Webinars are a very easy way to receive professional development training from anywhere. Many of these, especially from publishers, are free. Of course, a free webinar is generally a pitch for a new course book or some other teaching related product, but that is not to say that there is nothing of value to be taken away from them. Indeed there often is.
As well as being free, many are often recorded and made available online to be watched after the fact. Of course this does mean you miss the opportunity to take part, but nevertheless, you still get to see the presenter talk about the issue, which may be enough to get the key points, or a useful reminder if you took part live.
The webinar organisers also often share resources mentioned in a webinar and provide certificates of attendance to participants. These are useful if you are required to prove that you have done a certain amount of professional development training.
Where to find webinars
There are a large number of websites where you can find webinars. I recommend the following:
Getting the most out of webinars
First of all, you don’t want to miss any webinars that you are interested in. Try to set a reminder in your phone to check the above websites every month and see what is coming up. Make sure you know what time the webinar is starting as well as the website may give a time in a particular time zone.
There are no real rules to participating in a webinar as such. However based on my observations of webinars I have delivered and attended, I would suggest the following is good etiquette:
- Try to turn up to the beginning of the webinar, but if you’re late, don’t start asking in the chat “what is going on?”
- Don’t ask in the first 5 minutes when and how you get your certificate. At least get over the half-way point.
- If there is a separate question option, ask questions with this tool. They are more likely to get answered this way.
- Understand that the speaker may not be able to answer your questions immediately, or may decide to delay answering until later. Don’t repeatedly post a question.
- And of course be respectful to your fellow attendees and the speaker. Be encouraging, especially to new speakers.
Limitations of webinars
While webinars are a good way to develop professionally, they do have some limitations. For this reason you might want to avoid relying on these as your only source of professional development. The limitations, as I see them are:
- Limited interaction. Of course this depends, but the majority of webinars I have seen or done were presentations. I am almost finished doing a three part webinar series which has been more interactive than most, but generally this is not possible because webinar software doesn’t really allow for it. This means it is difficult to try some activities out with participants, and more importantly, the networking aspect that comes with doing an in-person event is often missing.
- Online interaction fatigue is a real thing. People call it many things, but it definitely exists. While we might be able to binge watch an entire season of something back to back, listening actively to webinars requires more concentration. Consequently it is difficult to take part in an entire day of webinars (i.e. an online conference). You are better off in this case limiting yourself to just a couple.
- Product pitches. Many free webinars are about authors and publishers selling books, it’s true. However, they do often have some useful wisdom in them, if you get past the fact it is marketing.
- Webinars often don’t go into much depth. This is not necessarily a problem. The best webinars focus on just a few points at most and really drive these home. However if you really want to know about the topic, you should really follow up with some reading of your own.
Giving a webinar
If you’ve been teaching a while, or if your manager sees you do something well, you might be asked to give a webinar. This is in itself a fantastic development opportunity, as well as a chance to gain some exposure in the TEFL community.
Depending on the type of session you decide to do, this could involve doing a lot of research. For this reason it is a great motivator to read into a specific area of methodology you are interested in. This really helps to consolidate the knowledge you already have while adding to it.
If you are asked to do this, it is definitely something to think about. It is a good opportunity to establish yourself in your school as a teacher who knows what they are doing. This can lead to other opportunities such as advancement to an academic management role.
It is natural to be nervous the first time, or even few times. In many ways it is like the first time you teach a lesson at all when you are worried about every possible thing that can go wrong. It may help to think about that lesson – I assume it wasn’t as terrible as you imagined, and ultimately you survived it!
If you want to give a webinar it is worth asking your academic manager about opportunities to do this. A good manager should also offer to help you prepare, most likely by watching a rehearsal of your talk and giving you feedback.