Webinars – Bringing in the experts

"Philippe Legrain webinar" by John Fitzgibbon. All rights reserved.
“Philippe Legrain webinar” by John Fitzgibbon. All rights reserved.


Dr. John Fitzgibbon, a senior lecture in politics at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU), has recently posted about his year long experience of running webinars as part of his teaching practice in political science.

What is a webinar?

A webinar is a live meeting that takes place over the web. It can consist of presentation, discussion, demonstration, or instructional session. Participants can view documents and applications via their computers, while shared audio allows for presentation and discussion.

Webinars can be an efficient way to transmit and share information. There is no transportation involved – so webinars can save time and money.

Using webinars for learning and teaching

JISC Digital Media offers some very sound advice on conducting a webinar, and suggest that webinars can be used for learning and teaching in the following ways (JISC, 2015):

  • Enhancement of limited teaching time by offering provision to a wider and more dispersed audience;
  • A flexible feature set that incorporates mixed media such as images, video, web and audio for use in presentation, discussion or support;
  • Supports remote teaching sessions;
  • Improves access to support for staff, students or your learning community via face-to-face settings (e.g. ‘drop-in’ or scheduled appointments);
  • Facilitates individual or group activity.
Dr. John Fitzgibbon, Senior Lecture in Politics
Dr. John Fitzgibbon, Senior Lecture in Politics

John’s experience

John tried out two forms of webinar, one that was hosted and organised by an external partner, and the other one was hosted and organised by John.

The external partner brought a wealth of experience in terms of the technology and their contacts and was able to edit and piece together the webinar to make a coherent narrative. As John notes, it “takes both time and technical training which most educators simply don’t have, to make the videos look somewhat professional” (Fitzgibbon, 2015). However, there is the potential drawback that your pedagogical goals for the class may not necessarily align with those of the external partner, which may lead to a lack of class interaction and control on the teacher’s part.

In the webinar organised and hosted by John, he used a combination of conference cam and Skype to deliver his session – the class were able to hear and see the main speaker with clarity. In this way, John was in total control of the topic of discussion and students had an opportunity to speak and ask questions of the webinar speaker, thus giving students access to experts in particular fields of scholarship and inquiry and ask questions on deeply complex contemporary issues.

What next?

Whilst John had used an external partner and Skype to run his webinar sessions, the University has software called Blackboard Collaborate which could be used to run webinars.

You can use Blackboard Collaborate, a tool integrated into Blackboard, to easily create your own webinars. If you would like to know more, contact your Faculty Learning Technologist and arrange for a chat.


Fitzgibbon, J. (2015). “Using Webinars in Political Science Education”. Politics & International Relations blog, 13.2.2015. Available at: https://canterburypolitics.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/using-webinars-in-political-science-education/ [Accessed 28.4.2015].

JISC. (2015). Webinars in Education. Bristol, England: Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Available at: http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/guide/webinars-in-education [Accessed 28.4.2015].


Screencast Away!

"Moon Light Screening" by mic wernej. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND
Moon Light Screening” by mic wernej. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND

A screencast is a narrated video recording of whatever you choose to play or display on your computer screen and saved as a short, bite-sized clip for students to play and replay in their own time, in any place and at their own pace.

Screencasts are an effective way of visually demonstrating a process or an abstract concept for students to access as many times as they need. They provide an alternative method of instruction, giving variety to learning resources. They can also encourage self-directed learning, allowing students to take more responsibility and ownership of their studies.

Dr Craig Smith, Lecturer in the School of Media, Art and Design here at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) has been using screencasts in one of his modules using Screen Recorder Pro on a Macintosh PC. I asked him some questions about his experience.

Dr Craig Smith
Dr Craig Smith, Lecturer in Digital Media

How have you been using screencasts?
I have created a series of short screencasts to explain and demonstrate specific examples of web design code and put them on the module Blackboard for my students to view any time they want.

Has it been a time-consuming exercise?
Not really, I had a lot of the material already which I adapted for the purpose.

Has it saved time?
In the medium and long-term, yes. If my students are having difficulty and it’s applicable, I can refer them to the video clips. This has saved me repeating instructions over and again, allowing me to concentrate on other topics or students in class. Now I have created these clips, they are there and will remain relevant for at least 18 months.

Do you know how many students are viewing them?
Yes, using Blackboard’s Statistics Tracking on the Content folder in which the clips are located and by survey, I have a good idea of whether they are being used. Approximately 40% of my students have accessed them.

What do your students think of the video clips?
They have mostly found them helpful. There is a perception that the lecturer has taken the time to create specific content for them.

Here is some of their feedback:

“It was surprisingly easy to learn from a video tutorial and they are all in a good quality so I could stop or go back in a video which is really useful too”

“They were incredibly useful, I used them to get a better understanding of the more complex aspects of the HTML and CSS which helped me to complete my assessments on time. If more were to be added I would use them again…”

Screencast Icon
Screencast Icon

How have they helped your teaching?
They have been really useful for students who have missed a session and for students who need instructions repeated. They can do this whenever they need to and wherever they are. They can view the clips as many times as they want to reinforce what has been learnt. The video clips focus on just one aspect of what I am teaching and students have found them a really accessible way of learning. It’s important to cater for students who respond to visual forms of media.

Do you envisage creating more screencasts?
I can see them being very useful for other software mini-tutorials such as Photoshop. The visual element really appeals to students, some of whom respond better to this type of resource than to lengthy written material.

How would you sum your experience of using screencasts?
It’s a useful supplemental tool that aids the lecturer and student. It’s never intended to replace classroom teaching, instead it’s a convenient learning tool that some students really benefit from.

You can use Kaltura, a tool integrated into Blackboard, to easily create your own screencasts. If you would like to know more, contact your Faculty Learning Technologist, or sign up for a Kaltura session at the Blackboard Festival.