Donna Srader, Lead Counselor at the Texas Tech University Career Center, contributed this blog post about their experience introducing a webinar series at the Career Center. The Center found that utilizing webinars was an effective method of reaching students in a format that was easily accessible and reformatted materials already in use by the Center. For more information, feel free to reach out to Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a topic you’d like to see as part of the Advising KG blog or want to contribute, please reach out to Jen Harlan, Career & Internship Advisor, Kennesaw State University at email@example.com.
Problem Identification and Resolution
As career counselors, we are always looking for new ways to reach students and provide them with relevant information. At the Texas Tech University Career Center, we noticed that our in-person workshops were not being well attended, and we wanted to create a new feature that allowed us to present relevant information in a format that was easily accessible to students. Webinars fit that bill perfectly because we could utilize our existing presentations while reaching local and distance students and alumni in one presentation.
As we brainstormed the possibility of webinars, we tasked one of our student ambassadors, Elo, with the project of identifying possible webinar platforms, with the attendant advantages and disadvantages. Elo came through with flying colors, taking such ownership of the project that he came to work on his day off to make sure that we would be successful in setting up and presenting our webinar. So my first suggestion for any career office seeking to introduce webinars is to have a student as dedicated and tech savvy as Elo! Second, you might also contact your IT department to see what knowledge and help they can provide.
Nuts and Bolts
- We chose GoToWebinar as our platform because it allowed us to use the service for 30 days free of charge and present multiple webinars. Within that timeframe, we saw exactly how successful the webinars were and proceeded to subscribe to the service annually.
- We identified a volunteer staff member who manages the scheduling and organizational details of the GoToWebinar software and ensures that all the details are correctly presented on our website and in our promotional materials. Thank you, Nicole!
- Every staff member was invited to create webinars, including our counseling interns. With the depth and breadth of interests among our staff, we have been able to present a number of basic informational webinars about how to write a resume or cover letter, as well as more in-depth topics such as Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace and a six-part series called The First Year Student’s Survival Kit that covers such topics as how to talk to professors and social media responsibility.
- Many of the webinars utilize PowerPoint and, recently, we have been incorporating Canva into the presentations to increase the visual appeal and professional look and feel. Canva is a free image-creating software with more advanced features for purchase. We urge webinar developers to limit the amount of text in the slides and incorporate visuals and graphs where possible.
- At this time, we project only the PowerPoint/Canva presentation. We are exploring more interactive options such as utilizing cameras to include real-time video of the presenter.
- Webinars are not complete until a complete, word-for-word script is written. In this way, we ensure that the webinar can be presented if the original developer is not available. Generally, we read the script, but interact with attendees in normal conversation to answer questions.
- For students requesting accommodation, we provide a PDF of the presentation slides, including the script. Many presenters are happy to share the PDF version of the presentation with all attendees when requested.
- We utilize the Listen-Only mode in GoToWebinar so we can control the interaction between presenters and attendees. Instead of the chat section, we use the questions section for listeners’ questions and comments and usually address questions at the end of the webinar. We leave our contact information slide up on screen as we discuss questions.
- To help students feel more at ease, we have some starter questions that we answer while students are thinking up questions and typing them in. We have found that if we say, “Our first question is . . . .” and use one of our starter questions, the students are much more likely to type in their questions.
- Most of our webinars are 20 to 30 minutes in length – although we block an entire hour in GoToWebinar. This strategy allows us to answer questions for as long as the attendees continue to ask. We have found student attendance increases substantially with the smaller time commitment of 20 to 30 minutes compared to an hour webinar.
- Several professors support the Career Center efforts by offering extra credit and the TTU Graduate School accepts our webinars as professional development for their students. For extra credit, the students must identify themselves at the beginning of the webinar with the name of the course and their professor. After the webinar, we utilize the Attendee Report from GoToWebinar to identify students asking for extra credit and email the appropriate professor.
- We also utilize the GoToWebinar reports to identify the webinars that are highly attended and learn more about attendee engagement during the webinars. With these reports we continually improve the information and the visual presentation to connect with more students and alumni.
We have found that our numbers have increased substantially and we are reaching students who would not generally attend in-person workshops. We have expanded our webinar topics and have reached out to professors of online courses and distance students to provide webinars at times that meet their needs. We are always seeking new ways to provide engaging and relevant information to all our students and alumni and the webinars have been a successful strategy in those efforts.
Webinars have not replaced class and organization presentations – we continue to provide services to any group who requests a presentation. However, we expect to expand our webinar topics and introduce new technologies such as podcasts in the future.