'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.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
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
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
News
people
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

Nursery Assistants Needed in Ely

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobWe are now rec...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants For Multiple UK Offices

£18000 - £25000 per annum + DOE, OTE £40000: SThree: LONDON - BRISTOL - DUBLIN...

Subject Leader of ICT & Computing

£21588 - £36756 per annum + negotiable: Randstad Education Chelmsford: ICT/Com...

English Teacher - Maternity cover

£110 - £120 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: **...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial