Last year I wrote a short article about my first experiences using this tool for role-play meetings in an Intercultural Communication course. Since then Prof. Anna Nabirukhina (FINEC, St.Petersburg/RU) and I have conducted student online-seminars which is the subject I’d like to address here.
To begin with, as Caroline Cornelius mentions in her review of the Adobe Connect Pro tool „Moderating, discussion and presentation in Adobe Connect™” (pdf available online), the first and never-ending question is “Can you hear me?” For the average user (= member of teaching staff, technically interested but non-professional user of web 2.0 tools), it is important to know that every single online session will present a technical challenge until all parties have their headphones and webcams set to the best possible mode. So, if you can have some technical support for the first couple of sessions, this would be ideal – at least until you can live with these challenges and think you can manage them reasonably well yourself (don’t expect perfection; learn to live with mild mishaps!).
But, let’s set the technical issues aside for now because the two studentonline-seminars we conducted in May of this year were a great success! We organized three short (about 10-12 minutes each) presentations for each of the two sessions. As the kick-off for both days, we introduced one of our universities in pictures to all of the participant viewers and then began with our agenda.
An introduction to HWR Berlin/Department of Business and Economics
- Marketing in Russia ( Nastya, St. Petersburg)
- Effective Intercultural Listening (Jenny&Andreas, Berlin)
- Marketing and Advertising across Cultures (Viktor, Sofia)
All in all, each session lasted about 45-50 minutes and we felt this was perfect. Since we were experimenting with the tool and knew we couldn’t require it from all students, our motivation carrot was a written certificate which I promised (and delivered) to the six student volunteer presenters. My HWR students then gave an additional training session on their topic in the face2face classroom later in the semester.
Why use a tool like Adobe for online-seminars? To begin with, NOT to replace live public speaking practice! But presenting effectively without a live audience IS a skill which many people in business will need to perfect at some point. Companies conduct meetings and offer short training sessions using web-conferencing tools like Adobe, so why not start now and learn the basics through trial and error (w/o risking your own or your company’s reputation)?
Assuming that anyone interested in using this tool will have watched at least one youtube tutorial or have participated in a HWR tutorial, here are a few additional tips for facilitators:
- Start short and simple. Decide on a theme/topic and make sure the introduction (host can be facilitator or student) is clear to all participants.
- Prep the speakers, making sure they have thought about
a) visuals – use power-point and/or whiteboard to visualize your talk
b) pausing – pause and check for audience understanding more often than if the talk was in front of a face2face audience
c) voice quality – even if you are teaching a subject rather than a communication skills course, the quality (intonation, diction, pace, etc.) of your voice is very important when using web-conferencing.
d) interest level – as far as possible, be sure to offer a subject that will interest and challenge the audience. Don’t tell them what they already know!
- Prep the audience. Participants can ask questions/make comments by using the text chat. Encourage participants and speakers to watch an introduction to this tool such as one on youtube, or show it in class and handle questions BEFORE the online sessions.
- Remember to record the session so that you (and students who could not attend) are able to review it again. For the speakers themselves, the recording is a great feature. How often do you really have the opportunity to hear yourself again, without an audience?
Finally, you may have some students (as I did this past semester) who have to miss class because of internship commitments (IBMAN). By having them prepare and participate in a online-seminar, everyone can benefit and still satisfy academic requirements.
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