'Webinar' method of learning could change the university experience for ever

Through your headphones it sounds like you're hearing the world think. Disembodied voices with accents spanning continents discuss with the intimacy of a late-night radio talk show each crystal-clear photograph that slides across the screens of our laptops on opposite sides of the world.

This is a webinar, and the delays to it caused by dodgy broadband here or there seem to add to our sense of togetherness rather than detract from it, whether we are in an office in Haiti, a tent in Darfur or lying on a bed in Oxford.

Webinars are, unsurprisingly, web-based seminars that began as one-way webcasts and have now evolved into interactive online conferences. Some may have as many as 1,000 people participating in them. And while those at the back of a classroom can never see, in a webinar everyone has a perfect view – and can see everyone else's annotations. What is more, each webinar can be recorded, and watched again.

Judging from the number of "how to run a knockout webinar" videos on YouTube, I am not the only convert. "Over the past 18 months to two years there has been a huge jump in the popularity of webinars," says James Robertson of webinar specialists World Trade Group. "In 2007 we had 2,300 people registered to attend about 10 webinars and three years later this had rocketed up to more than 10,000 people registered for more than 140."

He believes that this is due to "a vast improvement in webinar technology, allowing audiences to join easily and quickly from almost any location in the world, together with improvements in reliability and tools allowing for interaction". Hosts also have access to mute buttons and "hands-up" functions to mirror the way a group leader could call on individuals to answer questions or express their own ideas.

"The days of webinars being a 60min sales pitch are behind us and now people (at least in the business world) are finding real value in attending these sessions," he adds.

Paul Lowe is one of a handful of people pioneering the use of webinars in education in the UK. As a course director at the London College of Communication, he placed webinars right at the heart of his online MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, and has seen them spread around the rest of the college.

"We realised that webinars were the perfect solution for people who wanted to study photography at a higher level but stay where they were living and working, and for whom the traditional to-and-fro emails of a typical distance-learning course lacked the immediacy they wanted."

Lectures, seminars and tutorials for the students on the course now all occur online in real time, while the students stay at homes or their office.

"It takes students and guest tutors a few minutes to get their heads round the idea before they are hooked," Lowe says. "Their shared interest in photography very quickly helps them develop a real sense that that they are part of a group exploring issues together, and the power of the collective experience of overcoming technical hitches just reinforces the bonds between them."

There may be worries as to how employers see such virtual courses; however, Paul Lowe believes that webinars also have a future at undergraduate level. "What's the point in getting everyone into campus for just one tutorial, when they can stay at home and attend online?"

It looks as though students will soon have another reason not to get out of bed.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Retail Lecturer / Assessor / Tutor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Business Studies Tutor / Assessor / Lecturer - Tollerton

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Year 1 Teacher

£12 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education require a year ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on