More on that webinar

So, I attended the webinar I mentioned in the previous post; it was an interesting experience.

From an actual, learning, discussion it was a bit mixed. As far as I could tell, Anton, the moderator (her name is Maria Droujkova) and I were the only people engaged for much of the time. Maybe the other people in the room (there were maybe 10 signed in for most of the time) were passively soaking things up (I know I’m certainly more apt to insert myself into discussions than the average person), but at times I got the feeling that Anton was giving a very nice presentation into a void of blackness. A couple of people other than Maria (who was very engaged, and who I have to give a lot of credit for keeping things rolling) asked questions at the end, but I was a bit underwhelmed by the response. I suspect talks in graduate student seminars will be much more effective publicity for MathOverflow.

But who knows. One of the nice things about stuff that goes up on the internet is that it has an afterlife. People can go after the fact and listen to the presentation if they are so inclined (once it gets posted, I’ll try to put a link here).

For me, it was probably more interesting as an opportunity to play with the Elluminate platform. This is a proprietary webconferencing platform, which happens to also have a free educational wing. As far as I can tell, anybody can freely use their platform, hosted by them, for free as long as said use is: 1) education-oriented and non-commercial, 2) free (you’re not charging those who attend), 3) recordable, and 4) open to anyone to attend. It also appears that if you register, you can also use the same platform for groups up to 4 privately (and also free).

I hope it’s as clear to the rest of you that such a thing could have awesome mathematics applications if stars aligned correctly (it’s far from obvious they would). The user experience for me was in the “pretty reasonable, but not mind-blowing” category. It was certainly convenient to stick together, voice, text chat, whiteboard, and essentially presentation capacities (for much of the talk, Anton was showing us bits of MO on his computer). Their workings were not what I would call slick, but they all seemed to actually work.

So I guess what I’m saying is, this was the first piece of software I’ve seen that I felt would allow me (or anyone else) to give a math talk, using my normal laptop, from my bedroom, in my bathrobe. In that sense, it was educational.

8 thoughts on “More on that webinar

  1. Have to stick my hand up as one of those doing more watching from the wings than participating. In mitigation, I was at the time trying to cook and then eat a late lunch (and don’t have a mic) – but in fairness, I probably didn’t come as prepared as I should have.

    Kudos once again to Anton and Maria for keeping things rolling.

  2. We have a lot of math webinars for 3 years. This is the most important point – to avoid the effect of voidness. It is a special point for webinars. Live talks has no such a problem. Unfortunately I have missed because of wrong time calculation.

  3. We are using webex.com for webinars — it has better recording and better writeboard (the writeboard have to be scalable )

  4. I was another passive watcher, in the same way as I’m a passive user of MathOverflow (and blogs and …). I thought everyone did a great job though, it was quite interesting to hear what people had to say

  5. Chris- Stranger things have happened.

    Yemon- I didn’t really intend the above to be a criticism of the people who
    bothered to show up. I think the issue is more that there weren’t very many of them, so it was very unclear who was really learning from it.

  6. There is a very nice “virtual topology seminar” held by LSU, Rice, the University of Miami, and the Univeristy of Iowa. The speaker is live at one of these institutions and people at the other ones watch it over the internet (not at their desks, but in a big seminar room). It’s a very nice setup — people can ask questions remotely, and they have pretty good attendence. I’m surprised that more places don’t try to set things up like this…

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