As much as we've all adapted to interacting online, it's become clear that when we're faced with the choice of looking at anyone on screen to socialise, we'll shut our devices down faster than you can say 'new normal'.
Don't think of it as a webinar – it's another tool in your homeschool arsenal
Distance learning... remote access... these are not phrases that offer a reassuring appearance of proximity. As a social species, human beings crave closeness, and the current set-up doesn't reflect this need. Whatever our feelings about online engagement, the reality is webinars dominate how we currently communicate. Sure, most of us have spent the last 6–8 months adjusting, adapting and learning how to engage online; wouldn't it be great if we could master webinars? And we don't mean figuring out the full capability of the digital meeting platform (although it's never a bad idea to understand how to work something properly). We mean figuring out how to participate in webinars in a way that means you actually enjoy the experience, instead of the usual dread that comes with logging online.
At CambriLearn, we don't host webinars. We have conversations where our students have an opportunity to sit and discuss issues that have cropped up while they're studying. They just happen to be online. And that makes it even more important that everyone who's participating in the conversations can – as far as possible – enjoy the same level of interaction they'd get from a face-to-face discussion.
We'd like to share some simple tips we've learnt that will enhance your webinar experience.
Tip 1: Speak up
We get it. It's intimidating speaking up in front of a group. And just because you're doing it from the safety of your home doesn't make it any easier. You might also feel shy because these are people you've potentially never met in person. We promise you, if you're feeling this way, it's certain there are others in the class who are just as nervous. There's also a chance that the areas you're struggling with are the same ones they need help with. Having said that, if you're uncomfortable showing your face, turn your camera off. Without the benefit of seeing your facial cues, it will make it a little harder for your moderator to contextualise any of your concerns, but it's important for you to feel as comfortable as possible within this space.
Tip 2: Give feedback often
We're always learning. And not just now when we've had to learn a lot in a very short amount of time. There are always new ways to improve tried-and-tested methods. If those who are running the webinars aren't told that how they've chosen to format their sessions is problematic, how will they know how to fix them? Webinars usually include a survey, or an option for sending feedback, so if you have constructive criticism to offer, send it.
Tip 3: Request a check in
If you know you're scheduled to meet your educator and peers, ask your educator if you can join the meeting room a little early, for a pre-check in with them. Remember though, if the answer to your question could apply to several students' queries, it might help to discuss it beforehand, and then let your educator raise it again once everyone has joined.
Tip 4: Remove distractions
This isn't about avoiding rooms in your house where your family is congregated. If you're using a device that's not your phone, put your phone away. While most of us aspire to multi-task, in practice most of us can only focus on one thing properly. This is especially true when we're attempting to absorb a lot of information in a pretty short space of time. Your social media footprint won't suffer from an hour's absence!
Tip 5: Prepare your surroundings
This follows on from Tip 4. But this also relates to how others will see and hear you. There's nothing more irritating than sitting in an online chat, and every second sentence is, "Can you hear me?" Apart from setting up in a quiet space, an additional feature of your room that will enhance how well others hear you is the room's insulation. For instance, carpeted floors help minimise echoes, and if you hang or drape blankets on surfaces offscreen, which surround you, you'll minimise ambient noise.
If you've picked up great tips to improve online webinars, drop us a message on firstname.lastname@example.org.