'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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?