Painless Professional Development: Short, Interactive Webinars for Supporting Instructors Teaching with Technology

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Instructors need targeted professional development to make the best use of their LMS. Short webinars foster peer interaction and practice opportunities useful for learning. This webinar models technical skills and interactive teaching practices for virtual professional development. Participants may engage virtually from the conference room or elsewhere at


Kris is an instructional applications support specialist in the Office of Instruction and Assessment at the University of Arizona. She helps instructors learn how to effectively use D2L Brightspace and integrated technologies to reach their teaching goals, with support ranging from problem-solving to instructional design assistance. Kris came to the Office of Instruction and Assessment from a from a long career in librarianship in public, school, and community college libraries. She earned a Master of Library Science from the University of Arizona and a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design from San Diego State University.
Lindsay has been teaching professionally in private sector, community-based, K-12, and higher education settings since 2005. Her research and practice has focused on teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), information literacy, and instructional development. In her current role, she supports instructors in incorporating student writing into their courses, consults with instructors in designing and building hybrid, online, and accelerated courses, and designs and facilitates fully online & hybrid professional development offerings. She holds a B.A. in French from Colorado State University and an M.A. in applied linguistics, a TESOL certificate, and a Higher Education Teaching Specialist designation from University of Utah. She loves dogs, the indoors, tous les choses francophones, podcasts, street food, and the American intermountain west.

Extended Abstract

Instructors need concise, targeted information on how to use their institution’s learning management system (LMS) in terms of both the technology and the teaching. As a department charged with supporting instructors across campus and disciplines, our challenge comes in providing LMS professional development (PD) that is both pedagogically and technically useful to busy instructors, some of whom live far from campus. Webinars are perceived as a convenient way to provide PD; however, most webinars are facilitated lecture-style with superficial participant interaction, practices antithetical to those that researchers suggest support learning, like interaction with content and peers, management of cognitive load, multiple opportunities to think and practice, and active learning as means to make learning “visible”.

To develop instructor technical and pedagogical abilities simultaneously, we have developed a series of short, interaction-based webinars to address these needs, and to model evidence-based teaching practices in a synchronous virtual format.  Each webinar targets a discrete concept using one LMS tool, for example “setting up your gradebook”, and models how technical skills and pedagogical practices operate together. The webinars are founded in three goals:

  1. Keep information and timing brief: Each session is 45 minutes or less, with no more than 15 total minutes of demonstration. This manages the cognitive load of learning in a synchronous online space.
  2. Privilege instructional activities that require participant interaction with the content and each other: The format is interaction-based, instead of presentation-based. Instruction alternates between demonstration screen-sharing and participant engagement using interaction tools internal and external to the webinar platform (Zoom).
  3. Model instructional practices: Facilitators employ learner-centered practices and discuss with participants how they can be adapted to other course contexts (online, face-to-face, synchronous, and/or asynchronous).

​Assessment of these goals during this first year of webinars has been measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. First, our initial assessment of participant numbers and instructor satisfaction indicates they appreciate the timeliness of webinar topics, the brevity of the sessions, and not having to “commute” to the PD event. Second, we are interested in how the webinars affect instructional practices over a longer term. To measure this, webinar participants are sent a two question survey in the semesters after the webinar asking: 1) if they have applied the information they learned in the webinar to their teaching, and 2) if so, how did their practice change, and if not, what factors do they think contributed to not changing their practice. The data collected from these surveys over the next year will be analyzed for emergent domains and themes to assess how the webinars influence instructional practices in terms of LMS use and pedagogical decision making.

In this express workshop, we will share our experience and process developing and assessing the webinars through the modeling of several interactive webinar activities. This session will be facilitated using Zoom, with all participants being asked to participate virtually, either from the physical session room with a device, or from elsewhere as they typically would for a webinar. To model management of a co-convened session with in-person and virtual participants, one facilitator will be in the physical conference room and one will facilitate remotely via Zoom from elsewhere in the conference.

Interactive activities will use tools both internal and external to Zoom, for example: using the chat tool as a generative discussion space, facilitating small group video discussions using break-out rooms, using the whiteboard tool to share out from group discussions and highlight the challenges of documenting a webinar, using Padlet or Google Docs to collaborate and build content together, and so on.

The Zoom link will be posted to the conference website. Links to supporting materials (e.g., Google docs) will be provided during the webinar. Participant created artifacts from the webinar will be posted to the conference proceedings.

The desired learning outcomes for this express workshop are that participants will be able to: describe at least one synchronous online activity that they could apply in their context and compare and contrast different interactive webinar strategies for use in different contexts. Facilitators will assess and document these outcomes through the interactive strategies.