Sunday, May 26, 2013

Web conferencing tools

Until this past week, I had used web conferencing tools in the role of participant/attendee rather than organizer or speaker.  As an attendee, I have encountered three obstacles to overcome:  1) making sure the web conferencing tool is compatible with the computer you are using; 2) figuring out the best audio solution when there are options (connect via computer vs. call-in via phone); 3) identifying options for engaging with the speaker (via chat panel or audio).

This past week, I conducted my first webinar as a speaker. Having attended several of the previous webinars in the series, I was most concerned about the audio channel, which had created multiple problems in the past.  Testing my audio connection ahead of time helped to ease my anxiety levels. I had brought in an external microphone to try to improve the quality of the audio compared to the laptop's embedded microphone.  It all worked out well from a technical perspective.  I was also surprisingly able to keep an eye on the chat panel for questions.  It helped somewhat that I work with two computer monitors. One displayed the screen that was shared with the webinar participants.  The other displayed the chat panel and other webinar tools. 

I really enjoyed it.  Much less intimidating than a room full of people.  I do need to practice getting rid of my "ums" and "ahs".  I'm afraid of listening to the recording. :)

Two connections: 
  • The best video lecture content presented in the three Coursera courses I recently took was a combination of the professor talking primarily via a small window on the screen (up to half the screen) and other dynamic content on the screen.  The content was dynamic in the sense that a) specific points appeared as the professor was addressing them; b) the professor was using a stylus or some other tool to highlight, circle, or point to specific things he was talking about.  In essence, even though none of it was live, it almost felt live because you were never staring at the same screen for more than a few seconds.  That was the Gamification course.  The Physics course videos were also great, but in a very different way.  The professor was showing a lot of hands-on activities and leveraging multiple filming locations to make it more interesting.  
  • We should really do much more with video to enhance knowledge sharing within my work environment.  I have to come up with a specific proposal connected to an existing activity.