Webinar: Applying the Right Mechanics

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.

1.The Stage

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.

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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.

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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.

Photo by Mike from Pexels

Photo by Mike from Pexels

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/

Webinar: The Methodology

Earlier, I have written on the concerns on the limitations of Webinar.

How do we work around the missing gaps?

Let us put the context in the range between 90 to 120 minutes per class session.

Before we begin the webinar lesson, do make sure you have apply the Arrangement Method which includes the delivery of the content, the asking questions, how long will the asking and replying questions last, at what point this activity will be placed at selected content, and most importantly the breaks! 5-minutes break is advised to be planted at strategic points. Let the students/ participants stretch their legs and body, and rest their eyes.

The next will be the Visual Content Method. The powerpoint slides have to be visually appealing and engaging. If a class is conducted via webinar, it is most likely an online class. Hence, let the students read the materials earlier. When they attend the webinar, your PowerPoint will be simple with key points with relevant graphics. I will share this in another article.

Now we begin.

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Start with the Greet Method.

No, we do not stop at Hello, My name is XXX. I will be teaching XXX. Then, straight to delivering the content.

We continue with a warm-up conversation. Give this warm-up conversation of 5 to 10 minutes. This is time which allows everyone, the participants to log-in to the webinar, making sure they can clearly hear you talk and they in return can reply to you. At the same time, asked the students how are they, have they read anything, how are they coping with the studies.

After you give a quick scan on the number of participants / students, the webinar lesson starts.

During this session, there are a few methods to be included which are not that different with the ones we used when we are teaching face-to-face.

Call-thy-name Method is utmost significant. Do not use the term “anyone, anybody”. By calling out names from the start of the webinar lesson until the end will make the students realise the teacher wants everyone full attention. Hence, do not focus on one name. Try to call out as many as possible, and the next webinar class, a new set of names being called out. Rotate!

Active Question Method is pertinent. Even in a 3 hour lecture class, we do have activities ready positioned nicely after certain content is presented. Do the same for the webinar class. There are webinar platform with Sharing Screen feature which I really super like. The opportunity is aplenty.

Do an activity on Padlet. Have a question posted on Padlet. Share the link to the students via chat and ask them to post the reply. By Sharing the Screen – Padlet, students can see each other reply, peer feedback on Padlet. Or use Kahoot, share the screen – Kahoot. With their individual devices, students can attempt the questions and watch the score from the share screen. Of course, with all these additional activities, do make sure the steps are explained to the students how you want the plan to be laid out.

Can we do group work? Yes but the modified and adapted version to the limitation. Ask the students to conduct their group discussion before the webinar session. Then, present their discussion during one of the selected activity sessions.

Pause to Stretch Method is a must for a webinar class session.

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Same goes for you, the teacher. Do remember to switch off your video and mute your sound when you are on the 5 minute break. If you want to give 10 minutes, it is fine. It all depends on how much you are covering within the 90 to 120 minutes.

The crux is to plan. As an educator, one of the things I have learnt from my teaching programme eons ago, plan your lessons to ensure an effective session as you will be able to estimate what might happened along the session. The same thing is applied for an effective webinar class session.

Dear Educators, do have other ideas to add?

This article first appear in LINKEDIN on April 16, 2020 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/webinar-methodology-huey-zher-ng/

5 Must-haves in setting up an online course

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Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

There are five MUST-HAVE items to add in an online course which you are going to set-up be it on an LMS platform or Google Classroom or a blog platform e.g. WordPress / Blogger.

Must-Have #1 About the trainer

The moment when the learners entered the digital-virtual classroom, the info about the trainer should be clearly seen. I do not mean the info of the trainer should be smacked at the centre of the “wall”. It should be located at the side of the “wall”. Right or left column, it is fine. It should be always there and not easily pushed away from add-on content or hidden whereby it is difficult to locate by the learners.

What should be added in the section or column “about the trainer”? It is advisable not to add in history or lengthy achievements. It all depends on the purpose of the information. The following question “How does the information about the trainer helps the learners in add value to the navigation of the virtual classroom?” will decide what kind of information to add.

For me, if I am teaching an online course (blended or fully online), I will add in my photo, name, my contact details, and my consultation time (online and offline). If you have a larger space to add in more, that will described in the following Must-Have Item #2.

Must-Have #2 Prelude to the online course

Add a section which includes about the online course, expectation of the online course, how the online course flows via the stated topics, where to seek help in the virtual classroom, and the teacher / facilitator’s expectations towards the learners. It is suggested to add your own words for the description on the online course and expectations of the online course to create a sense of teacher’s personal touch. Learners react positively when there is a teacher’s touch in the online course. There are several ways to present the listed information. There are applications like Powtoon (online platform for creating video) , Pixtoon (online platform for creating comic) and Canva which information can be interpreted visually. If you are not shy, you can also video record yourself and upload the video for the learners to watch.

Must-Have #3 Course Image

When the learners enter the virtual classroom, it will be a plus factor to have a visual which represents the course.  The image below is one of the images I used for online course: Flipping Classroom to Active Learning. The background image was taken from Pexels, a website with tonnes of FREE stock photos (highly recommended). The overall image was created using PowerPoint.

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When the image was placed in the virtual classroom, it added excitement among the learners. The excited feeling though small, is sufficient to trigger the learners’ interest in the online course. Hence, it is crucial to choose the right image to perk the learners’ interest.

Must-Have #4 Reminders

It is about what they cannot forget to do or even what they need to do if face a problem in the online course. Usually, I would placed the reminders at one side of a column (Using HTML box for Moodle, or Text Widget for WordPress). For example, for the online course, there would be embedded YouTube videos for the learners to watch.

The following reminder was added:

There are videos from YouTube which are important to watch. If your working place bandwidth is not able to support view, please watch using your own telco bandwidth or your home internet line.

It is tedious to add that reminder under each YouTube video.

There were also reminders on submission of assignments. Putting up reminders like this assists the learners to remember things (if they almost forget).

Must-Have #5 The AH (Announcement + Helpline) Sections

These are compulsory sections for every online course. The learners will be able to locate where to retrieve announcements of the course and also asked for help. But the facilitator has to make sure, the queries needed to be answered as soon as possible. Do not leave it unanswered for more than a day! Else, it will lose its purpose.

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How about the readers? What other must-haves you have used to set-up an online course? Please do add on.