Webinars – Choosing a Suitable Platform

There are many webinar platforms available, each with different toolsets and associated costs. This page covers various considerations, with the aim to help you decide on a platform that’s best suited for your envisaged task.

Supported vs. Unsupported Platforms

Supported tools (as the name suggests) are supported by teams at the University of York and are subject to contracts agreed between the University and the vendor. This ensures prompt support (from UoY teams and vendors where issues are escalated), robust data security and agreed levels of service availability.

Unsupported tools, in contrast, are not supported by any IT-related team at the University of York, are not subject to an agreed contract between the University and the vendor and have no guarantee of robust security.

  • Where feasible, supported tools should be used over unsupported tools
  • If you are considering using an unsupported tool, refer to University policy first – Learn More: 4.5.1 Supported vs. Unsupported Tools

Centrally Supported Webinar Platforms at UoY

We (the ELDT) support the Collaborate webinar platform by Blackboard.

  • Collaborate is available to UoY staff to use with students or externals at no cost
  • Integrates directly with the Yorkshare VLE
  • Allows up to 250 concurrent users per session as standard, can allow up to 1000
  • Learn more on our dedicated Collaborate page.

IT Services support Google Hangouts, which can also be used as a webinar platform.

A detailed comparison of the supported Collaborate and Google Hangout offerings, against example unsupported platforms YouTube Live and Skype [Google Doc]

Audience Requirements

When choosing a webinar platform it is important to consider the requirements of those attending your session.

International Considerations

Individuals in China and an increasing number of African countries are subject to limits on what they can access over the internet. If you anticipate that members of your audience will be located in these countries you should factor this into your platform-choosing decision making.

Unfortunately governments can implement blocks very quickly, so it can be hard to keep up to date on what platforms do and don’t work in different countries. With this in mind, if possible, test your chosen platform in advance with someone based in the potentially-blocked country.

If your desired platform is blocked:

  • Ask your local contact if they’re aware of a similar platform that does still work
  • At time of writing (January 2018):
    • Centrally-supported webinar platforms: Collaborate is accessible in all countries, Google Hangouts is not accessible in China
    • The following unsupported tools (not free) should be accessible globally: appear.inwiziq.com, webex.com and gotomeeting.com
  • If no viable alternative, consider recording your session and sharing the recording with individuals in blocked locations post-event
    • Again, consider how you share the recordings. YouTube is blocked in China (alternative: YouKu); Panopto isn’t blocked but can’t be used to share with externals.

Aside from government blocks, users in very remote locations may have slower internet speeds which can stop access to some webinar platforms. Centrally-supported platform Collaborate Ultra dynamically changes how much bandwidth it uses, making it a viable option for connections of most strengths.

Accessibility Considerations

Webinar platforms can have varying support for accessibility needs. Bear this in mind when selecting a platform, exploring the best fit for your students who may have a range of access requirements.

Collaborate Ultra

Centrally-supported webinar platform Collaborate Ultra offers a number of different features to help increase inclusivity for users with differing visual, auditory or mobility needs:

Supporting Visual Impairments:

  • Screen reader support for most in-webinar tasks, via JAWS with Firefox on Windows or VoiceOver with Safari on Macs
  • PowerPoints and PDFs shared through Collaborate are screen-reader-accessible as of January 2018.

Supporting Auditory Impairments:

Supporting Motor Impairments:

Learn more: Collaborate Ultra’s Own Accessibility Pages [help.blackboard.com]

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts, in comparison, offers only screen reader support and navigation: