webcasting, realtime voice interactions

Prior to beginning this study intio online voice tools, I had quite some experience in realtime voice interactions, typically using the Instant Messengers like Yahoo and ICQ, or simple voice chat rooms like Paltalk and Wimba Voice Direct. Observing people like Matt Wasowski in action with HorizonLive, and Jonathan Finkelstein with Elluminate, enticed me to look much further into the phenomenon of webcasting. Webcasting involves presenting to and communicating with (teaching) a group of people online who are all logged into a virtual classroom space at the same time (ie synchronous interaction). In a typical webcasting environment all participants can communicate with text or voice, and share the same graphic or visual materials. Webcasts are the closest approximation to class room teaching found online, and hence can be used to reinforce the teacher-led paradigm where essentially the teacher does most of the teaching.

Experienced webcasters however know that this will not work. In a voice-based webcasting environment the lecturer is presenting to an unseen audience who cannot see you. Some webcasting tools (virtual classrooms) do house and encourage the use of webcam or video to complement the audio feed, but I was conscious throughout this project of wanting only to highlight tools that can be adequately used via dial-up connections (how most of the world will experience the Internet for a good many years yet), and my experience of tools like HorizonLive and Elluminate tells me that video is not necessary, and may in fact be just one more unnecessary distraction.

The unseen audience of the webcaster may be sitting at a PC with a host of possible distractions at their fingertips, and the presenter needs a specific set of skills and strategies to engage and maintain the focus of their participants.

What are these skills/strategies?

  • Greet participants as they join your session and assign them privileges.
  • Speak clearly and don't rush.
  • Ask questions and provide opportunities for interaction by polling the class at various intervals to get their feedback.
  • Animate delivery.
  • Look at the whole screen, not just the whiteboard area.
  • Encourage participants to respond and raise their hand when they have a question or comment.
  • Use the whiteboard to help with your delivery. For example, use the highlighter to call attention to specific regions on the screen.
  • Include features, such as application sharing, Web push, and breakout rooms, to help deliver content.
  • make it personable, develop a sense of community
  • get photos of participants beforehand and post a webpage for viewing during the presentation
  • facilitate group discussion
  • create opportunities for one-one interaction
  • co-presenting
  • do something interactive every 3-4 minutes of a live presentation
    presenter should not be afraid to demand attention. (This is an interesting point as it as often the case in online sessions that participants chat among themselves and can wander off topic, and may indeed be multi-tasking away in other windows away from the presentation.) While this freedom to 'wander' is not to be stifled in my opinion, presenters obviously have the right to call people to attention. One way of doing this is to:
  • direct questions to individuals (cold calling)


role of radio


classroom of the future

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