Running the course online
Here are a few practical tips if you’re running the Difference course online.
As you begin the course with your group there are a few basic points of housekeeping that can help things run smoothly online. If you have a group larger than ten, ask your participants to mute their microphone when they’re not speaking to avoid sound interference. Let your group know in advance of any technical features you’re planning to use, such as the chat and breakout rooms. Encourage people to have their camera switched on if they are comfortable, as this creates a more engaging space for you and the rest of your group.
There are a variety of different online video call services you can use to run the course with your group. The most commonly used service by those who have run the course previously is Zoom, but be aware that calls with over two people are limited to 40 minutes on a free plan. Equally, you may find it more accessible to use WhatsApp on phones or tablets, although this will limit the number of technical features you’ll be able to use. Whichever service you use, there is flexibility in the course resources to allow you to run sessions in a way that works for your group.
You can make use of the ‘Chat’ function as people are arriving at the start of a session, saying hello to people and making small talk. It may also be helpful to add discussion questions to the chat, for participants to refer to in case they need a reminder.
Most video call services will give you the option to share your screen with everyone else on the call. This can be used to share the slides accompanying each session, which aren’t essential but may help to visually guide your group. Trying to switch screen sharing on and off throughout a session can cause a distraction for you as a host and for your group, so ensure your co-host or another volunteer can provide technical support for this.
You may wish to share music with your group as people are arriving at the start or during some of the more reflective SPACE activities. If you share music during activities, try to find something that isn’t too distracting, perhaps something without words so participants can fully engage in their reflections. You may also wish to end your time together with a shared worship song.
In each session, after the Bible passage has been read, hosts are encouraged to divide their groups into breakout rooms to allow time for everyone to share. Breakout rooms are also suggested in some of the SPACE activities. If you are using Zoom, these breakouts can be pre-assigned or randomly selected and can be set up as soon as the meeting is started. Make sure you add any required instructions for participants into the ‘Chat’ before you open breakout rooms, as this allows participants to refer to it if they need guidance.
There are two options for how you share the films with your group. You can share your screen whilst playing films on your device, making sure you are also sharing your device’s sound. However, if your internet connection is unstable this may affect the sound and image quality for participants. Alternatively, you can share the online link for the film with your group on ‘Chat’ for everyone to watch individually. Ask participants to ensure they are muted and suggest they switch their camera off whilst watching the film before turning it back on when finished. This allows you to know when everyone in the group is ready to move to the next part of the session.
Using fewer technical features
At the end of each session guide in your Host Guide for running the course online we offer some suggestions for how to host the session using fewer technical features. You may find this helpful if some of your participants are less familiar with meeting online.