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Effectiveness of Webinars and Online Workshops during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Authors:
EFFECTIVENESS OF WEBINARS AND ONLINE WORKSHOPS
DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Prof. Ramakanta Mohalik, Professor of Education, Regional Institute of Education,
NCERT, Bhubaneswar, India.
Ms. Srimoyee Poddar, Research Scholar, Department of Education, NCERT,
Bhubaneswar, India.
Abstract: COVID-19 pandemic force to shut down all the educational institutes across
the country. But we cannot stop our learning and sharing our knowledge. Thus, the
purpose of this paper is to study the effectiveness of webinars and online workshops
during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online survey method was used to collect the data
from 210 respondents across India and from different institutes. Purposive sampling
technique was used. Researchers have used self-made questionnaire with both open
ended and close ended questions. Researchers have divided the analysis section into
sub-sections like: readiness and purpose of participants, organizational aspects,
efficiency of resource persons, instructional design and delivery, learning out
comes/feedback and the respondents’ reflection on online programs. The study revealed
that pre-requisite knowledge of ICT tools and applications (86%) and pre-requisite
knowledge of themes are very important to understand online programmes. Majority of
the respondents said that they have attended the online programme as per their
specialization (76%). But long duration programme creates boredom (68%). It is found
that geographical location and internet connectivity are the major problems. The study
revealed that organizers are working well in the ground of the online registration,
selection of the theme, providing e-certificate on time and circulation of the power-
point presentation and learning materials of the resource person to the participants
and many more. But a loop hole is the poor technical difficulties from organizers side
(64%). The study has reported that 71% of the respondents said, resource persons must
have both content and technological skills. 42% respondents have accepted that
resource persons have content knowledge but they do not have technological skills at
per. The positive side is that resource persons give lectures with the help of power point
presentations (74%). The remarkable part of the study is that 81% of the respondents
have agreed with the transform of the education system in the post pandemic era
through this online programme. Some other positive sides of online programmes are;
budget friendly (56%), collaborative and discussion-based learning (67%), participants
can use the learnt knowledge in the professional field (81%), preparing and submitting
the tasks are easy (59%), practical and skill-based subjects can learn effectively (53%).
The paper also discussed about the title of the online programme attended by the
respondents, important points learned, new skills developed from the programmes
during the lock down period, important themes want to learn in future and some of the
suggestions for future online programmes. The study ends with giving some suggestions
to the participants, organizers, curriculum planners, government and the educational
institutes for improvement and smooth running of the online programmes.
Key Words: COVID-19, Pandemic, Online Programmes, Webinars
Introduction:
On 11 March 2020, WHO declared Diseases a pandemic and reported all the countries to treat,
detect and reduce the transmission for the save of people’s lives. This force the people as well
as whole world to remain lockdown and maintain social distancing and India is not an
exception. It creates a great impact on the global economy. Even educational institutes like
schools, colleges and universities remain closed temporarily. Due to the Pandemic different
academic program have been disrupted. The University Grant Commission on 5th March
2020 provide a letter to the universities and colleges with some advices to prevent the
transmission of virus. The authorities have given advised to all the universities and colleges
to avoid large gatherings in the campus. All the concerned government had given order for
stopping face to face workshops, seminars, conferences etc. to reduce the spread of Corona
virus. But we cannot stop our learning as well as researchers cannot stop sharing their work.
The question arises in the mind that will it be the year without conferences, workshops,
seminar etc.? The answer became no within few days. Maximum educational institutes or
organizations have found the alternative ways and taking the help of technology for
conducting their programs and provided an uninterrupted learning situation.
Slowly students, teachers, academicians, administrators have been adapted with the
online learning. Online learning is not new. But this pandemic situation makes it substitute of
the face to face learning. Thus, we can say that in present situation online programs in the
education sector is not an option but is necessary. The SWOT (Strength, Weakness,
Opportunity and Threat) analysis of the online program includes: Strength of the online
program are- time flexibility, location flexibility, large number of audience, large number of
contents, immediate feedback, Weaknesses of the online program are- technical difficulties,
lack of personal/ physical attention, learners’ capability and confidence level, resource
persons’ technological knowledge, Opportunity of the online program are; scope for
innovation and digital development, designing flexible program, an innovative pedagogical
approach, and the threats of the online program are; digital divide, digital illiteracy and
unequal distribution of ICT infrastructure. Thus, in the present context it is very important to
see the effectiveness of webinars and online workshops during the COVID-19 pandemic
situation.
Rationale of the Study:
The serious effect of novel Corona virus led all the educational institutions shut down from
the beginning of the year 2020 over the world. India is not an exception. Since the middle of
March 2020, all the institutions of our country were shut down for indefinite time. Then the
educational institutions have used technology as the alternative ways to provide knowledge
among the students, academicians, stake holders etc. Though online learning is not new but
organizing, attending and accepting webinars, online workshops, conferences as substitute of
traditional methods are new for our country. Now we are forced to learn through online mode
but situation would be different if we had already mastered in online learning. One or the
other disasters will come and technologies will help us to cope with the situation (Meyer &
Wilson, 2011). We have to accept this online mode of learning in the new normal situation
also (Post pandemic period). Keeping the situation in mind many researchers attempted to
study the status of online learning during disaster, student perception on online learning, and
pace of digital education in India during COVID-19, challenges and needs of online learning
etc. Some studies were illustrated as follows: Many arguments are there with this online
learning. Five terms are often come with this argument. They are ‘Accessibility’,
Affordability, Flexibility, Learning Pedagogy, Life- Long Learning and Policy. If we see it is
cost effective, can reach to the remote areas and can learn in their own pace. Thus, it helps to
develop new skills and learning can become life-long. Presently concerned government is
also increasing the importance of online learning to reach globally (Dhawan, 2020). Adams,
2016, Smith and McDermott, 2019 reported that majority of the learners like to go for online
mode of learning than other mode as it is more flexible, time management and can opt for a
greater number of courses globally. Case study carried by (Allo, 2020) reported that learners
perceive e-learning positively seeing into the severity of the pandemic situation but the study
have also mentioned that instruction and the instructional material without the voice of the
teachers are not that useful. Muthuprasad et.al, 2020 revealed that students are always
preferring group task than the individual one and they want to help their friends who are not
able to attend the online learning platform. The study also reported that teachers are not that
familiar with ICT tools which become one of the important constraints for online mode of
learning. Bhaumik and Priyadarshini, 2020 clearly stated that techno pedagogical as well as
digital skills of both teachers and learners need to be taken care of. So regular workshops,
webinars, conferences are very important for the academicians, research scholars, students
and stake holders so that they can develop professionally, share their own knowledge,
experiences and become techno savvy.
We have to keep in mind certain factors for smooth conduct of the online programme.
(Ali, 2020) in the study focused on certain factors like digital resources, infrastructure
facilities, learners’ and teaching staffs’ skill of technology, motivation, confidence, interest
and positive attitude for accepting the change situation are important for smooth and
uninterrupted teaching and learning. Another important factor we have to take care of that is
the online content. Studies reported that average course content is also an important issue.
Students reported that lack of proper communication, technical problems, and poor
understanding of instructional goals are the barriers for online learning (Song et al., 2004).
Thus study reported online programme must be creative, relevant, student centred and group
based (Partlow& Gibbs, 2003).Proper online instructions allow feedback from learners, allow
learners to ask questions, and allow them to explore more related to the course content
(Keeton, 2004).
It is very important to focus on the regular arrangement of online programme like
webinars, online workshops, faculty development programme etc. and proper infrastructure
facilities. Authorities must provide the target groups about updated knowledge on
technology, updated themes, allow to share the experiences, as well as follow up how they
are utilizing their learnt knowledge in their professional fields. Any how our learning should
not be stop. Thus, the researchers in the present study tried to see the effectiveness of
webinars and online workshops during the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the following
research questions in mind:
Whether participants are in readiness for attending the online programme?
Whether organizers have taken all steps for smooth online programme?
Whether the resource persons are efficient to deliver in online programme?
Does instructional design and delivery strategy appropriate in online programme?
What are the learning outcomes or feedback related to webinar and online workshops?
Objective:
To study the effectiveness of webinars and online workshops during the COVID-19
pandemic
Methodology:
Online survey method was used for the present study. The questionnaire consists of both
open ended and close ended type of items. It was divided into three broad sections. The first
section was personal information which covers name of the respondents, age group,
designation, email id, name of the institute, number of the webinar/ workshop attended during
lockdown and the application used for attending the online program. The second section
consisted of close ended questions related to readiness and purpose of participants,
organizational aspects, efficiency of resource persons, instructional design and delivery and
learning out comes/feedback. The last section i.e. the respondents’ reflection on online
programmes consisted of six open ended questions. By taking the help of the experts’
comments and suggestions, researchers have ensured the content validity of the tools. The
data had been collected during full lock down period.
Researchers have used purposive sampling technique for drawing the sample. Data was
collected from 210 respondents across India and from different institutes. It was found that
among the respondents 14.3% were students, 27.1% were research scholars, 51.9 % were
academicians and 6.7% of the respondents were in other profession. 12.4% of the respondents
were in the age group of up to 25 years, 50.5% of the respondents were in the age group of
26-35 years, 29.5% of the respondents were in the age group of 36-45 years and 7.6% of the
respondents were in the age group of above 45 years.
Data Analysis:
The collected data were analysed by use of percentage and graphical presentation. The open-
ended questions were analysed by thematic analysis techniques for identifying some common
themes. The detailed analysis is presented in following pages.
Readiness and Purpose of Participants’ for Attending Online Programmes
This section focuses on the participants readiness and purpose for attending the online
programme. 86% of the participants agreed that knowledge of online learning tools and
applications are required to follow the online programme. Further, 80% of the participants
reported that prerequisite knowledge on the theme of the programme is needed to understand
through online mode. 63 % of the participants expressed that online programme can
accommodate a large number of participants without disturbances during the programme.
49% respondents viewed that joining the webinar becomes difficult due to the huge number
of participants. 65% of the respondents reported that online programme is not accessible for
individuals of rural and remote areas. 75% of the respondents reported that participation in
the online programme is getting disturbed due to the internet connectivity. 42% of the
respondents reported that their participation in the online programmes were not for the e-
certificate only. 76% of the respondents revealed that participants attend the online
programme as per their specialization and need. 84% of the respondents reported that online
programme helps the participants to improve depth of knowledge on different themes.
Organizational Aspects of Online Programme
This section focuses on the organizational aspects for conducting the online programme. 72%
of the respondents agreed that organizers pay attention to the level of technological
capabilities of the target group before organising the programme. 89% of the respondents
revealed that organizers provide webinar/ workshops links well in advance for registration.
90% of the respondents reported that organizers complete the online registration efficiently.
91% of the respondents expressed that organizers have conducted the webinars on relevant
topics. 85% of the respondents viewed that detail brochures of the webinars/workshops are
being prepared by the organisers beforehand. 61% of the respondents reported that all the
power point presentations and learning materials of the resource persons are being circulated
by the organizers on time. 67% of the respondents agreed that organizers provide the e-
certificates to the participants on time. Lastly 64% of the respondents reported that
participants face problems during the online programme due to the technical difficulties from
organizers.
Efficiency of Resource Persons in Online Programme
This section focuses on the efficiency of resource persons for conducting the online
programmes. 67% of the respondents depicted that resource persons are well aware of all the
icons of the online platform. 71% of the respondents reported that resource person must have
both content knowledge and technological skills specified by the organizers to deliver in the
digital platform. 42% of the respondents accepted that many of the resource persons have
sound content knowledge but do not have technological skills that are essential to conduct
online programmes. 51% of the respondents reported that resource persons are well versed to
face the camera while conducting the online programmes. 74% of the respondents agreed that
resource persons give lecture during the online programme with help of power point
presentations. 66% of the respondents reported that resource persons demonstrate different
activities during the online programmes. 63% of the respondents have agreed that resource
persons provide assignments during the online programmes. Lastly 83% of the respondents
reported that resource persons always inspire the participants to explore more the points they
have discussed during the programme.
Instructional Design and Delivery in Online Programme
This section focuses on the impact of webinar and online workshops on instructional design
and delivery. 81% of the respondents agreed that they can use in their professional field what
they have learned from the online programmes. 73% of the respondents have reported that
online programmes allow them to learn as per their convenience. 67% of the respondents
have agreed that online programmes allow them to learn by collaborating and discussing with
others. 45% of the respondents have reported that interaction with the speakers/panellists are
easier during the online programme than face to face. 59% of the respondents have
mentioned that preparing and submitting the assignments /tasks given in the online
programme is easy. 70% of the respondents agreed that timely feedback has been received
from the resource persons in an online programme. 79% of the respondents have accepted
that all these webinars and online workshops can improve the quality of teaching learning.
Lastly 44% of the respondents have reported that the online programmes must not be held
throughout days as face to face programmes.
Learning Outcomes and Feedback of Online Programme
This section focuses on the learning outcomes and feedback related to webinar and online
workshops. 88% of the respondents mentioned that objectives of the programmes are given to
the participants at the beginning of the session.73% of the respondents accepted that feedback
form given at the end of the online programme have been filled by the participants with
sincerity. 53% of the respondents reported that practical/ skill-based subjects can be
effectively learned through online mode. 77% of the respondents have accepted that online
programmes have improve the overall knowledge of the participants. 81% of the respondents
have reported that online programmes would transform our education system in the post
pandemic era. 73% of the respondents have mentioned that objectives of the programmes
have been achieved by the participants. 57% of the respondents have mentioned that
organisers are providing follow up activity after the end of the programme. Lastly, 68% of
the respondents have mentioned that feedback given by the participants are taken care by the
organiser for next programme.
Reflection on Online Programme
In this section responses are for open ended questions such as title of the online programme
attended, important points learnt by the respondents, new skills developed by the
respondents, future plans related to utilization of knowledge and skills, topic/ theme that
respondents want to learn in future and lastly further suggestions mentioned by the
respondents for the smooth running of the online programmes.
Some of the common title of the online programme attended by the respondents are;
Cyberlogy in 21st century, Ethics in research, E-Content development, Stress management,
Yogic exercises, Impact of Covid-19 on global economy, Importance of psychology in
education and role of teacher, Creating Google site and Moodle site, Different apps of e-
learning, Learning and evaluation for combating covid-19 pandemic situation, the present
corona crisis and its probable impact on the eco-political scenario of India, Issues and
challenges with children with special needs, Inclusive classroom and its effectiveness,
Gandhian perspective on pandemic situation and webinar on netiquette.
Some of the important points learned by the respondents and mentioned by them in the
questionnaire are; Sharing knowledge through online platform, use of Google classroom,
different aspects of research, how to use ICT through Google drive, website building, video
lecture delivering, article writing skill, different new pedagogical strategies, statistical
analysis, quantitative research technique, how to evaluate digitally, how to crate digital e-
brochure and certificate, the etiquettes of using online platforms, awareness of copyright
infringement issues, access and availability of OER, software awareness.
Some of the important skills developed during the programmes attended by the
respondents are; Technical skills related to Google classroom, article writing skills, QR code
making skills, planning skills, organising skills, listening skills, skills of giving lecture
through ICT, how to be an effective speaker, mind mapping skill, improvement in
communication skill, website design skill, skills in the preparation of power point
presentation slide, proficiency in technology and punctuality.
Some respondents have clearly reported that in future they can take their classes
through Google classroom, and can able to assess their students by using different techniques
or using different apps. Respondents have also mentioned that they can able to develop
different e-contents as well as using different pedagogical techniques that will be helpful for
their students or in their professional life.
Lastly respondents have mentioned that it will be better to organize the programme on
Sundays or holidays, strengthening of technical aspects, objectives of the webinar or
workshops must be mention prior to the programme and organization should not cost any fees
for the online programme.
Major Findings:
86% of the participants agreed that prerequisite knowledge of ICT tools and
applications are required to follow all the online programme.
76% of the respondents reported that they have attended the online programme as per
their specialization and needs. 42% of the respondents reported that their participation
in the online programme were not for the e-certificate only.
68% of the respondents reported that long duration webinars/workshops are creating
boredom for the participants. It will be better if the programme will be on Sundays or
holidays.
65% of the respondents reported that online programme is not accessible for individuals
of rural and remote areas. 75% of the respondents reported that participation in the
online programme is getting disturbed due to the internet connectivity.
72% of the respondents agreed that organizers must pay attention to the level of
technological capabilities of the target group before organising the programme.
61% of the respondents reported that all the power point presentations and learning
materials of the resource persons are circulated by the organizers. 67% of the
respondents agreed that organizers provide the e-certificate to participate on time.
71% of the respondents reported that resource person must have both content
knowledge and technological skills specified by the organizers to deliver in the digital
platform.
81% of the respondents have agreed that they can use in their professional field what
they have learned from the online programmes. 67% of the respondents have agreed
that online programme allow them to learn by collaborating and discussing with others.
53% of the respondents have reported that practical/ skill-based subjects can be
effectively learned through online mode. 81% of the respondents have reported that
online programme would transform our education system in the post pandemic era.
Discussion of Results:
The present study reported that participants must have prerequisite knowledge related to
different online applications as well as theme of the programme so that it helps them to attend
it smoothly. Organizers must pay attention to the technological skills of the target group
before conducting the programme. Study also reported that rural population face great
difficulty in joining the programme. Participants clearly reported that there is a disruption in
the online programme due to poor internet connectivity and even technological disruption
from the organizers side. (Nagar, 2020) reported the major factors of effectiveness of online
programmes are availability of digital device, internet connectivity, infrastructural facilities
and supporting online mode of learning. The study also reported that in the online programme
participants have lack of knowledge with all the icons of the online platform and they are
creating disturbances in the smooth conduct of the programme.
The present study revealed that online programme is budget friendly because
participants can sit in their home and learn. They can easily curtail the cost of travelling and
many more but too long programme creates boredom to the participants. Same findings from
the study by (Dhawan, 2020) that online learning is relatively cheaper mode of education in
the terms of lower cost of transportation, accommodation, and the overall cost of institution-
based learning.
The study reported that organizers are doing good in organizing the programmes and
online programmes are good specially in this pandemic situation. Institutions and
organizations must prepare with contingency plans to deal with pandemics and natural
disasters (Seville et al., 2012). Study by Tull et al., 2017 reported that natural disasters can
enhance our motivation for accepting highly innovative communication technology and e-
learning tools.
The study indicated that many resource persons have sound content knowledge but
they do not have updated technological knowledge that creates lot of problem in the online
programme. Similar findings have found from the study by Bhaumik & Priyadarshini, 2020
and Muthuprasad et.al, 2020 that teachers’ and students’ both are unfamiliar towards online
programme are the great obstacles for online mode of learning.
It is a very positive side of the present study where respondents have accepted that
online programme helps them to enhance their depth of knowledge and they are ready to
utilize their learnt knowledge in their professional field. Even majority of the respondents
have reported that online programmes would transform our education system in the post
pandemic era. So, taking care of the participants’ feedback after each programme, it is the
duty of the organizers or the authority to plan in a better way and motivate more people for
future. This pandemic made us bound to go for situation planning for academic institutions,
Rieley, 2020.
Educational Implications:
The study reported that prior knowledge of the online applications as well as the theme
of the programme is very essential for the participants to attend the online programmes.
Even the respondents have reported that organizers must give proper attention to the
technological capabilities of the target group. Thus, in future the organizers must select
the participants after receiving applications. In this way they can control the number of
the participants. Because the study reported that some time participants are facing
difficulty in joining, due to huge number of participants.
Selection of the resource persons for the programme must be taken care of by the
organizers. In the study respondents have revealed that many resource persons have
sound content knowledge but they do not have well technological knowledge. Both the
knowledge is very essential for the smooth conduct of the programme. Resource person
must be selected as per their specialization also. Resource persons must update
themselves with sound technological knowledge.
The major problem faced by the participants to attend the online programme is internet
connectivity. Participants from the rural areas really face great difficulty to attend the
programme. The study reported that participants are facing difficulty to attend the
online programmes due to poor technicality from organizers side also. Thus, the
initiatives must be taken by the concerned government and the organizers to provide
continuous internet connectivity, power supply and also good technical support so that
participants can attend the online programme smoothly.
Organizers must keep in mind about the timing of the programme. It should not be too
long. The present study reported that too long programme creates boredom to the
participants. Another important point is that the programme must be affordable for
maximum people.
Organization must be taken care of that participants should not join the programme for
the sake of certificates. So, experts or resource person must give proper assignments or
asking some questions randomly. Completion of the assignments or proper participation
only provide the certificates.
Universities and departments must encourage students and faculty members to attend
webinars and online workshops as per the specialization to enhance their overall
knowledge. Authorities must ensure that pandemic should not hamper the learning.
The difficulties of the online programmes depicted in the present study must be focus
by the government, concerned authorities, curriculum planners and educational
institutes for bringing improvement and smooth running of the online programmes in
the long run.
Conclusion:
There is a great shift in the mode of knowledge sharing due to the present pandemic situation.
This pandemic shows us the shift from face to face learning to fully online learning. In our
country since the month of March 2020 different educational institutes are organizing
workshops, webinars etc. for learning purpose. Target population are attending the
programme through YouTube, Google meet, Facebook Live, Zoom meeting app etc. The
present study clearly revealed that both the participants and resource persons must be well
aware, about the different online tools, applications, icons etc. for attending the online
programme. In one word both the group must be technologically sound. Organizers, different
institutes, departments must play an important role to motivate more and more so that target
population will attend different types of online programmes very seriously. They must use
their learnt knowledge in the professional place. Government must provide uninterrupted and
low-cost internet facilities for the smooth conduct of the programme. It should not be only for
urban population but also for rural people. Even the host institutes must see that there must
not have technical issues from their side. Other things like proper communication with the
target groups, providing registration link, doing registration properly, clarifying the
objectives of the programme, taking the feedback from the participants and work on it,
providing e-certificates on time are some of the elements that organizers must keep in mind.
We have to make all online programme more inclusive. For all this proper planning is very
important. We have to keep in mind that disaster can come at any time but we cannot stop our
learning. So, people are slowly understanding the importance of online learning and they are
trying to adapt with new learning situation. So, this pandemic demand humanity with unity.
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... Previous research had shown that psychoeducational intervention programs with shorter implementation periods will produce better effects (Van Daele et al., 2012). Psychoeducation programs with a long duration tend to create boredom for the activity participants (Mohalik & Poddar, 2020). So that the boredom that arises could affect the effectiveness of the psychoeducation program provided. ...
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