Teaching via Webinar is not only about the how of teaching.
It is also about the mechanics. The listed items are what I look-out for prior to starting my class webinar session.
I believe, it is utmost important to have the right area where you are having your webinar class session. It may be your home, but we are conducting a class. As an educator, I believe it is crucial to create the set-up for an e-class. To do that, find a place or a corner area that can make you feel all “suit-up” and inspired. A corner that makes you feel creative. A corner that is also has no background noise around it unless your headsets are the noise-cancelling type.
Yes, though sitting, we are conducting a class. The much energy is needed to pull through the 2 hours. Each individual has their own preferences in setting up the stage platform. My stage platform is a white study table with some flowers at the corner side of the table. I prefer less items on my table.
Besides that, you also need to take account of the backdrop. The safest choice will be a plain wall facing your back. Of course, some will have decorated wall e.g. hung pictures, photos, with shelves of books. Remember to ensure you do no have anything behind your back which can be distracting.
Ok. Lighting is very crucial for the stage. Your participants or students need to see you in a professional setting. Natural sun-light streaming from your windows by your “stage” corner is much preferred. There are times, though, we may have our class webinars in the evening which the amount of natural light is not favorable. You do not want dimly light room or yellow-lit room. Moreover, some of our houses are not equipped with the suitable lighting for webinar. You can place a light with a lampshade right over the laptop screen.
Next is the audio. Your voice. Voice clarity is very important. We cannot afford, I repeat, cannot afford voice breaking / cracking / fading in a distance / disappearance of audio even for a second. Now. most depend on the in-built mic in the laptops. Unfortunately, built-in microphone produces low sound quality and at times, there would be the echoing effect while you talk. Not forgetting that the built in microphone picks up every movement of nearby devices and every click of the keyboard. In other words, do invest in a headset. I assure you the investment is worth it. A headset is the better solution for clarity and consistent volume. This is because the headset mic stays in place at the same distance from the mouth no matter what the presenter does. One more thing: You get what you pay for. Do remember that cheaper headsets, ahem, can also equate to a lower quality microphone. Before buying, please do your research on which kind of brand of headset as some headsets are with additional features such as the noise cancelling type.
Another question some may ask: wired or wireless. Truth be told, I am not a fan of wireless a.k.a Bluetooth transmission. Wireless type of microphones can at times lose pairing, and catch interference from other signals. Bluetooth could cause transmission lag which can mess up the audio/video synchronization. In other words, it can cause a two-way conversation between you and the students, difficult.
All right, we have covered The Stage. Now, we move on to the next aspect.
2. The Face
If you are lecturing /hosting the class webinar, do reveal your face. There is no preference or choice in you can choose not to show your face during the webinar. The students attending your class webinar wants to see and connect with the lecturer / teacher be it a smile or eye contact. It is uncomfortable communicating to a blank screen with the lecturer / teacher’s name. When the lecturer / teacher answers questions, the students want to see the assuring look with the feedback. This comes to the lecturer / teacher responsibility to invest in a telco plan which offers good bandwidth speed. Why? Using the video feature will use lots of bandwidth. In my opinion, for the purpose of creating significant learning experiences for the students, the purchase is a necessity.
3. The Angle
How you position your face in front of the video camera (built in your laptop) or webcam is also another aspect you have to include. Do position your laptop-video-cam or webcam at eye level. Make sure you don’t have to look down at it or else, your students could find themselves looking up your nose or your chin. This is not the most attractive angle. You need to have good eye contact during your class webinar. Sit up straight and look directly into the camera. For me, I would elevate my laptop with a portable laptop stand to ensure the camera is at my eye-level. A portable laptop stand can be purchased easily via online. Another note, do not ever put your face too close to the camera. Position yourself until your face and 1/3 of your upper body fits into the frame of the screen.
4. Supporting tools
Every webinar platform be it Zoom, Webex, Google Meet, has a unique control panel and features available for running the webinar. As the host, please familiarize yourself with the controls in advance. It will add more zest to your class webinar session.
Do remember to get the items listed checked out before conducting the class webinar.
Always remember, the e-class webinar is a class even though it is conducted from your home! I have morphed into the role of a lecturer/teacher now. Providing good learning experience to my students / participants, is my priority as an educator.
This article first appear in LINKEDIN on April 19, 2020 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/webinar-applying-right-mechanics-huey-zher-ng/