Webinars

28/05/2012 § 6 Comments

I had hoped to be able to write up a brief review of a professional development library webinar this semester, but my two attempts to join in on live webinars via ALA and OCLC proved unsuccessful due to technical difficulties on my end. For one webinar, the audio connection was full of static and too grating to listen to. For the other, the audio connection did not work at all, and I was only able to watch the slides advancing without any of the commentary. For both ALA and OCLC’s webinar interfaces, I had spent time before the webinar running the systems’ diagnostics to make sure that my connections and settings were all correct, too.

These technical difficulties aside, I thought I’d still offer a post about professional development webinars and their potential usefulness for library and information science students. I would love to hear from other students about webinars that you have successfully attended and what you learned from them, both content-wise and in terms of the form of instruction delivery.

It may be interesting to hear from students in online programs in comparison to students in traditional, face-to-face programs, too, regarding use of professional development webinars. Is the medium more familiar for online students? Are you encouraged to attend professional development webinars by your programs? Are you required to do so for classes?

Most library professional organizations run their own series of webinars, some requiring registration fees and others free to any interested librarians and students. In addition to the ALA and OCLC, for example, the information sharing resource organization Minitex in Minnesota offers access to webinars for its members such as the NISO series addressing current topics in digital librarianship. Whatever your interests in librarianship, there are sure to be webinars available for you to connect with experts as well as other interested persons.

Here are some things I think library students can get from professional development webinars:

  • supplementing of program curriculum,
  • participation in live discussions of current issues with practicing librarians,
  • networking,
  • learning opportunities without the need to travel (and without the expenses),
  • ease of exploring new topics as well as studying familiar ones in more depth, and
  • a chance to think in more practical terms about library issues.

Some of the downsides include technical difficulties, of course, as well as other types of communications problems. One particular thing that I find frustrating is the wide range of interfaces out there for online webinars. I use a few different kinds at my current job as an editor (including GoToMeeting), and I am familiar with a few of the content management systems for education (Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn) that include modules for virtual communications such as live chats and screen sharing.

One other great thing about webinars is that most organizations that provide them also record and archive them. So, you can also access old webinars. You lose the interactive feature, but you have in its place a wide array of webinars that you can view at times of your own choosing with the option to pause or stop the webinar to return to later.

What are your experiences with professional development webinars? How do they compare to virtual conference sessions, if you have experience with those?

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§ 6 Responses to Webinars

  • Karen Weaver says:

    Most workplaces and organizations are using webinars today and have become pretty mainstream tools these days and yes most often are archived for anyone who had audio problems etc

    You mentioned you recently had technical problems –Did you ask OCLC and ALA if any other people had technical issues like you did ? Usually you can reach people to help you if you ask online / phone / text / chat

    Webinars are a great way for busy LIS professionals today to participate and learn something online and most often at a low cost too.

    Also, It is very important to give yourself time to set it up ahead of start time too and as you mentioned too, most webinars are available for later viewing in an archived format somewhere with a login to registered attendees. These days LIS professionals need to be prepared to engage online across many different platforms-even with frequent technical issues. Why? That is how we (ie libraries) roll today and LIS professionals should not back away from learning opportunities in any format.

    So please do take advantage when you can –to participate– as well as learn something new in the process. (hopefully!) Good Luck !

    Happy Memorial day weekend all
    Karen Weaver

    • Paul Lai says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Karen! In many ways, webinars seem like good testing-grounds or training-grounds for library students and librarians for navigating new interfaces. I certainly feel as if I’ve been tested repeatedly in going through all the steps to set up my computer for each new interface!

      I have been able to participate in some online virtual meetings for librarianship, such as the Library 2.0 conference. I’ll have to sit down soon with my computer to try to figure out why I was having so many difficulties with the audio component lately.

  • I had a positive experience with an ACRL webinar that Joe Murphy gave on Pinterest and Academia. It was offered over Elluminate and seemed to off without any major glitches. Definitely worth my time and money.

    However, I’ve definitely experienced the same frustration with technical difficulties and the endless software choices out there, all of which seem to have limitations. Often the technical difficulties are due to limitations in the host infrastructure or network because a lot of bandwidth and throughput is required for realtime data exchange.

    I have to say though that I’ve been most impressed by the virtual conference presentations I’ve attended. When Michael Stephens (in US) and Warren Cheetham (in AU) presented their Learning 2.0 project, it was like they were in the same room and not on opposite sides of the planet. Pretty amazing stuff.

    • Karen Weaver says:

      San Jose SU program as far as I know..teaches all programs online, including a doctoral program with Queensland -global reach so sure they have to be seamless in some sense. A real challenge is going to be reaching everyone else who may or may not have ever used much technology before. Across the board old and young it varies with interest and also level of comfort and learning styles too. I encourage people to try them out sometimes there is loads of tech but poor content and high fees and vice versa just some thoughts on this….stuff :-) KW

      • Paul Lai says:

        I’m taking a class this fall on technology issues for older adults, focusing on internet use. Should be interesting to explore the current research on digital literacy instruction for people who grew up without computers!

    • Paul Lai says:

      I just saw an announcement for a webinar this evening that will be on the Blackboard Collaborate platform (previously Elluminate) and may check it out just to see if I can get my computer working properly again.

      I wonder if there are public and/or academic libraries that have invested in digital conference rooms. I’ve heard about these rooms in corporate settings that are made especially for video conferencing with people in multiple locations. The room is set up so that it looks like you are sitting at a table with the screens for other people set up to feel like they are around the rest of the table…. Supposedly, it makes for interacting with people a lot more like being in the same room.

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