Frequently Asked Questions for Attending an Online Workshop

What is the difference between an online workshop and a face-to-face workshop?
Online workshops share similar features and formats with the On the Cutting Edge face-to-face workshops. Online workshops consist of

  • Keynote presentations by invited speakers
  • Panel presentations by selected workshop participants who have particularly relevant experience to share
  • Small group brainstorming sessions
  • Large group discussions
  • Threaded discussion boards
  • Independent work time

The timing and structure of these sessions is tailored to suit the online experience. There is a small amount of down time between most sessions, and workshop sessions cover 3-4 hours each day. The workshop also spans a weekend. Synchronous sessions are not scheduled during the weekend, but independent work and online discussions are likely to carry through the weekend.

By taking an online workshop, that means I can participate in the workshop while teaching my usual classes, running office hours and grading labs, right?
Unless you are adept at squeezing well more than 24 hours into a day, attending an online workshop while maintaining your usual teaching schedule will simply not work. Participants at past workshops have frequently commented that they failed to realistically estimate how much time it takes to take part in the workshop. To make the most of your workshop experience, plan on dedicating a minimum of 3-4 full hours a day to the online workshop. The specific schedule will be published in advance so you can plan ahead.

What is the format for an online workshop?
Generally the first 2-3 days feature synchronous presentations given by faculty or other experts in the field. Synchronous presentations are interspersed with asynchronous online discussions, small group brainstorming, and independent work time.
After a weekend break, the subsequent 2 days are spent working in small groups and working on your own projects and activities.

Do I have to attend all sessions?
You do not have to attend all sessions, however certain sessions may be required and will be indicated as such on the program page. Key sessions will be recorded and the files will be linked from the workshop program page. That said, it is important to arrange your schedule so you can participate fully. Especially in an online format, missing out on sessions can make you feel disconnected from the workshop experience.

What type of technology is involved?

The workshop will be run using three basic modes of communication.

  • Synchronous sessions will be conducted with the Elluminate platform. This allows for viewing of presentations, interactive chat and a general meeting space.
  • Audio is run through a conference call.
  • Asynchronous sessions are conducted via online discussion boards and with SERC workspace pages, which are editable web pages useful for keeping notes.
Do I need special hardware?
You will need:
  • A computer with a reliable broadband internet connection.
  • A phone line that is available for up to 2 hours at a time. Skype can be used instead of a phone line. Cell phones can also be used as long as the sound quality is good, but you will use up a lot of minutes.
  • A headset is strongly recommended. Holding the phone up to your ear gets tiring and a headset will allow you to talk and type easily. Most headsets also have a mute switch, which is very handy for when you are listening to presentations.

Special instructions for presenters at online workshops

Giving a talk in an online workshop has a different feel compared to a room full of people. The primary difference is that it is difficult to get a feel for feedback from the audience. However, the screen-sharing platform, Elluminate, has several features that will allow you to interact with participants and this can make for a more successful and natural presentation.

You are encouraged to make your presentation interactive and you can ask different types of questions during your presentation. Elluminate has features where audience members can 'raise their hand,' as well as polling features that allow responses to yes/no questions or multiple choice questions. For open-ended queries, there is a chat box for typed-in responses, which will appear in a side panel next to the power point slides. Participants can also draw or type directly on top of the power point slides, post pictures, or share files from their computers. Successful presentations have periodic slides that specifically ask for responses from the audience.

During your talk, participants will type questions and comments into the chat box (which you can monitor if you would like), and one of the workshop conveners will serve as a moderator during your talk. You may opt to leave the questions until the end or respond as they come in, whichever suits you best.

Another practice that helps the online experience feel less distant is to include a photo of yourself on your title slide. That way folks have some sense of who is speaking to them.

The Elluminate platform will project your power point slides. You will have control of the forward and backward buttons to click through your slides. There is a laser pointer feature. Note that animations do not work at all. Instead of animating one slide with several layers, you will need separate slides for each layer or "click." Embedded files such as video and music will not work, but we can post those separately. Be sure to arrange that with the workshop staff ahead of time.

We will host a rehearsal session prior to the workshop so that you can become familiar with the technology and take a test drive through your slides. Your power point file must be uploaded to the workshop website well in advance of your speaking slot. Power point files will be posted on the workshop program page for archiving and reference.