Effective Online Andragogy: Increasing Interactivity in Webinars and Virtual Conferences
I absolutely love attending synchronous educational webinars and virtual conferences. It is such a treat to be able to listen to experts from the comfort of my home and chat with colleagues during the presentations. I am baffled, though, why, with all of the interactive elements within the webinar platform and via the Internet, many of them become talking heads with slides. The irony is that much of the content of the webinars, in one way or another, suggests improving pedagogy, moving from the sage on the stage to increasing learner participation and engagement in the learning process. Only the best of speakers can engage the audience and keep their attention for over 20 minutes of non-interrupted talking. See Why Long Lectures Are Ineffective: If students can only focus for 15-minute intervals, shouldn’t we devote precious class time to something more engaging? and my Mentormob of resources: Lectures in the Classroom for more on about this.
It is interesting to me that the feedback I get from participants in my webinars that they appreciated the interactivity, that it was one of the most interactive sessions they have ever attended. Why I find this fascinating is that I believe this should be the norm not the exception.
Andragogy informs teachers and presenters about how to teach adults (both face-to-face and online) with some of the following key strategies for enhancing learning opportunities:
- establish a learning environment that is supportive and based on mutual respect and shared responsibilities
- encourage the sharing of experiences
- use real problems or tasks, case studies and scenarios are particularly effective
- provide time for collaborative group work, particularly when problem solving
- use resources that can be easily identified, and share strategies for using them.
Presenters will often begin their sessions with an interactive element such a poll and then use no interactive elements until the end of the hour long session when they ask for questions. Why aren’t interactive elements introduced at regular intervals throughout the presentation to support the principles of Andragogy?
Some strategies I use during and throughout my online webinars include:
- Using polls and self-assessments.
- Sharing resources via live links for participants to visit while I talk about them.
- Building in periodic breaks to “live chat share” – to share ideas, resources, questions about the segment of content just covered, and verbally pointing out ideas shared along with using the participants’ names to do so.
- Asking participants to share their own resources and best practices in the chat.
- Doing an interactive Web 2.0 tool or game – e.g., having participants share using Padlet so they can easily access this information later.
- Asking participants to watch a short video or read a short article and report their thoughts in the chat.
- Having participants create one slide of a shared Google Presentation on one of the subtopics being discussed resulting in a group presentation.
- Asking participants to a photo of a concept through Flickr (see Using Flickr to Collect Images Captured on Cell Phones noting that this process can be used from any device that permits emailing).
- Using the webinar whiteboard to have participants draw a significant learning.
- Ending with an action step – asking participants one thing they will commit to do based on something learned in the webinar.
Here are some addition tips by Sharon Bowman:
As an extension to this this discussion, here a a slidedeck that I created about strategies for development online communities: