I had hoped to be able to write up a brief review of a professional development library webinar this semester, but my two attempts to join in on live webinars via ALA and OCLC proved unsuccessful due to technical difficulties on my end. For one webinar, the audio connection was full of static and too grating to listen to. For the other, the audio connection did not work at all, and I was only able to watch the slides advancing without any of the commentary. For both ALA and OCLC’s webinar interfaces, I had spent time before the webinar running the systems’ diagnostics to make sure that my connections and settings were all correct, too.
These technical difficulties aside, I thought I’d still offer a post about professional development webinars and their potential usefulness for library and information science students. I would love to hear from other students about webinars that you have successfully attended and what you learned from them, both content-wise and in terms of the form of instruction delivery.
It may be interesting to hear from students in online programs in comparison to students in traditional, face-to-face programs, too, regarding use of professional development webinars. Is the medium more familiar for online students? Are you encouraged to attend professional development webinars by your programs? Are you required to do so for classes?
Most library professional organizations run their own series of webinars, some requiring registration fees and others free to any interested librarians and students. In addition to the ALA and OCLC, for example, the information sharing resource organization Minitex in Minnesota offers access to webinars for its members such as the NISO series addressing current topics in digital librarianship. Whatever your interests in librarianship, there are sure to be webinars available for you to connect with experts as well as other interested persons.
Here are some things I think library students can get from professional development webinars:
- supplementing of program curriculum,
- participation in live discussions of current issues with practicing librarians,
- learning opportunities without the need to travel (and without the expenses),
- ease of exploring new topics as well as studying familiar ones in more depth, and
- a chance to think in more practical terms about library issues.
Some of the downsides include technical difficulties, of course, as well as other types of communications problems. One particular thing that I find frustrating is the wide range of interfaces out there for online webinars. I use a few different kinds at my current job as an editor (including GoToMeeting), and I am familiar with a few of the content management systems for education (Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn) that include modules for virtual communications such as live chats and screen sharing.
One other great thing about webinars is that most organizations that provide them also record and archive them. So, you can also access old webinars. You lose the interactive feature, but you have in its place a wide array of webinars that you can view at times of your own choosing with the option to pause or stop the webinar to return to later.
What are your experiences with professional development webinars? How do they compare to virtual conference sessions, if you have experience with those?
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