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!


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.


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.


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.

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:

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!

36 thoughts on “Week Three: Online Meetings

  1. Question! I was allowed into the ks_adastra site a while ago, it said I made a connection. Now I am being denyed, and I never could get my audio to work! What do I need to do? I have done the trouble shoot and it appears my security features are allowing it??????? Also having problems getting the audio to download maybe???????

  2. Hi Rita,
    It sounds like you’re trying to access one of the Wimba sessions — is it the tax forms session? Just let me know which session you’re trying and I’ll test it on my end, too.

    And just to be sure — is sound working on your computer for other things? Like if you try to watch a YouTube video, no problem with sound for that?

    We’ll get it figured out!


  3. Yes my sound is working for everything else, and I was trying to access the tax forms session, and how do i know that it is working once I get into the room?

  4. Hi Rita,
    As you worked through the Wimba wizard, what happened when you got to the test audio part? It can take several minutes for WimbaMedia (the software that needs to be downloaded) to download on your computer. Did an audio bar appear (a bar with a button that says ‘Press to talk’ and includes a volume control, etc)? You may have to wait at that part of the wizard several minutes for it to load. Then you should hear a robotic woman’s voice saying “Congratulations!”.

    There’s also a link in that wizard to “Troubleshoot WimbaMedia audio” and there are a few more ideas there — things that might possibly be keeping you from hearing the session.

    If the WimbaMedia software is installed properly, then when you enter the tax forms sessions room (Ad_Astra), after giving it a few minutes to load, you should hear Laura DeBaun’s voice (she’s the moderator for that tax forms session).

    I’m sorry this is taking some extra troubleshooting. The good thing is, once you get things working for one Wimba webinar, they tend to work just fine for future Wimba sessions.

    Please keep us posted :-)


  5. the bar appeared and it was trying, just never finished there, and never did say congrat! Tried doing it again, and one of the times waited approx 25 minutes. Thanks also when I went into the tax webinar, say it, some of the people, messages in left corner too, just no volume. Am I just not patient enough?

  6. Hi Rita,
    Whoa – if you have waited 25 minutes for the audio, then I don’t think you’re rushing things. Hmmm…. If you try the set-up Wizard again here , when it gets to the audio test, what happens if you click the little speaker icon? Can you slide up the volume and does that help?

    and Hi Beth, too!
    Glad it’s not a boring topic for you either. I’ve benefited so much from webinar learning over the last couple of years. It feels important!


  7. Well, I made it a little farther, got the audio to respond, just can’t get my mike to work now, and have trouble shooted that too!? Oh My!!!! And yes my mike works, I even use it on a regular basis taking to my daughter, etc. Have you some ideas?? Thanks for all your help!

  8. @Brenda Is it acceptable to choose an archived webinar other than those listed in the lesson? I have one from awhile back sponsored by NISO and using Live Meeting that I need to watch anyway. Thanks.

  9. @Vicki, no worries on not getting to last week’s lesson. I haven’t even blogged about it myself — and I was one of the authors of it! The great thing about the program is that you do it as you have time. If that means you miss a couple of weeks and have to play catchup, there’s nothing wrong with it.

    All the previous lessons are available the following ways:

    1. If you’re at http://www.23thingskansas.org, scroll down and just look for Week Two, Week One, etc., in that order, right below this week’s lesson.
    2. All the lessons are available in reverse order here: http://www.23thingskansas.org/category/weekly-lessons/

  10. Week three lesson. Well, I have moved on to week 3 lesson since lesson 2 is not working out for me yet. I looked around for some webinars online and found one that was interesting to me. After I watched it, I looked at the info that I should post and unfortunately, it was not hosted by one of the suggested programs. I watched a webinar call Web Tour: Frontline– Digital Nation– Learning Literacy put on by PBS and hosted by Elluminate Live. They incorporated slides and video clips in their session to talk about the digital age and student multitasking. I have listened to webinars before. I have to admit that I did multitasking during the webinar, but I do believe that webinars can present useful information without having to travel to another location. It’s cheaper than IDL.

  11. Hi Vicki,
    Glad you found a webinar that interested you! It sounds like a very relevant topic for libraries.

    You mentioned multitasking and that’s actually something Heather Braum (one of the other 23 things mentors) and I were just talking about, too. If it’s a live webinar, I try to shut my door and focus, but with the archived webinars, that ability to stop and start again makes me more flexible and likely to multitask, etc. It also depends on how interesting it is and how relevant the topic is for me. I guess it’s like reading — somethings I scan and somethings I read more carefully.

    Anyone else have thoughts about making webinars work for you?


  12. I am confused also…..we have been given multiple addresses to go to for 23 things Kansas. Where do you post for questions that you need a reply to? I get a daily digest in my e-mail where people have asked questions. Sometimes there is a reply and sometimes there isn’t. Topics are interesting but way too confusing.

  13. Hi Mary,
    If you have a question or comment about the week three lesson: online meetings, then I think this (comments here attached to the lesson) is a great place to post that.

    If you have more general comments or questions, then I think the email list is a great place to post them.

    Mentors will try to answer questions wherever they are asked though! I agree that the messages on the email list (the Google digest) feel a bit unwieldy, but with almost 600 participants, I’m surprised things don’t feel even wilder :-)

    Feel free to email me personally bhough at nekls.org if your question doesn’t get answered in one of those places.


  14. @Brenda – I am easily distracted so I find it best to turn off my email and anything else that might alert me during a webinar. I wish I could mutli-task better, but for some reason if I am listening to something my mind wanders way too easily by outside distractions. But, like you it also depends on how important the content is and how interested I am.

  15. Hi Janelle,
    Once I paid $50 to attend a webinar and I have to admit that paying for it made me pay more attn, too. Other than that one, I’ve always just gone to free ones. I really like when there are two presenters having a conversation. That seems to engage me more. I think that’s why I like the George Needham/Joan Frye Williams webinars (I mentioned them in the lesson) so well.

    Do you have any favorite webinars?


  16. Just to let you know: Talked with Janelle today, found some new ideas to try! Will work on them tommorrow! Thanks for all your help too! I really think it may be in some of the basic mechanics of my system, so to be checked! Will let you know! Thanks again!

  17. Most important, I am amazed at how much good stuff is out there that I can learn about on my own time. I really got involved in the InfoPeople Needham & Frye Williams Webinar but it cut me off at the baby picture of his granddaughter! I was using playback feature but it only went so far. I tried this 3 times but no luck. Next I tried the download method on WebEx but had problems with it too. Part of it was our security software at the library but when I resolved it, I was taken back to the beginning. Any suggestions? It’s like not getting to see the end or a movie or read the last chapter.

  18. Found listening to the archived Webinar on Libaries and Taxes interesting, but feel that the focus was askew. It seemed to be on filling out forms, when it is my understanding that we can only answer computer issues and not advise on forms. I also think the assumption about who will be needing assistance is in error. It do not think it will be the elderly and the indigent. Already I have had people who have had no problem in the past reading the instructions and filling out the forms but who have no computer experience come in and go away frustrated.

    I think each library needs to have a list of local places people can get assistance.

  19. I decided to sample a couple of the webinar options, and I got some great ideas (as well learning about some new concepts/technology tools like bee tags!) from the Infopeople archived webinar on revitalizing the library experience. For example, rethinking hospitality: how welcoming is our building? the entrance? How do we get people to think of it as a place for them, like the British museum with the slogan, “the free destination for the incurably curious?” I found the format for this webinar easy to use–it offered chat and Q&A options.

    One of the nice facets of archived webinars is the ability to pause as well as to skip to slides to which one might want to return.

    I nipped into the Kansas Tax webinar using Wimba and found it quite similar to the format of Infopeople. I have participated in a SirsiDynix webinar in the past, and I found it easy to interact. I contrast this with a recent training webinar experience I had. The firm used Netspoke for video conferencing, and while the information was good, there was some lag time between screens from the presenter. In addition, participants had to phone in as well as be logged in. That was awkward. i don’t understand why they didn’t opt for a platform that would allow participants to headsets. Moreover, one had to press a certain code in order to mute and unmute the phone for questions.

    I think online conferencing is the future for committee meetings where members are separated by great physical distance. They also enable groups to archive those meetings for members who had schedule conflicts. This would allow absent members to catch up and follow up as needed.

    I didn’t know whether you wanted us to blog here or on our respective blogs. I trust this is all right.

  20. Guess what?! I got it and it is working! Yea! Thru an e a friend sent me I found I had no previewer installed. I installed and it all works! Yea! And thanks everyone for all your help!

  21. Hi Rita,
    Success! So glad it worked.

    Hi Kate,
    I’m intrigued by “bee tags” and will have to look that up :-) Each lesson during 23 Things is going to ask participants to blog about the tool back on your blog. You could just copy/paste what you included here if you prefer.

    Hi Kathleen,
    I’m going to have to experiment with it on my end – see if it plays all the way through for me now. Will let you know :)

    Hi Gwen,
    Since I’m working in a regional system and not an actual library, I haven’t seen the new process in action. It sounds like there’s going to be a lot of frustration this year….

    Thanks everyone for commenting and for going through the lesson!

  22. I’m behind and forgot to comment here about my online meeting experience. I “attend” these sorts of meetings frequently. They are an excellent way to economize my time and get concise updates about many topics. I wrote at more length about my webinar on my blog. Cheers!

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