There are lots of tools you can use to host online conferences and events. Here are some of the most popular, engaging and easy to use tools plus practical ‘how to details’ recommended by SCU colleagues to facilitate online events.
Webinars via Zoom
The Zoom communication and collaboration tool can connect up to 500 participants to create a real-time, interactive webinar event. Zoom meetings appear in the SCU Calendar once you have installed the tool. You can create Breakout Rooms. For an event that is delivered both face-to-face and online, if you need more than one online Zoom space at the same time, ask different staff members to create separate online meeting room links. Sessions can be recorded. Ensure the meeting is scheduled by the meeting host to enable the event to be recorded.
Eventbrite can manage the webinar registrations.
Webinars via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
Any number of Collaborate Ultra sessions can be created inside a Blackboard site. These can be set up at different times or concurrently. Each session can cater for up to 500 participants. Sessions can be recorded and recordings are automatically made available within the site, and can also be downloaded in mp4 format.
Guest links can be provided to participants who do not have access to the SCU network.
Preparing online participants
Before participants join the online conference space, ask them to keep these details in mind:
- Ensure your microphone is muted and your camera is turned off to allow you to join in on the event successfully. This will reduce feedback noise.
- Please comment and ask questions via the chat facility. For moderated sessions, your questions may be addressed at specific times, for example after each presentation. To assist audio clarity, the SCU Audio Visual team recommends using one-way traffic to ask questions via the Zoom chat facility and not via your microphone and camera.
Facilitating online discussions
The following techniques were used by Online Facilitators at the 2019 Scholarship of Learning and Teaching Symposium where sessions were delivered both face-to-face and online via Zoom. Amend these points where needed to suit your webinar tool and delivery:
- An electronic device/laptop is needed to facilitate online participation via the Zoom link.
- Introduce yourself in the online chat room: At the beginning of the session, post a welcome to the online participants, introducing yourself as the Online Facilitator for the session. The Session Chair will also introduce you as the Online Facilitator to the participant group.
- Encourage online contributions: Invite online participants to respond to the presenter’s questions or discussion prompts in the chat room area. Presenters should pause for a minute when seeking answers to questions during an online presentation.
- Indicate when online contributions are available: When it is an appropriate time in the presentation (e.g. the presenter is asking for feedback or asking a question) indicate to the presenter that you have online contributions to share.
- General ‘backchannel’ chat: Online participants may post comments and discuss issues as an online group. You are not expected to share all of this ‘backchannel’ conversation with the wider group. However, you may like to share some key comments or emerging themes, when there is an opportunity presented by the Session Presenter. Feel free to become part of the ‘backchannel’ chat as this is a natural part of facilitating online.
Incorporating virtual presentations and videos
Pecha Kucha: For several very short presentations combined together, consider the Pecha Kucha style presentation. This style was successfully used at the 2019 Symposium where eight presenters had two minutes each to present up to six slides at 20 seconds per slide.
Video resources: Link to or embed short YouTube videos to reinforce the learning for students.
Hosting online conferences
The Copernicus Alliance European Network on Higher Education for Sustainable Development guidelines include details on preparation, hosting and evaluating virtual meetings or conferences.
The Hosting an Online Conference PDF resource by Associate Professor Celeste Lawson from CQUniversity includes details to consider and organise prior, during and post a conference.
Other online tools, interaction ideas and resources
Open Broadcaster Software is a free, open source software for video recording and live streaming. This tool is not supported by SCU Technology Services.
Use this tool to encourage participant contributions prior, during and post an event. A Twitter feed was established prior to the 2019 Symposium which many staff engaged with. View the Twitter Guide if you’re new to this tool. You can also create and Tweet live video from the Twitter app for participants to join your video, visit Go Live on Twitter.
Videos platforms like Twitch, originally built for gaming, also have live channels, talk shows, podcasts, special events etc. Users watch or broadcast live streaming or pre-recorded video.
Facebook Live for Facebook accounts
The Social Distancing Festival website is a space for celebrating artists to upload video clips from work that has been cancelled, delayed or disrupted. Includes both a live-streams event page and uploaded clips from rehearsals, webcam scenes, workshop recordings etc.
Thanks to Associate Professor Adele Wessell and staff contributors who recommended sources for this resource.
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Diethart, M., Zimmermann, A. B. & Mula, I. (2020). Guidelines for Virtual Conferencing - inspired by the COPERNICUS Alliance Online Conference 2019. Bern, Switzerland: CDE and COPERNICUS Alliance. doi: 10.7892/boris.139254
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Wabisabi Learning. (n.d.). Technology Integration: How to Make Great Presentations the Pecha Kucha Way. Retrieved from https://wabisabilearning.com/blogs/technology-integration/how-to-make-great-presentations-with-pecha-kucha