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Remote learning: Learning in online lectures

“This makes learning in real time on the computer very similar to going to class. Students can hear, and sometimes see, the professor talk; view charts and graphics; and ask questions and participate in discussions with classmates during the class time."

Leslie Bowman, Online Learning: A User-Friendly Approach for High School and College Students

With a lot of teaching now taking place using online webinars, this page hopes to help you make the most of this form of instruction and collaboration.

Getting your device ready

Whenever you are taking part in an online lecture/seminar or webinar, it is important you get your device ready beforehand.

You may have to download specific software, so check any information you have been sent and do this in good time. If you are intending to join on a mobile device you may need to go to your app store to do this.

Check the instructions you were given to join, does it include a link to somewhere you can test your device? If so, this will allow you to check you can hear and see everything OK well before you have to do it for real.

At the very least you will need to be able to hear your tutor, so make sure the device you are using has speakers or that you can attach headphones. Check these are enabled and you have not muted them.

Whilst it is often possible to follow a webinar on your phone, you may find it harder to type into chat windows - so if you can get access to a laptop or a tablet this may be the time to ask. If you cannot, don't worry, you can at least follow along.

If you use an online calendar, add the webinar as an event and put the link you are sent into the location or the notes section. That way you are not scrabbling around looking back in your email inbox to find it when you need it.

What is expected of you in a webinar?

Webinars can be divided up into two types: those where you can talk (and perhaps share video via your webcam) and those where you can't. 

Webinars where you can talk

hands up iconIn smaller group webinars, you may be given the option to enable your microphone and webcam and therefore be able to participate verbally. Some platforms have a hands up button that you can click on to show that you would like to contribute and whoever is hosting the session can give you the 'floor'. This is often needed in medium-sized groups to prevent people talking over each other.

Even in these webinars you can also participate by typing into chat windows. These are the place to ask questions, share short thoughts and often links to web pages and documents. They are not automatically opened by some platforms - so look for the word 'chat' or an icon of a speech bubble or something similar.

Webinars where you cannot talk

chat iconFor larger webinars, it becomes unwieldy if everyone has the ability to participate verbally and therefore this option may not be available. If this is the case, then your main way of contributing is via a chat window. As mentioned above, some platforms do not automatically display their chat windows so look out for the word 'chat' or an icon of a speech bubble or something similar.

The presenter may ask you for answers to particular questions which you need to type into the chat window, or you may want to use it to ask questions of the presenter.

Another feature of larger webinars where you cannot talk may be polls. If the presenter wants to gauge opinion on something they could ask you to vote in a poll. These are usually anonymous.

Getting the most from a webinar

Participate: It seems obvious but the whole point of a webinar rather than a lecture recording is that you can get involved. So ask and answer questions and speak if you can.

Prepare: Make sure you do any pre-reading. Even if you are not given anything specific, it may be worth checking reading lists or going online to see what you can find out about the topic.

Wait: There is often a time-lag or the presenter may be concentrating on something else, so if you ask a question in the chat window don't worry if there is a slight delay in it being answered. Also, if you are in a webinar where you can talk, try to wait until someone else has finished speaking before you do.

Watch back: Many webinars are recorded meaning you can watch them again. This can be a better time for taking notes as you are not being required to participate.

Take notes: As mentioned above, this can be easiest when you are looking back at a recording of the webinar. However, there may well be times during a presentation when you can treat it like a normal lecture and take notes. See our Notetaking Skillsguide for tips.

Creative Commons License  The Remote learning SkillsGuide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. See embedded YouTube resources for their terms of distribution.