September 05, 2022

What did we like about webinars during the COVID shutdowns?

During the COVID lockdowns, many of us attended virtual webinars. Some of us also used this medium to give lectures. But what did we think about the webinars? This post is about a new study that evaluated these learning events. It is an excellent pointer for future events for both attendees and lecturers.

The COVID pandemic resulted in the almost complete cessation of orthodontic education, as many programmes were closed, and most conferences were cancelled. However, many people who organised and gave virtual orthodontic learning sessions partially filled this void. This was a steep learning curve for the organisers and the lecturers. I participated in many sessions; some I ran myself, while people who knew what they were doing produced better events. But what were the good points of the webinars?

A multinational team looked at this question and did this study. The AJO-DDO published the paper.

Global survey to assess preferences for attending virtual orthodontic learning sessions

Mohammed Almuzian et al.


What did they ask?

They did this study to find out.

“The preferences of a remote audience on factors associated with orthodontic webinars”.

What did they do?

The team carried out an internet-based survey. The investigation had the following stages.

  • A sample size calculation suggested they needed to get responses from 560 participants.
  • Development of a validated survey that had five domains. These were (i) participant demographics, (ii) speaker and moderator related questions, (iii) digital setting related questions, (iv) attendees concentration related factors and (iv) questions related to the engagement of the audience with the speakers.
  • Then they sent the questionnaire link to the 3000 orthodontists and residents who subscribed to the virtual Glasgow Orthodontic Academy.
What did they find?

They provided a large amount of data on the results of their survey. I thought that these were the main findings.

  • 593 orthodontists and residents responded. This was a response rate of 20%. Which is pretty good for an internet survey.
  • Nearly half of the participants were aged between 25 and 35 years.
  • Most (61.9%) opted to view the live video of the speaker and the presentation together. They also liked to see the presenter in the top right corner of the screen.
  • They liked a speaker/screen ratio of 1:6.
  • Interestingly, most participants (82%) did not care how the presenter dressed.
  • Neither were they interested in the background of the presentation.
  • Having a moderator present was almost essential.
  • Almost 50% used a computer to view the presentation, and 27.5% used a mobile phone.
  • Their concentration was influenced by the accent and speed of the presenter’s voice.
  • The preferred duration was 60 minutes.
  • Finally, they liked using an interactive chatbox and a question and answer session.
What did I think?

Firstly, this was a nicely done study with a reasonable response rate. This sample size was enough to come to some clear conclusions about webinars.

I thought the results were interesting and very relevant to those who provided lectures. They also provide good information to organisers planning a virtual component to conferences or running their own webinars.

Having read the paper and taken part in webinars during the pandemic. The results make me consider my own practices.  It seems that I made several mistakes in my own webinars. The most marked of these was not to have a moderator. It simply was not possible for me to lecture and manage the delegates and questions at the same time.  As a result, my solo webinars were chaos!

Future webinars

Webinars are here to stay. There are clear pointers to the success of webinars in the future. The most compelling to me are that participants need to see the speaker; clearly, there is no need for fancy backgrounds, and the webinar should be about 60 minutes long. In addition, there should be the opportunity for interactive chat boxes and moderated questions.

Finally, while I liked this paper, I could not find any information on webinar features that the participants did not like. However, I think this is less important than the preferences the authors highlighted in this paper.

Now, I must start recording my lectures for this blog site. I will have to think again about how I make these interactive.

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Have your say!

  1. Isn’t ZOOM a better way to do this as there is a facility for questions and answers which somebody other than the presenter could read out?

  2. Hello Kevin
    Thanks for sharing our paper. In fact one part of the study that answer your last question was published by Progress in Orthodontics, see the link below. That part titled (Global survey to assess preferences when attending virtual orthodontic learning sessions: optimising uptake from virtual lectures)

    The last part should be published by Journal of Orthodontics soon

  3. For those of us who maintain an interest in the changing culture of contemporary education, this is valuable information. On this side, my experience (since the easing of travel restrictions) with post-graduate students at more than 5 universities reveals their overwhelming preference for “live” events. When asked, the residents have voiced plenty of “ZOOM burn-out” comments. As is the trend, crafting an educational “hybrid” approach has potential.

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