Passivity in webinars

For the last ten years the Nordic DISTANS network (the group who form this project) has hosted many webinars and we have gained considerable experience in that time. We have seen some general tendencies among webinar participants where some of them actively participate in debates (usually via chats), some only make the occasional comment, while others rarely or never write or say anything.

Most participants participate when asked to write their names, where they come from, answer a simple question about the weather or suchlike; so-called icebreakers. However when it comes to more active participation in the actual session we see a number of possible reasons for non-activity:

  • They do not follow the session so closely, often doing other things at the same time (multitasking).
  • They keep a close eye on the session but do not feel that they know enough to get involved in the discussion.
  • They follow the session but because of introverted personality traits they just listen and reflect and possibly follow up later
  • They do not feel confident because the presentations are not in their mother tongue

How can we encourage higher engagement levels or is that an unrealistic objective given the limited time available and the very diverse nature of the participants? In a course we have more time to create a sense of community and mutual trust but a maximum one hour webinar offers no such opportunities.


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