The Flipped (or Social) Webinar

You have probably heard about The Flipped Classroom where the traditional classroom model has been flipped on its head, so that students watch videos as homework and then apply the concepts in the classroom.  If you haven’t, Dan Pink explains it in his piece in The Telegraph, Flip Thinking – the new buzz word sweeping the US:

“During class time, the teacher will stand at the front of the room and hold forth on the day’s topic. Then, as the period ends, he or she will give students a clutch of work to do at home. Lectures in the day, homework at night. It was ever thus and ever shall be.”

However, instead of lecturing about polynomials and exponents during class time – and then giving his young charges 30 problems to work on at home – Karl Fisch has flipped the sequence. He’s recorded his lectures on video and uploaded them to YouTube for his 28 students to watch at home. Then, in class, he works with students as they solve problems and experiment with the concepts.  Lectures at night, “homework” during the day.”

Anyway, when I was recently discussing an upcoming webinar I have been invited to do for my friends Sibrenne and Joitske  in the Netherlands at, I thought it might be a good idea to try the same with the traditional webinar model, and flip that. In other words instead of me presenting  for most of the time, trying to find some rather contrived ways to interact with the audience via my slides, and then only spend a short time answering questions which the participants have had to think up on the spot – we should do the opposite.

It seems to me we often waste the opportunity of bringing people together by lecturing/presenting at them, rather than using the time more for discussion and collaboration or even experimentation and problem solving.  As it is, when I am participating in webinars myself, I often find most of the interesting stuff happens in the conversations taking place in the chat! And I’ve not yet participated in any webinar that has made use of breakout sessions for collaborative activities.

I  am sure there are some who will say that THIS is how webinar tools are meant to be used – particularly for training and educational webinars, but I think many people still see them as presentational tools rather than as SOCIAL tools. (I know I always assume that a webinar is going to be someone presenting a topic.). Others will point out that with large audiences, the logistics of organising more interactivity and social elements are limited. And yet others will, I am sure, argue that a charismatic lecturer or presenter is very powerful, and that webinars provide a fantastic opportunity to hear someone talk about a subject they are passionate about, and that this should be the focus of the session.

So there is clearly a time and place for using the traditional presentation model, but I thought it would be a good idea to try and explore the flipped model – in order to provide a more social webinar.  In other words to start with the premise that there would be no (or very little) formal presentation and that the focus will be on social and collaborative activities.

Therefore, for the purposes of my webinar for my Dutch colleagues, I have written a blog post about the webinar, in which I have provided the participants with a link to an article I have written and asked them to submit questions (in the comments on the blog post) in advance of the webinar.  This will give them time to read and reflect on it and come up with some considered questions before the webinar itself. We can then use the questions that we have received to plan the structure and format of the webinar. It’ll undoubtedly include some very short presentational elements from me – perhaps one or two slides here and there –  to support my answers to the questions, but there will be time for a fair amount of discussion, and hopefully some collaborative activities if the webinar software  can support this.   There will also be an opportunity to review the flipped/social webinar model to find out if this is what the participants like/want/find useful, etc. It will be interesting, by the way, to see if a reading is as good a replacement for the presentation as a video.

Now, I am sure I am not the only one who has used this approach in a webinar, so I would be very interested in hearing your own experiences, if you have done something different from just providing a traditional presentation.  How have you flipped the webinar model?

UPDATE: Here’s a review of the webinar by Simon at – Social media are moving organisations from a hierarchical into a wirearchical approach

13 thoughts on “The Flipped (or Social) Webinar

  1. Iain MacLaren

    yup, we’ve done this too and it is a nice effective way of really engaging with the subject and the presenter, though in practice some of the ‘presenters’ have found it tricky to adjust and not sure about how many who are there have actually read the materials in advance, so end up giving summaries etc…but it just takes a bit of getting used to. Similarly, you could also still do a recorded quick summary presentation and then use the live session for questions and discussion, we’ve done that also in conferences too and it works. It also generates a buzz in that context for some reason, there’s still an excitement in using videoconferencing type technologies to ‘head over live’ for an interview/question session or a ‘meet the author’ of the there’s more of a sense of event associated with it.

    1. Anonymous

      Thanks Iain for this.Some great ideas here. As you say it probably wouldnt suit all presenters but good to hear it generates buzz.

    1. Anonymous

      Thanks Sam, yes, there are lots of fabulous tools for this type of activity. Thank you for sharing this link

  2. Anonymous


    Great approach and it should be the norm – otherwise we aren’t using the new tools to the full power they provide.

    I’ve written on my blog and presented on the idea of the “flipped conference” where all presenters prior to the conference, post up a short presentation in video outlining the main ideas of their talk and also providing reading materials, key questions – all so a lot of the heavy lifting can be done prior to the session and in the session, more talk, discussion, sharing – something more “constructivist”.

    I agree with Iain, you probably have to stress the strict requirement to prepare and have some sort of accountability attached to that. Otherwise, life being life, most won’t prepare and will muddle along.


    1. Anonymous

      David, thanks – can u share the link to your blog posting on the “Flipped Conference” – it sounds like a great model to extend the Flipped Webinar concept.

  3. chris_saeger

    Jane, The webinar tools may not give enough opportunity ro participate. The Realworkplacelearning twitter chat that you do works well in much the same way. Blog post and discussion via twitter. I had not thought flipped until you mentioned it here. Great observation.

    1. Anonymous

      Chris, yes I think it will depend on the webinar tool in question – if is just supports broadcasting of a presentation then it will be difficult.I’ve used a number of different platforms and some certainly are better than others. But the opportunity for voice discussions – not just chat – was what I was hoping for in my idea, together with video etc, so it became more like a face-to-face meeting. Otherwise you are right, Twitter chat works just as well for the chat part, doesn’t it?

      1. Joitske Hulsebosch

        Interesting to think about the tool too… In this case we really wanted to tap the expertise of Jane, so I think a webinar tool was more appropriate than an tool geared towards full interaction. In the learning trajectory there is already a lot of space for exchange of experiences so flipping the webinar did not have the goal of stimulating a lot of interaction between the participants as such, but trying to address the real questions of participants (all with Jane in the expert role).

  4. David Grebow

    Hi Jane,

    We did this recently for Cisco when we developed their Leading Virtual Classroom Instruction certification program.

    The only difference is that we were showing instructors just starting out as well as experienced how to create a dramatically more effective virtual learning experience. We flipped the presentation that students would normally attend into a portal to watch anywhere and anytime before the virtual class, and did the homework during the virtual class that people actually attended.

    We also used all the online tools to trump the onground experience – Community of Learners that, upon certification, graduates to the Community of Practice, peer-to-peer-to-instructor Q&As, links to related websites, reading etc. We’re thinking of adding free membership in The Association of Virtual Instructors as well. To quote one of the students from Australia “It was flippin’ great!”

  5. Sibrenne Wagenaar

    Hello Jane,

    Nice to read about your thoughts around the flipped webinar. As one of the facilitators, I found it working very well. We didn’t’ need a ‘long’ introduction of the subject and could start with the core items people were interested in. That was great! What I do agree is that the amount of interaction in such flipped webinar partly depends on the tool you are using. We used BigMarker in combination with Skype (because of sound problems in BigMarker), but these tools primarily have chat, presentation and voice options. I haven been using Elluminate for some time, and then you have the possibility to create something together in a shared whiteboard. That really helped us support contribution of people and online collaboration. What I saw happening this time, was that, because we were all muted, the chat became the place for people to ask their questions, what made it more of a question-answer session. Very valuable! Do you recognize this, Jane? It makes me think about ‘what you can do as a facilitator (in terms of interventions of active working methods) to support and stimulate online interaction in a webinar?’ When using a poll or an exercise on a whiteboard is not possible? You might think of using the chat for small brainstorms…. any other ideas?

  6. Simon Koolwijk

    Hello Jane, thanks for conducting the Flipped (or Social) webinar (15th December ’11) organized by, in which I too participated. I very much liked the approach of having people to read an article about serendipity learning ( in advance of the webinar. Since most of the participants of the webinar are working on a practical assignment of setting up and implementing an online learning process with their organisation/ clients, it very much helped them. The questions that came up in the webinar were very much related to their task. What I liked a lot in the webinar, is that people were able to ask their questions at the chat of the webapplication Bigmarker. What I also liked was your lively way of presenting behind the webcam. What I noticed was a lot of passion, when I saw your face at the webcam. This helped me to stay involved and connected to the discussion we had about the topic, what does serendipity mean for learning in organisations. So, to conclude having a collaborative platform having interactive functions such as chat, a presentation space and collaborative working space, in combination with skype and a webcam, is very stimulating for exchange. The task to make people read in advance and have their questions formulated, was very helpful to have people and the facilitator, Sibrenne Wagenaar, prepared for the webinar. Thanks. Regards, Simon Koolwijk

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