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Experience of the First Online Seminar

The first Online seminar to assist students sitting for the scheduled ICTES examination on 18th July, 2009 was held at Sarvodaya headquarters in Moratuwa. Mr.D.D.Prabath, Training Manager, University of Moratuwa conducted the seminar with assistance from Fusion staff. The online seminar primarily involved discussion of a model paper via Internet using Skype technology for communication.

The seminar was arranged into four, two hour sessions with 3 district units allocated for a single session. However, due to power failure in two districts, they have to be rearranged with subsequent sessions. Participants at other end included exam coordinators, instructors, telecentre operators and students. Total number of student participation was 150 approximately, 25 being the maximum for a district unit and 5 being the minimum.
Staff at Fusion was satisfied the way exam coordinators arranged the seminar at their end in relation to their preparation, distribution of model paper, PC-mic’s and Skype setp etc.
Exam coordinators and in some cases instructors acted as in-betweens when interacting with students however in most districts students interacted directly by coming near the mic and asking questions. Translation to Tamil required use of intermediaries and discussion of the paper both in Sinhala and English.

For most, the online seminar appeared to be a new experience as most of them have not participated in this type of an event before. Even though this was their first experience, we believe that they faced the event well and with enthusiasm and interacted with Mr.Prabath well. Commitment and professionalism of Mr.Prabath also played a key role in making the seminar successful. No major technical problems were encountered in relation to quality of communication and suitability of Skype software.

Most exam coordinators have indicated after the seminar that they are happy about this type of an online seminar due to time, travel and cost benefits it brings. However, we observed that following areas needs improvement or attention in respect of future online seminars.

  1. The problem of translation to Tamil.
  2. Ability to video-conference.
  3. Ability to use projectors.
  4. Methods to improve student participation.