The plan for the ‘Big Fat Higher Education Quiz of the Year’ varied from previous TLC webinars in that the primary purpose of the conversation was not to share experiences from a specific collaborator, but instead to experiment with the webinar environment and promote reflection sharing from participants through discursive and collaborative activities. The plan was ambitious and set out to push the limits of the webinar environment but we considered it achievable provided there were no major technical hitches.
Unfortunately on the day of the event the JANET network ground to a halt as it fell victim to sustained distributed denial of service attacks, causing major connection issues for internet users across the UK academic network. The result of this was that relative to recent TLC webinars participation was low, with those connecting either doing so from home (a luxury not afforded by many during the examination period), from outside of the UK (a luxury at best aspirational by those in the UK during a stormy December) or those latching on to the free Wi-Fi of the Lebanese café adjacent to their office (a tasty luxury not know by me, but I plan to rectify this next time near Manchester Oxford Rd). In spite of the network issues and the low numbers able to participate, the webinar continued with a total of 10 participants (including presenters) taking part and we ran a reduced but enjoyable version of the planned session.
The webinar had three main focuses; reflection, experimentation, and fun.
Reflection in the Webinar
A series of five reflective conversations were planned in advance of the session, four between Calum and guest contributors from the TLC community and one between Rod and Calum regarding the recent and upcoming TLC webinars. Three of the reflective discussions were able to take place. These were short and semi structured, but were an excellent stimulus for discussion around the topic within the chat box and between the presenters. Even with limited participants, a review of the chat box after the session showed some great discussion linking with the topic, with additional resources being shared and the comment being made by participants. This was exactly what the activity set out to do, and it was pleasing to see participants engage across the various subjects being discussed.
Experimentation in the Webinar
The experimentation within the webinar related to two activities involving third party web tools; Kahoot and Padlet. We had a number of concerns prior to the webinar regarding use of 3rd party tools as part of a webinar, which the following reflections are structured around.
Would the technology hold up?
The Padlet activity was not of concern technically as it did not require the webinar to run synchronously. Kahoot however needed to stream through the webinar for participants to view the questions at the same time as viewing the response buttons. While a small scale test of streaming 3rd party web tools had been successfully, attempts in recent years to perform similar mergers of online technologies had been heavy on bandwidth and processing power resulting in a lot of lag for participants and software crashing. However, the benefits discussed prior to the session around making use of more sophisticated participant response and collaboration tools as part of a webinar made revisiting the potential of this appealing. The Kahoot quiz involving 9 people ran smoothly, with even those experiencing network issue able to participate when connected to the internet. Initial concerns did not become issues and the discussion and feedback after the activity suggested a positive, easy experience for participants with this being something that they would be keen to explore again in the TLCs as well as in their own webinars.
Would the format be too complicated?
Previous TLC webinars have been structured around delivery and activity contained within the webinar environment. The BFHEQotY set out to bring more sophisticated 3rd party tools into the webinar environment, and to make use of asynchronous tools in parallel with the webinar during the session. This would allow us to enrich the participant experience and allow collaboration and discussion to extend beyond the allotted time period. While the Padlet session did not run as planned due to the decision to simplify the session in light of technical issues, the Kahoot session did run. Some participants had used Kahoot in a face to face environment previously, some had not heard of the technology previously and therefore had no experience. With a short explanation and some technical support from Rod (who masterfully moderated the session as ever) all participants managed to join in the quiz with ease. Even one participant who joined the webinar mid quiz managed to join in by following some retrospecive text instructions via the chat box. While we had been concerned the complexity of a 3rd party tool being used through the webinar environment (we suggested three possible options in our joining instructions) may have confused participants it appeared this was not the case and the quiz worked well with feedback being that the activity was simply and fun.
Would the activities stimulate reflection?
Upon reflection, the quiz (although fun) was not structured in a format which allowed reflection as much reflection as we would have liked. Initial session plans for the webinar have divided the quiz (with 12 questions, 1 relating to each month) into four ‘seasons’ with 3 questions each. However, due to the above concerns regarding the technology and complexity of the format this was simplified into a single quiz. Twelve questions proved to be a long quiz, and resulted in time not being allowed between questions for discussion. After the event we agreed that for future versions of the same activity it would (now that we are more comfortable with the technology) be highly beneficial to break up the quiz and place more focus on discussion between the questions.
Having Fun in the Webinar
While the wider technical circumstances around the Big Fat Higher Education Quiz of the Year were a bit disappointing as we were unable to share the session with a wider audience, those that did attend made the session what it was meant to be, which was a fun but thoughtful conversation around the year past. Reflections from Simon and Nav were very well revived with some great feedback, and the quiz itself made for an excellent proof of concept for using 3rd party tools such as Kahoot within a webinar environment. This was fun to present and I hope it was fun for all who took part. It has certainly answered a number of technical questions for us as well as opening up the door for becoming more creative with engaging participants in fun and creative ways through webinars.