The fall and rise of the webinar/web conference

In the last couple of weeks my aggregation channels have been gently humming to the sound of webinars. It seems a number of institutions are rediscovering the possibilities of these tools to support flexible delivery (and no doubt cut costs allow the reallocation of staff time to enhance the learner experience). This post is designed to highlight some projects and technical developments that I’ve come across.

Projects/Events

Two projects, both funded by the Higher Education Academy, have found their way into my inbox. At Queen Margaret University the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Dance, Drama and Music (PALATINE) has funded “An exploration of learner and tutor experience in using online synchronous learning environments across disciplines within the School of Drama and Creative Industries”.

The objectives of this 9 month study are:

    To conduct an in-depth, comparative study of tutor and student experiences of using an online synchronous learning environment (OSLE) in order to:

    • Build a rich picture of actual learner and tutor engagement with such technology across four drama programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level;
    • Develop an understanding of the impact of using an OSLE in the learning experience;
    • Develop guidelines and case studies for educators to improve learner and tutor use of OSLEs.

As part of this project we are supporting QMU, PALATINE and the HEA Subject Centre for Medicine, Dentistry & Veterinary Medicine (MEDEV) in running the Crossing Virtual Boundaries – Teaching and Research with Online Synchronous Learning Environments (OSLEs) event to be held on the 10 June 2011 (click here for booking details). Here is a good starting point for find out more about the QMU project.

The second project is funded as of part of the HEA Discipline-focused Learning Technology Enhancement Academy Programme. The Collaboration for Excellence in a Distance Learning Environment (Excel-DL)  project is being led by the University of Salford. I haven’t seen much detail about this project but do know their aim is to:

evaluate the use of ‘Elluminate Live’, a synchronous online collaboration delivery method for postgraduate distance learners within the School of the Built Environment, University of Salford (to inform the wider context of Construction & Built Environment Community)

The main reason for highlighting this project is because they are hosting a free online session on ‘Synchronous Online Learning: Bridging the Divide’ on the 10th November 2010 from 1m to 4:15pm. The aim of the event is to:

“is to explore the pros and cons and the pedagogical inspirations of this particular innovation with distinguished academics”

Sessions in the event include:

  • Practice and pedagogies of synchronous online learning – Tim Neumann
  • Synchronous vs asynchronous online learning – Stefan Hrastinski
  • Play time: an interactive demonstration of the possibilities of synchronicity – Peter Chatterton
  • The blended situated learner context for synchronous collaboration – Ian Mills & Georgina Evans
  • Anticipating the future learner – Simon Kear

Click here for more information and to book a place

Software developments

As well as renewed interest in the human side of webinars there are also a couple of software developments worth flagging:

Blackboard:  Wimba + Elluminate = Gemini

If you are a Blackboard user you might be interested in Collborate on Gemini post by Kevin Brace at Aston University. This post reviews a recent webinar he attended outlining Blackboard’s roadmap for merging their recently acquired Wimba and Elluminate webinar platforms.

Adobe Connect Mobile for Android

Mobile technology is everywhere, quite literally, and if you are talking about flexible delivery it is inevitable that mobiles will come into the conversation. Looking at the disputed Wikipedia Comparison of web conferencing software you’ll see very few products are declaring mobile device support. For institutions using or looking into Adobe Connect you might be interested to hear that Connect Mobile for Android is now available. This adds to their support for iPhone related devices (iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone).

Open source alternative: Big Blue Button

I was initially dismissive about the open source webinar tool ‘Big Blue Button’ not finding the interface very intuitive, but then I had session in Adobe Connect and concluded all webinar software is counterintuitive. Rather than going through the details of Big Blue Button I recommend you read Steve Boneham’s blog post, which should have everything you need and more. The Moodle integration looks particularly interesting.   

So what have I missed in all of this? Very interested to hear about other projects or tools in this area. Please share using the comments

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