Webinars have become more common and better attended since March 2020. Even as class activities have returned to normal, the online workshops remain a great way to teach school staff new skills and to connect with students and families.
Laurie Guyon, coordinator for Model Schools at Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES, has hosted more than 400 webinars since the pandemic began. For these and other educational efforts over the last two-plus years, she was recently awarded Best Overall Implementation of Technology during Tech & Learning’s Innovative Leadership Awards at Tech & Learning’s Boston Leadership Summit.
Here are Guyon’s top tips for hosting webinars.
1. Make School Webinars Interactive
Whether you’re conducting an in-person workshop or webinar, you always want to interact with your audience, Guyon says. Online, that interaction may look different but it’s no less vital. “It’s a little less conversational at times, especially if you have a large group, but you still want to make sure you're gathering feedback as often as you can,” Guyon says. “I prefer to use a platform like a Nearpod, where every couple of slides I can do a check-in type of activity to get the audience to participate and give me feedback about how much they're understanding, what questions they have, where we need to go next.”
This model has been far more successful for Guyon than having attendees passively listen to her for an hour or two. “It’s much better to have that interaction that happens on a regular basis,” she says.
Guyon likes to start each webinar by asking participants what they know about a topic and questions they have, and then regularly provides time for formative assessments going forward.
2. Let Webinar Participants Get Hands-On Practice
In addition to interacting with participants through questions and answers, Guyon says it is also key to give them a chance to practice the skills discussed in the webinar. “If you're teaching training, let's say on how to use a tech tool, you want them to actually get some hands-on experience using it, not just watching you use the tech tool,” Guyon says.
This means incorporating pauses in the planning of the webinar, using apps to help participants show their work, and incorporating as many active learning strategies as possible. After giving participants some time to create something using a new tool, Guyon will ask them to share what they’ve done. “I find that model to work pretty well,” she says.
3. Use Webinars in Conjunction With Other Training Tools
Webinars are one way to connect with staff and parents online, however, remember these are not the only tool in your toolkit. In addition to webinars, Guyon has created more than a dozen self-paced training courses for staff. “We found that webinars are great, but they're not always convenient as far as time goes,” Guyon says.
While teachers might watch a recording later, that isn’t ideal. “If they're watching afterward, they're a passive watcher. You're consuming versus creating. And we want that creation piece for them to be engaged,” Guyon says.
To create these courses, consider using tools such as Google Slides or your school’s LMS, she says. As with the webinars, it is important to make sure these self-paced trainings provide hands-on practice. “The final product for them to showcase that they actually went through the course is usually to create something they can use in their classroom,” Guon says.
4. Use Webinars to Connect With Staff and Parents
Prior to 2020, Guyon would host occasional webinars but there were often technical hurdles for participants. “You'd spend so much time helping the participants understand how to use Google Meet or Zoom,” she says. “Now people are pretty comfortable no matter what the platform is.” The convenience of not having to leave the house to participate is also appealing for many.
Even when she uses a supporting app during a webinar to solicit feedback, many participants are comfortable with that specific app or that type of technology. This means webinars are an increasingly valuable way for Guyon to teach educators about new tech tools and connect with parents as well. One recent webinar she hosted was aimed at parents and was about keeping students learning all summer. “We’re starting to see that parents are more engaged online, in this webinar world, as well,” she says.