“We want to see the cat!”: a case study of webinar-based learning and student experience

HEIs have now used VLEs for a number of years, and for a variety of reasons. They may provide a platform for access to teaching materials, support and information for students, links to wider web-based resources, upload mechanisms for assignments and feedback, integrated assessment tools and discussion fora, for example. This paper focuses on a small-scale intervention undertaken with both undergraduate Education Studies students and postgraduate MA Education students, utilising a lesser-used tool, webinar software, to deliver live distance learning sessions in what are otherwise traditional face-to-face delivered modules.

Three live teaching sessions were conducted using BigBlueButton, the webinar software integrated into the Moodle VLE: two with undergraduate Education Studies students and one with postgraduate students studying for on the MA Education programme. For each of the cohorts, their respective module context was an investigation into the impact of technology on education, and as such the use of webinar software provided a focus for both a practical and theoretical exploration of its adoption. Student views were elicited both during the session, via the chatroom facility of the webinar software, and afterwards utilising Moodle discussion boards. Whilst the clear benefits of both convenience and efficiency were highlighted by all cohorts, with particularly regard given to time-saving, wider issues of student identity, peer relationships, digital divides, learning preferences and staff-student interaction were identified as potentially problematic to the use of such online technologies. Such issues were discussed in the context of students’ own understanding of the study of Education as an academic discipline, and their wider undergraduate and postgraduate experience.