In this article you will learn how to use and manage seminars to engage your learners with synchronous (real-time) online learning activities.
Many effective blended learning experiences offer a combination of face-to-face and online learning, and mix self-paced study with periods of direct interaction with a trainer and other learners on and offline. Using the Seminar feature you can incorporate synchronous (real-time) online learning activities as part of your course offering. You can use seminars to schedule live sessions, sign-up learners to attend, send reminders, select rooms and assets and track attendance.
- Introduction to the Seminar Activity
- Seminar Administration Settings
- Create a Seminar Activity
- Add a Seminar Event
- Add & Assign a Trainer
- Event Attendance
- Manage Seminar Notifications
Introduction to the Seminar Activity
The seminar activity module enables a Site Administrator or Editing Trainer to set up a booking system for one or many in-person/classroom based events.
Each event within a seminar activity can have customised settings around training room, start time, finish time, cost, capacity, etc. These can be set to run over multiple days or allow for unscheduled and wait listed events. An activity may be set to require manager approval and trainers can configure automated notifications and event reminders for attendees.
Learners can view and sign-up for events with their attendance tracked and recorded within the grades area.
The diagram below illustrates how the Seminar activity is structured. A Seminar may hold one or many Events which may be made up of one or several Sessions. Each Session has a start and finish day and time and may be tied to a specific Room and any number of Assets.
In the topics that will follow, we will cover the settings you need to consider and the steps you need to take for effective Seminar management.
Seminar Administration Settings
In order to add Seminar activities with Events to a course, the Seminar activity must be enabled on your site. Site administrators can enable the Seminar activity from the Administration menu by going to Plugins > Activity modules > Manage activities. Here you will need to click the Hide/Show toggle icon (,) next to the Seminar activity so that the eye icon appears open.
Seminar Administration Dashboard
The Seminar dashboard provides an overview of all seminar events across the site. A Site administrator can access a Seminar administration dashboard under the Site Administration menu via Seminars > Events report.
The dashboard is split into two tabs Events View and Sessions View.
- Events View: Shows one row per seminar event.
- Sessions View: Displays one row per session date.
These reports can be configured via the Report builder, the results exported to .csv, excel, .ods, or pdf, new columns and filters can be added, and each column sorted ascending or descending as required. Administrators and users with the capability of totara/reportbuilder:manageembeddedreports can select Edit this report when viewing the dashboard or go to Reports > Report Builder > Manage embedded reports via the Site Administration menu.
The Actions column displays an icon () which provides a link directly to the corresponding Event's attendee list.
Seminar Default Settings
To minimize any additional configurations of Seminars and Events for course creators and facilitators, a site administrator can create default settings for these based on the typical workflow or parameters set out by your organization.
Site administrators can manage Seminar activity settings across all seminars via Global settings. These settings can also be accessed via the Site Administration menu via Seminars > Global settings or via Plugins > Activity modules > Seminars.
In addition to settings that apply to seminars globally, the Seminar activity has two inter-related components: the Seminar course activity and the Event(s) and Session(s) linked to that activity.
Site administrators can manage Seminar activity default settings via the Site Administration menu within Seminars > Activity defaults.
Site administrators can manage Seminar Event default settings via the Site Administration menu within Seminars > Event defaults.
Adding Custom Fields
Seminar custom fields can be managed by Site administrators via the Administration block within Administration > Seminars > Custom fields.
Custom fields can be added to a range of forms (Sign-up, User Cancellation, Event Cancellation) and elements (Event, Asset, Room) within the Seminar activity to request or provide information.
Any number of custom fields can be added to each of the forms and elements and the selections made by users on the site.
Event custom fields will only appear on the events dashboard.
The seminar activity area on the course homepage is a tightly-summarised version of information, whereas the events dashboard contains a more detailed and comprehensive view.
A Site Administrator can access the Rooms administration dashboard via the Administration menu within Seminars > Rooms.
The Manage rooms area provides a list of all Rooms within the site and, by default, the ability to search for available Rooms by date.
To create a new Room within the site, use the Add a new room button located at the bottom of the Manage rooms page. Enter in all values within each of the required fields.
Managing Seminar Assets
A Site administrator can access the Assets administration dashboard via the Administration menu within Seminars > Assets.
The Manage assets area provides a list of all Assets within the site and, by default, the ability to search for available assets by date. Assets can include:
- Equipment such laptops, projectors, water coolers, cables
- People such as Trainers, IT technicians
- Services such as catering, room setup, enabling hearing loops, etc.
- Any other items you might wish to link to to an Event Session.
To create a new Asset within the site, use the Add a new asset button located at the bottom of the Manage assets page. Enter in values within each of the required fields.
A Trainer as a seminar asset may also be created and "booked". The advantage of this approach are:
- Trainers can be assigned on an Event or Session level.
- From an administrative level, the Trainer asset can be tracked and be set to allow or not allow booking conflicts.
Note: You will still need to enrol a user in a Trainer or Editing Trainer role. For additional details on trainer management see ADD & ASSIGN A TRAINER
Create a Seminar Activity
Creating a seminar event is a two-part process. First you must add a Seminar activity then you can add Event occurrences within the activity.
- Log in as a Site Administrator or Editing Trainer, navigate to (or create) the required course.
- Ensure editing is turned on.
- Where the Activity chooser is on, select Add an activity or resource within the relevant section and select Seminar from the popup menu and click Add.
- Complete the required sections and click...
- Save and return to course to return to the course homepage,
- Save and display to create the Event, or
- Cancel to discard your changes.
When adding a Seminar activity, the following are key areas to consider:
Sign-up Workflow Settings
The Sign-up Workflow settings manage the how attendees sign-up for seminars.
If an approval option is disabled in global settings that is already being used within a seminar it will still be honoured within the seminar it has already been selected in. If the disabled option is changed within a seminar it will then disappear from that seminar's settings until it is re-enabled in the global settings.
Where the seminar activity has been set to Allow manager reservations, Staff Managers (users with direct reports) with the relevant Permissions and Capabilities in the context of the course can Reserve or Allocate spaces at a seminar event for members in their team. There is a difference between reserving a space and allocating a space:
- Reserving spaces: Allows managers to secure a pre-determined number of spaces on a session for their team. This is helpful when it is not yet known who will be attending from a team.
- Allocating spaces: Allows managers to assign a pre-determined number of spaces on a session for specific members in their team.
The number of spaces that can be allocated is set per seminar activity, so if a lot of spaces are reserved for a particular event then there will be fewer available for other events.
Learners can view their Seminar Event booking(s) in a number of areas including the:
- Site-wide Calendar (where shown).
- Seminar's course Calendar (where shown).
- Seminar's course home page.
- Seminar Events Dashboard.
- User's Bookings area within the My Learning area (where available).
- User's Dashboard under Upcoming Events.
Seminar Activity Completion
Before configuring activity completion it first needs to be enabled at the course level. You can turn completion tracking on by navigating to the course, then Course administration > Edit settings > Completion tracking. Set Enable completion tracking to Yes, then click Save and display. Now when you edit an activity the Activity completion section will be available.
If enabled, activity completion is tracked, either manually or automatically, based on certain conditions.
For the Seminar activity, it is recommended to use the Require status activity completion condition if the intention is to track completion based on attendance.
Add a Seminar Activity
After adding a seminar activity to a course page, events should be created that contain the specific date, time, and location (sessions) for the instructor-led/classroom based training (when known).
Any number of events may be added to a seminar activity with all activity settings applicable to each Event. And an event can be made up of any number of sessions.
- Log in as a Site Administrator or Editing Trainer and navigate to (or create) the required course.
- Click on the name of the Seminar event or View all events from the course homepage.
- Click the Add a new event link.
- Enter the relevant details for the Event as per the below, including any Custom fields.
- Click Save changes to add the Event or Cancel to discard your changes.
To create an Event without a known date (or remove a Date/Time) use the corresponding Delete icon (a cross). This will allow attendees to Sign-up to the Waitlist for this Event where they will be booked automatically once one or more Sessions are added.
Add an Event Session
An Event can have many Sessions. The Date and time setting of an Event is effectively its session. The more dates and times you add, the more sessions your event has.
By default, tomorrow's date and 9am-10am will be given as the (first) Date and time (Session) of the Event. Use the edit icon () to open the Start and Finish Date time selector and enter the required dates.
Select Add a new session if additional sessions are required or use the Copy icon (two pieces of paper icon) to duplicate a Session Date/Time and make the required edits.
When editing a Date and time or adding a new date the Select date dialogue box will display the following options:
- Timezone: Select the timezone you want this Event to be displayed in e.g. 'Pacific/Auckland'. This will display the start time, finish time and timezone in accordance with the timezone selected. If you choose User timezone, this will display the start time, finish date and timezone in relation to the timezone of the user viewing the event.
- Start time: When creating or editing a Event, the event timezone may differ from the timezone for the Start time. This is because the timezone for Start time is determined by the timezone of the user creating or editing the Event. The timezone of the user creating or editing the event does not affect the event timezone itself. Use the calendar icon to open the calendar view date selector.
- Finish time: When creating or editing a Event, the event timezone may differ from the timezone for the Finish time. This is because the timezone for Finish time is determined by the timezone of the user creating or editing the Event. The timezone of the user creating or editing the event does not affect the event timezone itself.
- Duplicating a session is helpful where only one or two details will be different from the original session such as the day or the Room.
- If your Event spans several days, you can create one Session with a different day for start and finish time, although you should indicate when breaks/lunch will be offered within the Event Details area.
- If you will be in a different Room and/or require different Assets on different days, it would be best to create several Sessions.
When updating the day or time of a Seminar Event, resulting in a scheduling conflict for one or more confirmed Attendees, you will be presented with a dialog box confirming whether you would like to Cancel your update, or Save changes and ignore all conflicts.
Add & Assign a Trainer
- Select a Totara role for the trainer. Your site is currently set to have the Editing Trainer as the role for the trainer. You can continue with this, add the Trainer, or a custom role. To be able to assign this role to the trainer role in a Seminar, go to Seminars>Global Settings and select the role.
- Go to the Administration block of the course, then Course administration > Users > Enrolled users. Locate and enrol the trainer(s) in the course in an Editing Trainer role.
- Once trainer(s) has been enrolled in the course in the appropriate role, the name of the trainer(s) will appear under the Event roles category when you add or edit a seminar event.
- A trainer can then be assigned in a pre-existing seminar event or when you add a new seminar event.
- You will see the results on the Attendees page under the Event Details tab.
It is possible for Site Administrators, Editing Trainers, and Trainers to add Learners as attendees to a seminar event.
Add Attendees Manually
To do this you will need to:
- Go to the seminar activity you wish to add attendees to.
- Alongside the corresponding event click the Attendees link.
Within the attendees tab, the Actions dropdown choose Add users (manual).
- Next, search for the user by first name, last name or email address and/or clicking on their name(s) from the Potential user list.
- Once you have found the user, click their name and then select Add.
- Click theContinue button to confirm your updates.
You will then be taken to the next steps where you can update your user selection via the Change selected users link.
Configure any notifications you wish to send to the selected users and their managers.
Once Attendees are booked and confirmed for a Seminar Event and the start time of the training has passed, an Administrator, Editing Trainer, or Trainer canTake Attendance.
The Take Attendance area can be accessed via the corresponding Attendees link in the Event.
You can mark attendance for each individual by using the corresponding Current status dropdown to select 'No Show', 'Partially Attended', or 'Fully Attended' as required. A learner's status can be updated at any point once an Event has started. Click Save attendance to save any changes or Cancel to clear all changes and return to the Attendees tab.
Alternatively, you can mark attendance in bulk. Using the Select dropdown choose All, Set, or Not Set then set the Mark all selected as dropdown to No Show, Partially Attended, or Fully Attended as required.
- All: Select all learners.
- Set: Select all learners that have already been marked with an attendance status.
- Not Set: Select all learners that have not yet been marked with an attendance status.
Click the Save attendance button to save changes or Cancel to clear all changes and return to the Attendees tab.
Export Seminar Attendance
You can Export all users and their saved Attendance status to Excel, OSD or CSV. Choose the required format from the dropdown menu and choose either the Open or Save File option when prompted.
Downloading a Sign-in Sheet
From the Attendees tab you can download a sign-in sheet for use in your seminar session. The downloaded sheet will include the attendees' names, any sign-up notes, and a space for them to sign into the session.
- Go to the Attendeestab.
- At the bottom of the page there is an option to Download sign-in sheet.
- If you have multiple sessions in your event, use the dropdown menu to select the session you want a sign-up sheet for.
- Select the file format from: CSV, Excel, ODS, PDF landscape, PDF portrait
- Click Download sign-in sheet.
Manage Seminar Notifications
The Seminar functionality allows Trainers, Editing trainers and Site administrators to set automated and customized system generated notifications for various actions, updates and milestones related to a seminar activity and the associated events.
You can create new templates, edit, delete, activate or deactivate existing ones, and sort the listing by Notification title and Status.
The Status indicates if the notification templates are Active (visible and able to be used) or Inactive (not visible and unable to be used). Administrators can Activate/Inactivate a notification using the corresponding eye icons (,) under Options.
There are a number of notification that are available in the system by default. If you wish to edit any of them, then you can find guidance on doing so above.
Notification Scope and Customization
There are two spaces where you can interact with seminar notifications:
- Notification templates (site-wide): The default content for these notifications can be set by via the Administration menu within Seminars > Notification templates.
- Seminar notifications (activity specific): Within a specific seminar activity you can customise and add notifications via Seminar administration > Notifications.
In both cases you will see a list of all the predefined templates for Seminar Events and custom notifications you have created at the relevant level.
Add or Edit a Site-Wide Notification Template
A site administrator can add a new, site-wide notification template that will be available for use across all seminar activities on the site.
- Open the seminar activity you wish to add a notification for.
- In the Administration menu go to Seminars > Notification templates.
- Click the Add button under the list of notifications.
- Complete the settings below.
- When you are finished click Add.
To edit an existing template click the corresponding edit () icon under Options alongside the notification you wish to edit. Remember to click Save changes once you are finished editing.
Add a Seminar Activity Notification
- Open the seminar activity you wish to add a notification for.
- Under Seminar administration go > Notifications.
- Click the Add button under the list of notifications.
- Complete the settings below.
- When you are finished click Save.
For a list of notification placeholders download Seminar Notification Placeholders