Webinar Design Tips

Information on this page was derived from an NAGT webinar presented by Sean Tvelia, Suffolk County Community College, in January 2020 as well as workshop design best practices developed by On the Cutting Edge.

Whether you are new to presenting in a webinar format or experienced and seeking tips or best practices, the following strategies and approaches will be helpful as you develop your webinar presentation.

Preparing for Your Webinar

Like any good workshop, an effective webinar takes planning well in advance of the event. Planning the webinar with considerable lead time ensures that:

  • presenters have ample time to develop webinar goals and content,
  • presenters have time to develop engagement strategies and familiarize themselves with related tools,
  • hosts have time to promote the webinar to a broad audience, and
  • participants have time to prepare if there is pre-work for the webinar.

NAGT's On the Cutting Edge Program Webinar Series uses the following timeline for designing and planning a webinar. This represents an ideal timeline, and many webinars have been organized over longer and shorter timescales. Make sure that everyone involved is familiar with the timeline and related expectations.

Promoting Your Webinar

Choosing a Title and Developing a Descriptive Webpage

Webinar titles can be used as a hook to entice participants to want to learn more about and potentially attend your webinar. Choose an engaging title that captures interest and also succinctly describes your webinar topic. Once you have an effective title, spend some time thinking about your description and goals - what will you be talking about; what do you want participants to take away from your webinar? The webinar goals should be measurable - that is, can participants evaluate if the webinar did or did not meet that goal?

You may also want to think about if there is any preparatory work or resources you want to provide on your webinar web page that participants engage with before the event.

At least one month before the webinar, you should have the following information available and posted to a public webpage:

  • Engaging, descriptive webinar title
  • Presenter name(s) and affiliation(s)
  • Summary or short description (75-100 words)
  • Webinar goals (3-4)
  • Relevant image for the webpage with appropriate provenance and reuse information (optional)
  • Resources (optional and can be posted after webinar, at the same time as the webinar recording)

Marketing the Event

It can be much easier to lead a successful webinar when you have a large group of actively engaged participants. Posting a description of your webinar alone does not guarantee that people will find or register for your webinar. By broadcasting information about your webinar to a large audience, you increase the likelihood of having a robust, diverse, and interested set of participants.

  • Engage with professional societies. Are you a member of professional societies and organizations? Many have mechanisms or venues for sharing and advertising news and events. Consider whether there are specific sections and divisions you might draw from and consider contacting their leaders.
  • Communicate with your personal and professional networks. Take advantage of the connections you have already made in your department, program, university, or community.

  • Use social media to reach a wider audience. Social networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are powerful tools for spreading information.

Designing Your Webinar

The design philosophy of NAGT On the Cutting Edge Program webinars is modeled after that of On the Cutting Edge workshops. Think of your webinar as a well designed lesson
 and make use of the principles of backwards design. Ask yourself:

  • What are the goals for the webinar?
  • How will you assess if the participants successfully met your goals?
  • What activities will allow you to achieve your goals for the webinar?

General Design

NAGT On the Cutting Edge Program webinars are typically 60 minutes in length. Within that time frame, it is important to carefully balance your speaking with participant engagement. Plan for: 40-45 minutes of presenting, 10 minutes of discussion, and 5 minutes for wrap-up and evaluation. An effective webinar program will use the following framework and potentially repeat it multiple times over the course of the webinar:

  1. Engage. Try to engage your participants from the very start. Throughout the webinar maximize potential participant activities.
  2. Learn. Once engaged, provide participants with relevant materials and explanation based on the stated objective(s) of the webinar.
  3. Reflect/Apply. After learning new content, give time for participants to reflect on the presented material and potentially apply it to their own goals for attending.

Best Practices from On the Cutting Edge

The following practices for workshop design and delivery developed through On the Cutting Edge workshops are also highly effective when adapted to online settings.

  • Engage participants actively during the webinar. Nothing is deadlier or less effective than a webinar where participants do not participate. Give people an opportunity to participate actively in every session using a variety of techniques.
  • Model effective pedagogy. The most successful webinars are those taught with good pedagogy in mind and the least successful sessions are those where a presenter simply talks or reads from a slide. 
  • Emphasize practical applications. An emphasis on practical applications and strategies is an important aspect of effecting change in teaching practice. 
  • Give participants time to interact and share experience/knowledge. Participants bring valuable experience and ideas to webinars. Structured mechanisms for sharing experience and expertise must be an integral part of every webinar program. 
  • Provide materials and examples. Examples of how the webinar topics can be applied in the classroom and field have been particularly valuable resources for participants. 
  • Give participants time to reflect and to make progress on adapting webinar content to their own needs. Time to work individually during the webinar allows participants to reflect and make progress on adapting webinar content to their own needs.  
  • Make sure that participants leave the webinar with specific plans for future action. Webinars can produce a wide variety of results ranging from changes in teaching practice and development of new learning resources to departmental-level planning and community-wide action. Webinar time devoted to planning next steps and feedback from peers is critical. 

Tools for Engaging Your Participants

Videoconferencing Software

NAGT's On the Cutting Edge Program uses Zoom videoconferencing software for webinars and online workshops. While there are many other platforms for video conferencing available, Zoom is easy to use, has many built-in engagement tools, and is relatively ubiquitous in academia, making it a good choice for interactive webinars.

There are a number of tools available to the participants of your webinar within the Zoom interface:

  • "Raise hand", "Yes/No", and "Reactions" provide a way for the audience to respond and interact that is temporary, does not require typing into the chat, and can be counted.
  • Polling: allows you to pose multiple answer or yes-no questions to the audience and receive real-time responses during the webinar. Questions styles include multiple choice and single choice. Responses can be shared with the audience. 
  • Chat: allows participants to ask the presenter (you) questions and also discuss topics with each other. This allows for conversation without having people have to talk via the audio.
  • Whiteboard: allows participants and hosts to write, annotate, and draw on a collaborative document in the Zoom meeting. Whiteboard documents can be saved.  
  • Breakout rooms: provide venues for small group activities, sharing, and collaboration. Use breakout rooms to take advantage of engaging pedagogies like think-pair-share or jigsaws.

Webpage

Use the webinar webpage as a lasting record about your event. This allows people who were not able to attend the webinar to benefit from the content. Ways to use the webpage include:

  • Make a recording of the webinar available to the general public
  • Post presentation slides before (so that participants can follow along) or after the webinar
  • Aggregate resources, references, and documents referenced in-webinar or contributed by participants

External Tools

External tools may be helpful, but use with caution -- online tools may not scale easily and can introduce confusion or frustration into your program. Here are a few tools that have been used successfully:

  • Polling/quizzing tools: Poll Everywhere, Kahoot!
  • Whiteboard tools: Jamboard, Padlet, Miro, MURAL
  • Collaborative document tools: Google Docs, Google Slides, Serckit workspaces

Related Resources


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