This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

Creating Virtual Learning Sessions (webinars)


One of the discussion threads this week on otTEL is about running online synchronous sessions using platforms like Blackboard Collaborate or Adobe Connect. I have used both these tools for delivering and attending webinars, but I am always looking to improve my skills in this area. I attended a free webinar run by Citrix in March this year on how to create virtual learning sessions, which I found really useful, so thought I would share the notes I made from the session here:

1. How to keep participants engaged and active:

  • Call a session by its rightful name; terming a session meeting, presentation, webinar, learning event all create different expectations in terms of participation etc – so make sure you label your session correctly.
  • Every 3-5 minutes have the audience do something different to keep attention and prevent multitasking. You have plenty of tools at your disposal including: asking questions; using the whiteboard; using chat; polling; giving a break; thinking time; asking for people to speak; read something; show a video; etc.
  • For a small group, a tip to make sure everyone is engaging is to write everyone’s name down on a piece of paper and mark down when they contribute, that way you can invite those who are quieter for their opinion.

2. 3-step instructional design technique:

  • Identify goal performance and objectives:  the instructional goal is the session’s mission statement; the performance objectives are what the learners will be able to do when they leave the session.
  • Determine the assessment needs: how do we know each of the objectives have been achieved? Take each objective separately for this to determine if it suitable for online instruction. A general rule of thumb is ‘if it can be tested online, it can be taught online’.
  • Determine collaboration needs: think about if you need to bring people together to learning this thing. What does collaboration bring? Will it make the experience richer? A general rule is that if it does not need collaboration, then it can be taught via self-paced online materials rather than in a collaborative session e.g. learning road signs.

3. Determine when and how to design interaction and collaboration online

  • Differentiate between interaction and collaboration. Interaction involves participation including polling and adding ideas to the chat space; collaboration involves working as a group to come up with a solution to a shared problem.
  • Two main reasons to include interaction and collaboration: firstly to support participant engagement and secondly to support learning outcomes.
  • Interactions are usually at the lower end of Bloom’s taxonomy and promotes communication between the tutor and participants and between the participants.
  • Collaborations usually target the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy like evaluation, analysis and synthesis  and achieves deeper learning.
  • The goal with collaboration is to help participants to achieve better results than they would individually.
  • Interactions can be serial or concurrent. Serial means that people take it in turns, concurrent means that everyone can participate at the same time. A unique feature of online platforms means that concurrent interactions can take place. If serial interactions take place online, people will quickly start to lose interest and multi-task.


  1. Set realistic expectations for your students.
  2. Create opportunities for learners to engage.
  3. Follow the 3-step process to make sure the content is suitable for an online webinar session.
  4. Ensure that the learners are interacting and collaborating with you, the other participants and the technology.


Academic Development Advisor - based at the University of Huddersfield. I promote, co-ordinate and support staff in the use of learning technologies. I am interested in online teaching and learning and have recently completed an EdD exploring tutors' early experiences of teaching online.

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