Category Archives: Online Meetings

Week Three: Online Meetings

Hello 23 Things learners! My name is Brenda Hough and I am going to cover our third activity: online meetings. I worry that my lesson is going to be the “boring” one. We’ve talked about blogging being like a secret diary and Facebook is, of course, a way to do fun things like spy on your high school crush… how can a topic like online meetings compete?? I really do think this is an important technology, however, especially in a state like Kansas (with so many miles from here to there). I am your guide for the week and will do my best to make things interesting and to help you succeed!

Introduction

Gas prices are high…
people are busier than ever…
and budgets are tighter than ever, too.
What are we to do?
Online meetings to the rescue!

You can sit at a computer in your library or home, put on a headset (they are a combination of headphones and a microphone and can be quite inexpensive), and connect with colleagues virtually anywhere.

This technology is having its greatest impact in the library world in the form of meetings for online learning, frequently referred to as webinars. Rather than driving a couple of hours or flying across the country to attend a presentation, a conference,  or a training session, there are now many opportunities to participate in high-quality online learning sessions.

Sharing/Productivity/Community

When things are busy, it is easy to get bogged down in the day to day operations of our own library and to perhaps feel isolated from a larger library community. Being able to connect with others, however, revitalizes us, by providing support and new ideas.

Whether it’s an online meeting with other librarians in your area, a statewide informational session, or a national online conference, there are now more and more online opportunities for sharing ideas with others, which can make us more productive, and can enhance our sense of being part of a larger library community.

Online Meeting Tools

There are many online meeting tools being used today. Check out the list of Software and service providers that is part of this Wikipedia article. Right now, two popular tools being used by libraries in Kansas are OPAL and Wimba. I will talk about them in more depth later in this lesson. You may also have heard of ELMeR, which is a videoconferencing system being used in Kansas. ELMeR videoconferencing is somewhat different than the web conferencing we are talking about in this lesson, but if you want to learn more, there is information online.

If you are simply participating in an online meeting or webinar, then you just need to follow the directions sent to you by the organizer of the session. If you want to organize online meetings or webinars, then you will need to explore the various software options that are available to you — to find the one that suits your needs and is within your budget. This lesson will focus on participating in online meetings or webinars. Selecting software is beyond the scope of the lesson, but there are useful resources online.

Different online meeting or webinar platforms offer different features. Most allow you to see a speaker’s PowerPoint slides. Many allow you to see websites to which the speaker is referring. Text chat is also an important component of many online meeting software tools. Some tools even allow you to use video to see the participants in other places. One of my favorite things about online meetings, however, is the ability to record them so they can be viewed later. Missed a presentation or an online training session you were wanting to attend? No problem! Most likely the presenters were able to record it and will make that recording available.

Let’s explore a few previously recorded sessions now:

  • Infopeople is the training arm of the California State Library. They provide excellent webinars (many of them are free). Browse their list of archived webinars. Select an archived session to view (the George Needham and Joan Frye Williams sessions are some of my personal favorites). Infopeople uses Cisco’s WebEx software to provide webinars.
  • You probably are familiar with SirsiDynix as an automation system vendor, but did you know they also sponsor a series of free webinars? The SirsiDynix Institute webinars are very good. Browse their list of archived webinars. Select an archived session to view (the Stephen Abram’s session from 1/31/2008 on Twenty Five Technologies to Watch and How is very relevant for anyone participating in 23 Things Kansas). 23 Things Kansas mentor David Lee King has been a featured speaker in several of these webinars!
  • BCR is a familiar name to many people working in Kansas libraries. They provide a wide variety of training and services. There is a charge for most of their services, but recently they have started a Free Friday Forum series of webinars. Browse their list of archived sessions. Select one to view (I think Shelly Drumm’s technology sessions are especially good).

Watching archived sessions gives you a feel for the learning potential this technology holds. Participating in a live session provides opportunities for interaction (with other participants and with the speakers), but archived sessions provide time flexibility that is hard to beat.

Instructions

As stated earlier in this lesson, Wimba and OPAL are two popular online meeting/webinar tools being used in Kansas libraries at this time. If you’ve attended a webinar hosted by the State Library of Kansas, then you most likely have used one of those tools. Every time you sign-up for or are invited to participate in a webinar, the organizer will provide instructions. I would never advocate memorizing how to use one particular tool. Just be flexible and ready to receive the directions that accompany any particular online meeting or webinar.

WIMBA
Last fall, Cindi Hickey from the State Library of Kansas and I facilitated an online creativity group using Wimba. Here’s an abridged version of the email Cindi sent out, promoting the session. I really just want you to note the Wimba instructions.

Brenda Hough will lead our first Kansas Creativity webinar tomorrow at....
You'll find instructions for joining our conversation at the end of this message.
Webinar instructions:
What you will need:
* A headset with microphone (preferred) or speakers and a stand alone microphone
* An Internet connection
To get ready and login
1. Go to http://webj.wimba.com/launcher.cgi?room=ks_adastra
2. Minimize the pop-up box and click on "run the Setup Wizard" in the right hand box to run the Wizard.
3. After you click the "Finished" button, maximize the login pop-up window and you should see
   "ks_adastra" as the room i.d.
4. Enter your name in the "Name box" then click on the orange "Enter" button.
5. It will take a minute or 2 to get into the room and get everything loaded.  When you hear the
   tones, you are ready to go.
6. If you need help:
Please call Cindi Hickey by 12:50 PM at 785-296-2146.

Anytime you participate in a webinar, you will receive detailed instructions like that. If you want even more detailed instructions for using Wimba, a participant guide is available. One tip: sign-in to online webinars at least 10 or 15 minutes early so you have time to troubleshoot if needed. Another tip: Just as the best way to troubleshoot a computer is to restart it, the best way to troubleshoot problems with a webinar are to sign out and sign back in. Final tip: Mel Brooks said, “Hope for the best. Expect the worst.” With online meetings and webinars, there are almost always problems (usually minor). Sound issues. Internet troubles. Etc. Being mentally prepared for that somehow makes it a bit less frustrating. And then, when the technology works and you’re able to participate in a great session, it’s all worth it.

You can view an archived Wimba session now:

OPAL
You can view an archived OPAL session now, but you’re encouraged to attend a live webinar, too. Here’s the schedule of upcoming OPAL events: http://www.opal-online.org/progschrono.htm. Here are tips for first-time OPAL users: http://www.opal-online.org/firsttimetips.htm.

Your assignment this week:

1. View at least one archived webinar. Pick from any of the sources listed in this lesson (Infopeople, SirsiDynix, BCR, Wimba, OPAL).

2. Write a blog post about the webinar you watched. What was it called? Who hosted it? Was it useful information? In your blog post, also include your thoughts about online meetings and webinars in general. What do you think of the potential for this technology over the next 10 years?

3. At some point during the next few months, try to attend a live webinar. Some upcoming webinars that look interesting include: Technology Essentials 2010, How Green is my Library?, or Open Office: What Libraries Need to Know. During the week of April 26-30, we’re going to have wrap-up webinars as part of this project. If you haven’t had a chance to attend a live webinar before then, you’ll have the opportunity that week!

Be patient with yourself. Be patient with the technology.
Your 23 Things Kansas support team is here if you get stuck.
Good luck and have fun!