Online seminars - Fleksibel utdanning Norge

Some flexible programmes and courses are mainly organised asynchronously, with some sessions, while the seminars are the main component in other cases. Either way, synchronous sessions will be a good starting point for giving the students feedback, whether they ask direct questions or get to test their knowledge and skills through different tasks. Being able to divide the class into smaller groups provides a very good basis for feedback. Moving as many presentations as possible into asynchronous activities can free up time for other learning activities in synchronous teaching. Synchronous sessions can take place in person or online and are used where the group needs to convene in real time and communicate directly with each other. Online seminars are known as webinars.

Advice and tips for activating the students in online sessions

  • Give the students a clear agenda. The time spent in front of a screen can feel longer, and knowing what is going to happen can help participants stay focused.
  • Give the students a PowerPoint presentation at the beginning of or prior to the session. They can then import this right into their notes or make notes on it.
  • Everything does not have to take place in the video tool (Zoom, Teams etc.). Participant interaction in tools such as Padlet, Menti or Curipod can take place in parallel with joint lectures. Make sure that the tool is cleared for use by your institution (GDPR).
  • If the programme has synchronous activities for everyone, the learning platform can be a good place to build a community and a sense of social belonging. Feel free to set up some informal communication exercises. The tutor can enter the digital room five minutes before the start and chat with the students as they join.
  • Feel free to use breakout rooms. They can be used in a structured manner by giving the students an exercise to do. In such case, it is a good idea to appoint a moderator/secretary and give them a collaborative writing tool. You can also create a schedule, allocating for example 3 minutes for small talk, 10 minutes for free discussion of the assignment and 7 minutes to come up with a proposal for a response or solution. It can be a good idea for the tutor to visit these rooms while the students are working.
  • Give the students 3–5 minutes to summarise in breakout rooms.
  • In small groups, you can use icons or emojis for short polls, mini quizzes etc.
  • Use online sessions to present group work.
  • Give feedback to the students along the way, so they know that the tutor appreciates participation and that input is valuable.

It is a good idea for those who are giving online sessions to prepare thoroughly for both the academic and technical aspects. It can be more difficult to do things off the cuff when communication is digital, and if something fails, few means are available to them. On the plus side, you can use manuscripts and to-do lists without anyone seeing them.

Advice and tips for planning and implementing online sessions:

  • Have a good plan and structure for online sessions, and plan especially for transitions between presentation and interactivity.
  • Use visual aids such as slides, videos or demonstrations to elaborate and illustrate the subject content, but remember that these must support the facts that are communicated.
  • Try to find a room with steady, gentle lighting and good noise insulation.
  • Make sure the sound quality is good! A headset is still recommended for all participants.
  • Distribute the agenda, motivational video and/or information about recommended reading in advance. Students should be as well prepared for online sessions as they are for classroom sessions.
  • Good online performance requires practice: Practise looking into the camera, keeping the mouse pointer steady, using even speech volume but varied pace, and keeping an eye on the participants while presenting subject matter. Much of this can be practised alone by using the integrated recording function in the video platform.
  • Having a colleague or assistant to share the tasks is an advantage if there are many participants.
  • In smaller group meetings, everyone can have a microphone, but enforce a rule that only the person speaking should have their microphone turned on.
  • Do not be afraid of pauses in the discussion or lecture. Give the students time to think through what is being said and, if necessary, to come up with questions.
  • Include at least as many and as long breaks as you would for a face-to-face lecture.
  • Conclude with a summary of the day’s topic, but also with tips on what the students should do next to continue the learning process.

Cameras on or off

Students should be expected to have their camera switched on, especially if this has been made clear from the beginning. However, there are some reasons for not making this a requirement. Learning can be a vulnerable process, and camera exposure can be both invasive and tiring. Many will be comfortable having the camera on in group discussions and other interaction activities, but not in larger classes where they are often passive listeners. The best recommendation we can give is to discuss this with the students. Let them understand how it can be beneficial for their learning, but that it is ultimately their choice. For some students, it may also be a matter of privacy. Vulnerable groups may feel a need not to be seen by other students.

Recording online sessions

Recordings of webinars or other teaching can be a great learning resource. When teaching takes place in the form of online sessions, students often request, and perhaps expect, that it will also be available afterwards as a recording. This can increase flexibility in that students have access to it without having to turn up at an appointed time. Participants should always consent (35) to recordings being made at sessions, and have the opportunity to turn off the camera or leave. Many video tools have settings where only the speaker is included in the recording. However, some people may be uncomfortable having their camera on when the session is being recorded.

Some video platforms have software for easy editing, so that sequences can be removed from the recording before it is posted.

Note what happens to the chat when recording. Can it be downloaded (as in Zoom), does it remain in the group area (as in Teams), or does it become part of the recording?

Fotnoter

  1. 35

    There are exceptions, but this is a good rule of thumb, and in most cases arrangements can be made to ensure everyone is comfortable.

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