Yesterday evening a threesome of which I was part facilitated a webinar in the frame of the Curriculum Social Media for Learning & Change in which we all participate. Since we had used BigMarker a few times already (as participants, not as facilitators though) we decided to try something else for a change. We came up with a combination of Skype and SynchTube, since we wanted to watch videos together, do two quick polls, have a discussion, share a document and have a chat. With these two tools, all of that was possible.
(please note that SynchTube is now out of use. TogetherTube could be an alternative).
In SynchTubeyou can create a room to watch videos, chat and do polls. You can do this, without having an account! Once you’ve created the room, you can share the link and everyone who gets the link can enter the room. The room looks like this:
On the left hand side you will find the video. On the right hand side there is a space to chat. It is important to first type your name in the box “Enter a name” and then click “Join chat”. Otherwise you will remain “unnamed” as is shown at the top right hand side.
The arrow at the bottom right hand side points to where polls can be added. A poll needs to have at least 2 possible answers. Participants can click on the number in front of the answer of their choice and vote. Everyone can vote only once. The scores are immediately updated. The leader can close the poll and start a new one.
Polls can be created only by the “leader” of the room. Initially, this is the person who created the room, but this person can give others the leaders role by clicking on a name and choosing to make them leader. If you want to remove someone from the room, you can click on their name and choose “kick”.
While you’re watching a video or taking a poll, you can share thoughts in the chat space. In the picture you can see that I managed to name myself and joined the chat. Below the chat space there is a small bar to type your chat contributions.
- You need at least 2, preferably 3, facilitators, even if you work with a small group only. The reason is that you need at least one person that will take care of all tech issues – like mishaps with SynchTube, people who have problems with Skype, etc etc – and one person that will do the actual facilitation of the discussion and work. If people are chatting and talking at the same time, it is practical to have a third person who will bring up issues from the chat into the discussion. So while you can save on time and expenses for travelling by working online, you may need more persons for facilitation than if you would have organised a face-to-face event.
- The tech person should (try to) deal with the tech problems without interfering in the session itself, to the extent this is possible. This means that the tech person may need to set up separate connections (phone, Skype, etc) with people that are experiencing problems, and that way may miss out on some of the content being shared.
- Be prepared for technical problems messing up your session especially at the start of the webinar. Meaning: allow space in the agenda for delays. And: be cool about it if and when it happens. Don’t panic the participants with your own panic!
- Try out the tech tools at least twice yourself and check the possibilities of the tools you’ve chosen to work with. For instance in this case we had originally thought to use GoogleHangout (via Google+). We tried it twice – the first time it worked excellently and the second time it did not work nearly as well without us having a clear clue as to the why. Also, we found out in the nick of time that GoogleHangout allows for maximum 10 people to join at any given time. And as we invited more than 10 participants and could not be sure enough of them would cancel to stay within the limit of 10, we decided to look for another tool that would allow for over 10 participants at the same time.
- Send participants clear instructions beforehand. If you will use a tool that you are not sure they have used before, send them a short guide of the tool. You can make screen shots from your test sessions to visualise certain elements of the tools and insert them in a written text if you cannot find a clear guide online.
- Let participants do some of the thinking before the webinar. In this case, we sent participants a link to a Prezi highlighting some of the questions to be tackled in the webinar as well as a link to an online survey (via FluidSurveys) through which we collected certain information already. We presented the results of the survey during the webinar and used this as a starting point for further exchange.
- Be clear on the order of things: we will start in Skype, then we will share a link to a SynchTube room and we will watch videos there, for instance. Let people know what to expect and give clear instructions: “Now we will go to SynchTube. Don’t forget to enter your name for the chat.”
- Be clear on the rules: once we move to SynchTube, mute your skype to avoid hearing echos. And make sure that everyone does this, too!
- During a Skype discussion, be sure to address certain questions to a specific person, and use their name. In a face-to-face event it is much easier to look at someone while addressing a question to the group. Obviously, this does not work on Skype.
- Be sure to check a chat, if you have any, regularly and refer to remarks made there.
- Create atmosphere in the beginning: do not start rightaway with going from one tool to the next. First establish that everyone is there and make sure that everyone knows what will happen, how and when.