Optimizing the NACADA Webinar Experience

Reprinted from Academic Advising Today, 31:4, December 2008

Karen Thurmond, Webinar Advisory Board Chair
Melissa Lantta, Webinar Advisory Board Member

NACADA Webinars are popular with NACADA members. Academic advisors have fun when they gather, and we often find great resources in discussing issues and ideas with each other. The Webinar Advisory Board has been discussing how we have “consumed” Webinars. Here are some examples of how campuses are organizing to make the most of Webinar participation.

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh advising center became very interested in the Webinar series in Fall 2007. At first, our office did not set expectations for the Webinars. Advisors did not share what they learned with their colleagues, and the experience was clearly not being maximized. In order to make the Webinars more successful, our professional workgroup assigned an advisor to facilitate each session. The role of the facilitator consisted of reading the objectives of the Webinar and inviting not only the advisors from our office but those individuals around campus who would benefit from the Webinar (i.e. faculty advisors, graduate students, administrators). Participants were asked to save an extra hour of their time after the Webinar to address discussion questions the facilitator had created. These Webinars will become a part of the training process for faculty advisors to obtain their Master Advisor certification. The environment surrounding the Webinars has changed; there is a spirit of learning, collaboration, and enjoyment as the participants enhance their professional development.

The University of Memphis began participating in Webinars at the very beginning. Each Webinar attracts a different group of advisors. In general, the Webinars have been an opportunity for UofM advisors to gather informally and learn together. For each Webinar, snacks and water are provided, and we draw for door prizes (usually a NACADA publication). Over time we learned that we wanted to engage discussion after the Webinar, so we boldly began “turning off” the sound when the Webinar formal presentation ended to begin our own discussion. Various task forces and work teams have emerged from these discussions.

Two significant developments at UofM have been highlights of our involvement with Webinars. First, we invited our community college advisor partners to attend with us. We had just initiated an “in residence” advising presence at the community college. Once a week, a UofM advisor is available by appointment at the community college campus. This initiative responded to an interest in “seamless transfer” in our state and introduced advisors at both community college and university campus to new colleagues. Getting together for Webinars has enhanced relationships and made for smoother communication between campuses. Second, we have been able to springboard initiatives from Webinar content. Jayne Drake’s Webinar, Components of a Successful Faculty Advising Program: Institutional Commitment, Professional Development, Incentives, and Recognition, attracted our largest group of faculty to date. Discussion following Jayne’s presentation was lively. The faculty members present were excited about the NACADA Seminar, Effectively Engaging Faculty in Academic Advising, which was scheduled to take place during the next summer in Portsmouth, VA. In subsequent discussions, the faculty requested that representatives be funded to attend the Seminar and get more perspective on faculty advising, on the role of faculty, and about how our campus might proceed to enhance faculty advising. As a result of that group’s attendance at the seminar, our campus made some significant decisions about advising, including the appointment of a Director of Academic Advising.

Albert Matheny, Director of the Academic Advising Center in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida, tells us that his institution has used Webinars to increase professional awareness for advisors campus-wide, and specifically uses Webinars and brown bag luncheons for professional development. “Each year for the past three years,” Albert said, “we have had an all-campus advisor workshop that pulls together advisors and related personnel (with panels not unlike those at NACADA conferences). We have not used Webinars in that venue yet, but we see possibilities for a greatly increased role for Webinar-recordings (on CD) in the future, as conferences get harder to attend.”

The Webinar Advisory Board is wondering how you “consume” Webcasts at your institution. What have you done that has increased group attendance? For those participating alone, what have you done to make Webinars useful and meaningful? Have you gotten great results because of something started by a Webinar? Tell us about it! Send your comments and suggestions to NACADA Webinar Producer Leigh Cunningham. Your ideas will be added to the NACADA Web site for the benefit of others.

Karen Thurmond
University of Memphis

Melissa Lantta
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh