Over the past few months, the museum has dipped its toes into the wild world of webinars (presentations given over the Internet, in live time). Given the cost of traveling for professional development, it’s no surprise that we’ve all taken webinars before, but now, we’re running webinars for others.
After spending a year teaching in the classroom, I knew some cues for seeing if my students were engaged. Were they volunteering to participate? Did they ask for clarifications? Were their eyes on me or out the window? With a webinar, teaching feels very different.
So I was very intrigued when a colleague distributed a report from the U.S. Department of Education about online learning studies. A main finding was that very few studies exist that compare in-person and online learning, so sweeping generalizations about the field of online learning couldn’t be made, but I think that there are still some interesting findings and ideas to consider.
There was one part that felt like something I should have realized before: the format of online learning can inspire students to do more investigating on his or her own. Of course! If you are taking the class online, why wouldn’t you click on the link your teacher sent you as “optional reading” or Google the word you didn’t recognize.
I hope that our webinar participants are getting a lot from our sessions. Right now, we’re doing simple tours and Question/Answer sessions on our Smithsonian’s History Explorer site, so I hope they tag our sites as “Favorite Place” or in “Del.icio.us.” I hope they spend 15 minutes looking at our sources after we close the webinar session, and fall in love with something we’ve posted.
What makes online learning worthwhile for you? Or what’s your webinar “pet-peeve?” If you’ve run a webinar, please, what are your tips and tricks for a newcomer? And if you’re interested in participating in an upcoming webinar, feel free to e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you register.
Jenny Wei is an education specialist at the National Museum of American History.