples on TEL website) for participants to see as they enter the room which lets them know what to expect. For example, if you have allowed them to enable audio / video, information given here could direct them to use the audio set-up check to test their microphones. Ask them to post a message in chat. Signpost them to sources of help to resolve common technical issues.
- Let learners know if you intend to make use of their webcams. This is more likely in sessions with smaller numbers and in breakout rooms. Check your camera: are you well-lit and showing in the centre of the screen?
- Socialise your students. Think about the tone of the session and how to welcome them into the webinar. This will foster a sense of cohort community and let them check that their devices are working properly. Get them settled in and comfortable, ready to learn.
At the start of the session
- Ensure that you provide plenty of support for students from the outset. You can use an opening welcome slide for this purpose. Remember that some participants may be new to online learning. Be specific about what will happen during the session and what you want them to do.
- Use a short warm-up activity the first couple of times you run a webinar to allow people to become accustomed to being in an online classroom environment.
- If you are recording your sessions, tell participants that you are doing so. Breakout rooms are typically not recorded so remember to switch off the recording function if you send learners into breakout rooms, and to turn it back on as the main session resumes.
- Share your Learning Outcomes (session objectives) and an overview of the structure, and content of the session at the start of the session. Be clear about how long it will last.
- Use your webcam. Allowing your students to see you during a session, creates a more engaging and personalised experience. Being able to see at least initially will reassure participants. In Blackboard, add your photo so that it appears in the Chat function.
- Keep it simple to avoid cognitive overload. With a larger number of participants, bear in mind that it is very difficult to follow conversations in chat, ask questions, concentrate on your content and coordinate the session. Break up the session with different activities and ask students to participate. Ensure that you build in some time to step back and monitor how the session is going, just as you would in on-campus delivery.
- Use visuals in place of large amounts of text. Infographics, pictures, graphs are more engaging to look at than slides showing bullet pointed lists and should be used to enhance understanding. Provide references for the images you use and ensure that you have the correct permissions to use them.
- Use signposting language to guide participants through the session. Be explicit about what will happen during the session.
- Aim to use a variety of ways to promote interaction but make sure they are relevant and purposeful.
- Ask questions at specific times of the session or build in time to review the chat messages. It is easier to handle questions at specific times during a session with a large group of participants and the conversation in the chat can often rapidly build up.
- Plan for a strong finish. Sum up the session, recap how the session objectives were met, and end with any reflective tasks, takeaways or calls to action.
- Thank everyone for participating. Make it clear when the session has ended and describe how to leave the session. This could include describing where to find handouts and when the session recording will be available.
- Remain in the room long enough for participants to finish chatting to each other and say goodbye.
- Share any additional follow-up information in the Blackboard course.
- When making the recording available, remind students that it is for personal use only.
- Make any recordings of the session available on Blackboard for revision.
Share your experiences. Consider offering to assist a colleague delivering their session. Pass on any tips, successes, or pitfalls to avoid. Get in touch with the CQSD TEL or ADE teams to share your experiences, so we can build up case studies of effective practice to share with the academic community.