My first real ‘Webinar’ – The technical Set-Up (Part 2)

I would like to start by saying ‘thank you’ to my students at the TH Karlsruhe from the international program. First of all, they were patient with me and at the same time very open and curious. They were also able to give me a few tips. The guys were really very attentive and super disciplined. It was incredibly fun and I had the feeling that we even became a good team during the 30 hours of seminar – stretched over two weeks, much more than I dared to hope for. It was incredibly important for me to get feedback, including what other teachers do to get the attention of the students. I believe, you can learn from others as well. But there is also a big difference between us contracted teachers who are NOT civil servants or permanently employed. We are evaluated by the students and if we can’t satisfy the students, we are unlikely to get another teaching position. This does not mean, however, that the other teachers, who are civil servants, will not give their best. It’s just that the feedback is there but has not really significant consequences.
The Student course – a super ‘test-balloon’

I thought it was great that I had my course at the TH in Karlsruhe at the ‘right’ time and that it should be designed online. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have had the ambition to create such a course at this moment, if it hadn’t been absolutely necessary. But sometimes you have to be forced to your luck. It was just the right thing to read in, try out different apps and programs and explore the dynamics of a webinar.

The technology and the set-up

Until then, it was quite sufficient for me to have a laptop with an integrated camera. I also have a second large monitor that I work with during the day to protect my eyes. I have worked a lot with Zoom before, but only sometimes shared the screen or used the chat. The breakout-rooms, presenting in parallel, moderating and looking at the faces of my participants – I have never had to do that before. So, I started off with it really clueless (to my later regret). The result was, that after the first day, I was looking for a YouTube tutorial that explained the technical side of it all (link below)

1st advice: If you only use one laptop, try to use an additional monitor as well, if you do Zoom webinars regularly. This is very easy: Press Windows key+P and use expand screen. Keep in mind that from the main screen (you choose yourself whether to use for the main screen the laptop screen or the external monitor) you have to move the mouse to the left to get to the other screen.

In my case it is like this in the end: I have all the participants on the laptop screen and the presentation and chat on the monitor. I have the laptop on a raised surface (laptop pillow, but a few books are enough), so that my neck is not stressed so much. 
But, all of a sudden in the course of the seminar the following happened to me: The second screen was gone. This completely irritated me and I was ‘searching’ for the screen. But it could not be ‘found’. Then I remembered the tutorial
. One tip in it was, that you can also dial in via your mobile phone as a participant to see the user interface of the participants and to be able to instruct them better. That’s what I did then and could see the students’ presentations. But then, accidentally, I moved the cursor on the icon of the zoom program on the lower taskbar and what do you think? There was my missing screen. Some of you will laugh (I did, too) and think: “Man, I could have told her that”. True – but at that moment I really didn’t know what to do but in the end I was proud, that I used the mobile version which worked. Lessons learnt (also for my students): NEVER GIVE UP! There is always a solution.

2nd advice: Always be a good seminar participant via mobile phone, to better understand what the participants see and to be able to direct them better. So you don’t lose any time.

Head-sets/Ear-Phones: What I don’t like is when participants* don’t wear a headset. So there is constant feedback and I hear myself all the time. I either wear a headset or my Sennheiser headphones with noise reduction, so that I can concentrate on the participants*. I don’t like all these background noises, because they are very distracting – especially when you have to manage several fronts at the same time.

3rd advice: Use a headset. A headset with ear plug-ins is uncomfortable in the long run and also qualitatively not so good. I have a foldable Logitech headphone with a microphone, which was very cheap and qualitatively quite passable. It works via USB connection and only needs to be recharged from time to time via a cable. But an extra webcam that you can attach to the monitor is also useful.

Short-cuts: What is also very useful are the shortcuts that can be used in the application when zooming. For example, ALT+A to mute or unmute the microphone, or Alt+V to control the video transmission.   

Light: Also the light should be reasonably well adjusted so that one does not sit in the dark. A reasonable background, preferably a white wall, is the least disturbing.

Virtual Background: Of course you can also use a virtual background, but sometimes it blurs and a student pointed out to me that my fingers sometimes look like they are ‘cut off’ because I often support my language with gestures and I wear silver rings. So I deleted the virtual background and today I only have the white wall. Sometimes the image is distorted in the other and the contours are blurred. Thereupon I deleted the virtual background and today I only have the white wall.

As you can see, there are a lot of details that you should pay attention to. If you still want to share experiences – please give me feedback. I would be very happy. So, today the technical side is finished and next time it’s about the content conception and communicative elements that need to be considered, like clothing, language, posture etc. 

Until next week – stay healthy and see you soon, Waltraud