Running a Webinar for Remote Learning and CPD

Audience: Teachers and Leaders
  

Our short guide explains what webinars are; the opportunities and how to use it. This page provides an overview of the technology and is aimed at teachers and leaders considering using it. Whilst there are no expectations for you to do so, if you do decide to use audio and video for real-time online teaching or CPD, we recommend you read this excellent 'Safe Remote Learning Guide'  from SWGfL which outlines some things you might want to consider to help safeguard staff, students and the wider community.


What’s a Webinar?

A webinar is an online meeting or presentation held via the Internet in real-time. To put it simply, it is an online event, which connects individuals with viewers across the Internet.

The main feature of live webinars is interactivity, or the ability to discuss, send and receive information in real-time.

The guidance outlined on this page provides an overview of webinar features, benefits, spheres of usage, etc. We hope this helps you to understand how to deliver an effective webinar.

Features of the webinar
 

  • Sharing video and presentation
  • Chat
  • Whiteboard
  • Polls and surveys
  • Desktop sharing
  • Recording


Advantages of Webinars

Webinars are convenient for both presenters and attendees. This is why the format is becoming more and more popular every year. You can also avoid costs related to venue rental, food and other expenses, which will allow you to charge less for the event and, thus, have more attendees.

Businesses primarily use webinars for training and updating their employees. What is more, many companies have employees scattered all over the country or even globe, so it would only be too expensive to bring them all under one roof.

Webinars make holding conferences and meetings possible at any time and place. Anyone can participate in a webinar without leaving work or just while staying at home! No more headaches concerning venue rental, catering and travel – holding a conference is as easy as several mouse clicks!


Webinars for Remote Learning and CPD

During this unprecedented time of temporary and sustained school closings, educators across the globe are quickly transitioning to remote learning.
As an educator, you can reach a wider audience of students by using webinars as part of your remote learning toolkit. Your students will be able to engage with your webinars from anywhere and you'll be able to stay connected with them. 
 

Safeguarding Learners

Online or offline, effective Safeguarding requires a whole-school approach. Planning for online or distance learning activities should include the school’s safeguarding team as part of the planning process.
 

  • Ensure online tuition follows best practice (e.g. 2 members of staff involved) and is in-line with the School’s Safeguarding Policy.
  • Remind staff of safeguarding obligations. Report any safeguarding incidents or potential concerns according to your school policy.
  • Remind students of who they can contact within the school for help or support.
  • You may consider using webinar services with your students - We would exercise caution here given requirements for accounts, personal data and privacy questions. Equally messaging services may be considered, but equal.
  • Do consider the terms of service together with privacy policies and in particular if there are any minimum age requirements of the chosen service.
  • Consider if the system includes online chat feature, and if this can be moderated.
  • Consider Privacy settings before posting – (e.g. YouTube has a variety of settings (Public, Unlisted, Private, Comments Allowed/Not Allowed) that will determine who can see and comment on the video).
  • If messaging services are used by staff, e.g. WhatsApp, be mindful of professional standards.


You'll find a very good summary of of the most popular Video Chat/Webinar platforms here. Each summary provides guidance regarding privacypersonal data policy statements and how children’s/user data is managed.


Technical Requirements for Delivering a Webinar


Webinar Host

A webinar host should use a computer to run a webinar- not a mobile device. 

Ensure a strong and stable internet connection since you will be broadcasting live. We recommend at least 3 MBPS (2 MBPS as a bare minimum) of upload speed to run a webinar. The faster your internet connection is, the better the webinar quality will be. It is recommended that you go wired, but if you can only connect through Wi-Fi, be sure that your signal is at a 100% and be as close to your router as possible.

Close any program running on your computer that you do not need for your webinar. You will want to avoid them from consuming bandwidth as broadcasting live can be demanding to your internet connection.

Examples : Skype recommends 300 kbps (kilobits per second). It says you need 500 kbps if you want that call in high quality. For HD video, you need at least 1.2 Mbps (Megabits per second).

Zoom requires a minimum bandwidth is 600kbps (up/down) and recommended is 1.5 Mbps (up/down).

The bandwidth required for a webinar depends on a number of things, for example a 1:1 webinar has very different requirements from a webinar with many panellists and attendees. The table below illustrates the bandwidth requirements for the Zoom platform in a range of contexts.
 

For 1:1 Video Calling

Bandwidth Requirements

 

600kbps (up/down) for high quality video

1.2 Mbps (up/down) for 720p HD video

Receiving 1080p HD video requires 1.8 Mbps (up/down)

Sending 1080p HD video requires 1.8 Mbps (up/down)

For group video calling:

800kbps/1.0Mbps (up/down) for high quality video

For gallery view and/or 720p HD video: 1.5Mbps/1.5Mbps (up/down)

Receiving 1080p HD video requires 2.5mbps (up/down)

Sending 1080p HD video requires 3.0 Mbps (up/down)

For screen sharing only (no video thumbnail):

50-75kbps

For screen sharing with  video thumbnail:

50-150kbps

For 1:1 video calling:

600kbps (down) for high quality video and 1.2 Mbps (down) for HD video

For screen sharing only (no video thumbnail):

50-75kbps (down)

For screen sharing with  video thumbnail:

50-150kbps (down)

 

You can measure the speed of your connection using a free service such as SpeedTest.net

https://www.speedtest.net


A Checklist for Webinar Hosts on How You Can Improve Your Webinar Experience 
 

  • Have your computer charger plugged in - running from battery can reduce performance.
  • Use Ethernet instead of WiFi. If not possible, position yourself as close as possible to your router and make sure there are a few as possible devices connected to the same network.
  • Shut down all applications that you do not need for the webinar (especially Skype, FaceTime, and other apps that are heavy on your CPU or can use webcams/microphones).
  • Stop any downloading or streaming.
  • Make sure your browser is up to date and clear your cache.
  • Allow permissions for webcam/ mic when connecting to a webinar.


Webinar Attendees

As for your webinar attendees, we recommend having them use their desktop or laptop computer for a full experience. Nonetheless, a mobile device should work just fine using Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

Attendees should check they can access the webinar in advance of when it is scheduled, this will provide them with time to resolve any issues. You may wish to send attendees a reminder to do this. 

 

What Do You Need for a Webinar?

For attendees, internet access, and an audio headset (headphones, microphone) are vital.

For webinar presenters, it is crucial to have a stable internet connection, a webcam, a headset and a webinar hosting system.

To hold a webinar, you no longer need to install additional software and special equipment. It is enough to have a computer with an internet connection, audio conections, speakers, and a microphone.

Practically all modern computers have the required components out of the box. On top of that, you do not have to possess any special technical knowledge. 


How Does a Webinar Work?

First, you need to schedule the event. It’s easy: just create an account on a webinar platform of your choosing and use the dashboard to set the event’s date, time and duration. You'll need to share the address/meeting ID with your attendees closer to the date the webinar is scheduled.

Then comes the most important phase – planning. This is where you can customize the settings to make a webinar go along with your goals and audience’s expectations.

You can also upload additional materials online to make the information easier for your attendees to engage with. Always double check your webcam, microphone, headset as well as the internet connection before you jump into the event.


Hosting a Webinar

So you sent the invitation link to your attendees, checked that everything was ready and started the event. This is your chance to make a lasting impression on your audience and achieve all your goals.

Communication at live webinars goes like the following: you just talk to the audience while sitting in front of a computer or a tablet. But this is not the whole story.

You need to use interactive tools such as desktop sharing to show slides, tables, keynotes and pictures. This will help visualize the information and make it easier for understanding.

Participants watch, listen, and communicate with one another and with you via chat or a forum.

Make sure you answer all questions and reply to all comments (you could get an associate to to this for you). When necessary, any attendee can be given floor of your webinar. 

If you get hecklers or trolls at your webinar, don't panic. Just mute them or block them. Focus on providing quality content for your audience.

Attendees can exchange questions and answers with the host or one another through chat.  Many platforms provide a transcript of the chat session through the webinar.

It is also possible to record a webinar; this can then be sent to all participants just in case someone was late or missed the online meeting. Please ensure you obtain the permission of all webinar attendees if you are going to use this function.

It is also a good idea to send a quick survey to the attendees so that you know how to improve in the future.

 

Take care of your 'Film Set'

Content is a king; we all know that. But the context is twice as important. If you run an excellent presentation in a dark, shabby and noisy place, no one will pay much attention to what you are saying.

Most participants will probably leave before the presentation is over. The same applies to webinars.
 

What can they see?

Set your camera the way it is going to be set during the webinar. Sit in front of it, preview a short piece and then watch it to check what your viewers will see – in the background and next to you.

Can they see your laundry or washing machine in the background? Your undone bed? A pile of old magazines? Make sure they don’t have to look at any mess.

Don’t sit with your back to a mirror or, in the evening, to the window. Participants will see the reflection of your back, screen and the lights you use for your film set. That can be annoying and distracting.

The best background for your online event will be a white wall, or a bookshelf with neatly organized books, magazines, albums etc.

When your background is ready, take a look at the desk or table you will be sitting at.

Remove empty coffee mugs, photos of your family, and any small objects that you could start unconsciously playing with. The fewer things within reach of your hand and participants’ sight – the better.

What can they hear?

What your audience can see is one thing. What they can hear is the other. Don’t let them get distracted by any unwanted noise during your webinar. Close the windows and make sure your home appliances are off.

If your family is next door, let them know beforehand, you are going to run an online event. Ask them to be quiet and not to enter the room while you are hosting the meeting.

Turn off any notifications from applications on your computer and smartphone. The sounds should not draw users’ attention.

Make sure there are no technical surprises

This is a fundamental issue. No matter how much effort you put into analyzing users’ needs and problems to be solved or how beautiful your slides are. If there are technical problems during your webinar, they can completely ruin it. As a result, your attendees can get irritated, leave the webinar room and never come back again. Can you afford it?

No!  That is why, before you start presenting, make sure all technicalities are taken care of. What should you pay special attention to?

Video

Don’t rely on the built-in laptop camera (If you can). Consider getting a good webcam to ensure top quality of your broadcast.

Attach the camera to the monitor you are going to use during the webinar. Make sure it is at the eye level, so you look straight into the camera during the event and “keep eye contact” with your audience. If you don’t have an external camera, place your laptop on a laptop stand.

Remember to turn your camera on before you start and make sure your webinar application/service detects it.


Good lighting

When running an online event, artificial light is much better than the natural one. If you have professional lamps, it will be a good idea to use them. If not, two desk lamps will do. Place them behind your camera, one on the left and the other on the right side.

Make sure there isn’t any window behind you. Because of the contrast, attendees will see a dark figure with a difficult-to-recognize face on a very light background.


Audio

Don’t use the built-in speakers and microphone at the same time as it can cause unwanted distortions. If you host your webinar on your own, it’s a good idea to use headphones. If you have a co-presenter sitting next to you, consider using an external microphone, placed away from the computer and speakers.


Internet connection

We keep repeating this – to host a successful webinar, you need a webinar platform and stable Internet connection. Make sure you are connected to the Internet before you start your online event. Check its speed to ensure your webinar platform will work properly.

This also applies to all your attendees!
 

Tips to Deal with ‘Technical Problems During Your Webinar
 

Dealing with technical problems during a webinar can be a very frustrating experience. Sometimes technical problems can be prevented by your or your team. However, very often factors out of your control can cause technical issues that can be difficult to deal with. In any situation, it is important to properly deal with technical problems in a webinar. After all, if you don’t get the issues sorted quickly you could lose your audience.

Unfortunately, even with the best planning, some things can go wrong. The following section outlines 5 tips on how to deal with technical problems during your webinar.


1. Stay Calm, Don’t Panic

Sometimes what seems to be a major technical problem during the webinar may just be a minor hiccup. So don’t panic because panicking will probably just make the technical problems even worse. Sometimes it is best just to take a deep breath and think rationally about the cause of the problem.

It is also important to communicate well with your audience. So, let them know you’re having some technical difficulties.

More likely than not, if only a handful of attendees are facing the problem, it is an issue with their computer, internet connection.
 

2. Use an Assistant

Assistants are invaluable when it comes to sorting out technical problems during a webinar. I

If technical issues come up during the webinar the assistant can communicate with the attendees or with the webinar software helpline. This means that, if possible, you can continue to present your material while your assistant deals with the problem.

Even if you have had to pause the presentation for a short while, the fact that your assistant dealt with the technical problem means that you will be more focused when you continue.
 

3. Have a Contingency Plan

One of the most important areas of planning a webinar is to have a secure contingency plan for every eventuality. This plan will help you know exactly what to do in the event of a problem.

For example, what should you do if:

  • the audio goes down
  • the internet goes down
  • your computer crashes
  • a guest speaker can’t connect
     

A loss of audio is usually caused by someone hitting the mute button by mistake. So, if your audience can’t hear you, make sure that your microphone isn’t on mute or that the other person has switched off the sound. Sometimes, audio problems can be caused by a poor internet connection, so you or the attendee may have to switch to a better internet connection.

If there is no audio at all, you can try using the chat system until the situation gets resolved.

Part of your contingency plan could be to have a relaxing picture to show while you take some time out to resolve the technical problem. Once the issue is resolved, make sure that everyone is back before resuming the presentation.
 

4. Internet Problems During the Webinar

One of the most common reasons for technical problems during your webinar is internet connection issues. This can cause problems with slides not moving, audio breaking up, or complete loss of the connection. How can you resolve problems with an internet connection during your webinar?

Always make sure that your computer is connected to the internet via an Ethernet cable. This provides a much more stable connection and is faster than a Wi-Fi connection. If you lose the connection, your assistant should contact your company’s IT department to see if it is a problem on your side. If not, then check with the webinar software helpline to ask them to investigate if everything is ok with their server.

Most smartphones have a data connection that can connect to a 3G or 4G network. So, you can turn your phone into a mobile hotspot and use that connection (make sure you are aware of the possible mobile data charges you may incur). Your webinar software may allow for you to connect to a telephone landline. However, you should know beforehand exactly how to do that.
 

5. Computer Problems

Computers have the unfortunate habit of crashing at the very worst possible time. To avoid this, always have a backup computer which can be brought online in case your main computer freezes or crashes.

If for some reason you can’t get slides to work properly, it helps if you have a printout of all your slides. That way you can continue your presentation without any break.

If some of your audience can’t see any of the presentation, ask them to try watching the webinar in another internet browser. 
 

6. Apologise and Move On

Usually, once the problem is sorted out, it’s enough to apologize and move on. Depending on the disruption caused, you could offer some sort of compensation (maybe attending another scheduled webinar) or you could send them a link to the recording of the complete webinar.
 

7. Practice, Practice and Practice!

To avoid having to deal with technical problems during your webinar, also have a practice run beforehand and try dealing with mock technical problems so that you know exactly what to do in your presentation