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Tired of Skype? Meet in a Webinar!

May 07, 2014 | Blog-Admin1 | Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools |

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Michel_ClaudiaThis blog is not against Skype. Skype is a software for free that is useful for communicating with your friends and colleagues around the globe. But for learning events it is less adequate. Instead, a webinar is a great alternative.

By Claudia Michel, Anne Zimmermann and Hansjörg Lauener

Web based conferencing

Here’s the difference in a nutshell: Skype is a video chatting platform and webinars are for professional video or audio conferencing. Imagine a seminar, but web based. People sit in front of their computers and get an e-mail with a link in it. They click on it and are immediately beamed into a virtual classroom. The speaker presents a power point or another document; maybe the screen view switches to a participant for another presentation. A discussion follows. People talk in real-time, write messages in a chat, and take part in polls.

webinarYou can also use webinars for virtual meetings with your international team. For example, the group members jointly develop a project and outline their first ideas on a whiteboard. Webinars are easy to record, so people who do not attend a meeting can watch it later.

First webinars at the University of Bern

The e-learning courses we conduct at the International Graduate School are the first webinars at the University of Bern. Last year, a course on scientific writing and another one on how to influence policy and practice from a research perspective were conducted. People from all corners of the world participated. You get a glimpse of what this looks like in the film sequence below. The clip below shows a conversation between Claudia, the teacher, and Horacio, a doctoral student. They are talking about the stakeholders that Horacio wants to influence through his study on gold mining in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.

clip_webinar

Webinars are not like f2f meetings. But they create a pretty good learning environment. Participants enjoyed it, even those from Switzerland who would have been able to attend a f2f meeting. One Swiss student said: “The online seminar format made it possible to attend the course even during my stay abroad”.

Webinar versus Skype

Interested? We at the University of Bern use Adobe Connect as web conferencing platform but there are other software packages available such as Lync for example, which is going to be soon in the SDC. Some advantages of Adobe Connect compared to Skype are:

  • Adobe Connect typically needs no installation by the participants, but Skype needs to be installed
  • You can reach up to a thousand people with Adobe Connect, but only a few with Skype
  • Adobe Connect has permanent and lasting meeting rooms, Skype has no permanent meeting rooms
  • Unlimited numbers of individuals can share their screen in Adobe Connect, only 2 persons can share their screen with Skype
  • Recording is easy in Adobe Connect, there is no direct recording with Skype

That’s it. Try it out. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Further Information

 

Note: This post shares the experience of the University of Berne. For security reasons at SDC we have different conditions: Skype is allowed only on standalone computers.  Adobe Connect was applied for several webinars but it will be replaced by Lync in the coming months. If you would like to organize a webinar at SDC with Adobe Connect you can contact the Learning and Networking team (Carmen Eckert) for support. To organize a Webinar at SDC with Lync please contact the Helpdesk.

 


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Comments to“Tired of Skype? Meet in a Webinar!”


  1. Nadia von Holzen says:

    Dear Claudia, Anna and Hansjörg, many thanks for sharing your experience with web-based conferencing. This is valuable.
    Could you tell a bit more about the ‘human side’ of creating and facilitating a virtual learning environment? How did you get started? What was different from preparing f2f events? And if you look back, where do you see the greatest value as well as the greatest challenge in web-based teaching and meeting?
    Best, Nadia

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  2. Dear Nadia
    You touch an important point. We wanted to make sure that people feel comfortable with the technology, therefore, we started with introducing and coaching the participants in the use of the learning platform. Another important aspect was the social environment. A long introduction round is even more important in a web-based environment compared to f2f meetings because non-verbal communication is impossible. The greatest value for us is that people from almost everywhere can easily attend a course of the University of Bern. The greatest challenge is technology. The internet connection was too slow for some countries. But as we recorded every webinar session, they were able to watch it later. Best wishes, Claudia

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  3. Nadia von Holzen says:

    Dear Claudia, many thanks for your comment. It’s a valuable advice for organisers new to webinar technology to reserve sufficient time for the introduction so that people feel comfortable with each other and the technology. Which kind of follow-up conversation do you organise with people who ‘dropped’ out? Best, Nadia

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  4. Hi Nadia, I am not sure what you mean by follow-up conversation but we actually did a lot of e-mail and skype conversation during and between the webinars. Anne and myself facilitated the first webinars together: one person was the official facilitator who talked to people and guided through the program, the other person was in the background, managing the chat and helping those who dropped out or had difficulties to ‘enter the classroom’. When the participants got acquainted to the technology, it was no longer necessary to facilitate in pairs. According to my experience you need a second facilitator when you have 10+ participants. Best wishes, Claudia

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  5. Dear Nadia, first, let me say that I’m new to blogging, so this explains my very late reply (I understand that blogging should be for rather immediate communication — maybe I’m wrong?) Also in answer to your question about the “follow-up conversation” with the people who dropped out: In addition to Claudia’s very important information about 1) the need for an initial session devoted entirely to how to “use” the online classroom and how to exchange outside these sessions and 2) how we tackled the difficulties of the first few sessions (i.e. by being present at one another’s sessions and helping with technical questions in the background, mainly using emails and the chat feature), I’d like to point out that we also communicated with SWITCH technicians regarding compatibility issues. Altogether there were 3 reasons why we had drop outs: a) time zone issues (it’s extremely difficult to get people from South America included in a course that also contains people from South Asia and Central Asia); b) weak Internet connections in some countries (especially in Ethiopia, where this led to another drop out); and c) Adobe Connect doesn’t work with Linus. These are all factors that I suggest you consider if you’re planning something of the kind. Best wishes, Anne

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