Appendix E: Using Webinars in Distance Education Pilots

Using Webinars in Distance Education Pilots

Conducting regular webinars with each of the distance education sites in your state is a valuable component of distance learning experiments. These webinars can fill a variety of roles, including:

There are a number of free webinar tools that you can use to run your meeting. If everyone involved has a Google account, you can use Google Hangouts or Meet. Zoom is very easy to use and allows you to easily transfer presentation and screen sharing to other participants. You could also check with the organization that runs technical support or professional development for adult education in your state. They might have a license for Adobe Connect, WebEx, GoToMeeting, or other paid web conferencing software.

For webinars to serve these functions effectively, they need to be carefully planned and moderated. Structuring the webinars allows the moderator to keep the group on task and allows the participants to address all issues of concern. Two things are useful in this regard. One is to send an email a week ahead of the webinar asking for some information to help establish the agenda. The second is to circulate the agenda two days in advance of the webinar.

The first email requesting information serves several purposes:

The template for information should be short and simple and should reflect the issues to be covered in a particular webinar. There is likely to be a considerable amount of repetition in the templates used over time; for example, most templates will ask sites to report on the number of students served, and many topics, such as recruitment methods, may be covered in multiple webinars. 

Examples of some templates requesting information are provided below.

Examples of Webinar Agenda

Site Summary Webinars

The following conference agenda templates were used for a series of four monthly webinars conducted for a group of sites just beginning their distance program. A week before the webinar, each site was sent an email with a template to complete and return to the person who would be moderating the webinar.

Month 1

As of (date), we had __ students in the program. To orient students to the curriculum and to being a distance learning student, we…. The major strategies we are using to provide regular support to these learners are…. We would characterize our overall progress as…. We are trying to figure out how to solve the following problems….

Month 2

As of (date), we had __ students in the program. The major strategies we are using to provide regular support to these learners are…. We would characterize student retention in the program as…. We are defining “dropouts” as students who…. The biggest issues for our site are….

Month 3

As of (date), we had ___ students enrolled in the program. We consider ___ to be active distance students. The major strategies we are using to provide regular support to these learners are…. The two most difficult problems we are trying to solve are….

Month 4

In the final webinar of this phase of the project, we will look back at the project thus far. To help get the process started, please respond briefly to the following questions before the webinar:

Sample Moderator Guides for Conference Webinars

For each phase of the pilot, there should be a webinar. For example, in Month 1, you will focus on the first aspect of the pilot or site plan: recruitment. If you are moderating the webinar and read through each organization’s site plan, you may recall one organization that made a remarkable contribution to the way that recruitment could occur. Consider inviting such an organization to do a short presentation on the innovation during the webinar.

Phased Implementation Webinar Series

This is an example of a 5 month piloting initiative. The participants come together each month for general updates, but focus each month on one area of implementation. 

Month 1 Webinar
Month 2 Webinar
Month 3 Webinar
Month 4 Webinar
Month 5 Webinar

The final webinar might be for wrapping up the pilot and looking ahead for future program improvement. Here is some suggested text for the invitation and webinar facilitation:

This webinar will give us an opportunity to explore two major issues as a group:

  1. How well did each of the pilot projects, as they were implemented, work for your populations?
  2. What changes do you think should be implemented to make the programs more successful in the next iteration?

We are not hoping to come to conclusions in this webinar, but, rather, our goal will be to point the way for future projects to learn from your experiences. To help get the process started, please respond to the following questions and email them to me before the webinar.

  1. In what ways did this program work well for your target population?
  2. What changes would you make for the next project, and why?

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