Web conferencing is a term used to describe synchronous ‘real-time’, online meetings between individuals located at a physical distance from each other. A web conference is highly interactive, allowing participants to chat, collaborate in real time using webcams and microphones, view each other’s computer desktops, break into groups, and in some cases, interact with multimedia such as digital whiteboards or presentations.
Web conferencing is a technique commonly used in online and hybrid courses offered at Iowa State University as a way to allow students to interact with their instructor and peers virtually in real time.
Often, this web interaction is conducted similarly to how they would interact in a traditional face-to-face class session, only the interaction is online. For example, small and large group discussions and activities can be conducted using audio, video, and/or chat features; digital content such as PowerPoint presentations or videos can be shown; and instructors or students can work problems using a digital whiteboard to which they can all contribute.
- Familiarize yourself with the webinar platform you’re using. Whatever platform you select (Webex, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or something else), make sure you are familiar enough with it to be able to tell students/participants how to use it (and the features you want to use) effectively.
- Practice using the webinar platform before you run your own web conference. Meet with friends or colleagues in your platform of choice to try it out a few times before hosting your first class. That way, you can anticipate the bugs and work out problems early!
- Promote active engagement during the webinar. Avoid clicking through a PowerPoint and talking at your participants. Instead, leverage the technology to enrich your presentation: have participants respond to polls, participate in an on-topic back-channel conversation with the chat tool, collaborate on problems in small groups, brainstorm on a digital whiteboard, etc. Employ synchronous strategies found in the engage students during synchronous sessions.
- Be organized. Successful webinars really need to be quite organized to run smoothly. Come up with an agenda or lesson plan, including times to spend on each topic. You may even want to share this agenda with your participants. If you’re using a true web conferencing tool, like Webex, try to keep your room setup similarly each week so that students know where to go to do certain things in the tool.
- Ask an experienced webinar leader for assistance. As you’re getting used to the platform, it may help to have an experienced person assist with running the technology as you conduct your class or meeting. This could be a fellow faculty member who has experience with the tool, an instructional designer, or even a tech-savvy student in your class.
- Don’t worry if your first web conference doesn’t run as smoothly as you plan (it likely won’t). Running a web conference well is a new, and different skill combining technical skills, strong organization, and meeting facilitation – it does take some time to get comfortable leading web conference sessions.
Many web conferencing tools are not readily accessible to students with disabilities, particularly to those students visual or physical impairments. Instructors should be prepared to offer reasonable accommodations to such students so that they may participate fully in course activities.
Review the information on the Your Questions, Answered web article, then if you have additional questions: