Since March, it has not been safe to travel into Latin America to teach Timothy Two workshops because of COVID-19. So I sought another way to continue training pastors and ministry leaders there. Following are the methods I used to learn Zoom and to conduct my first three workshops in Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic during July and August.
Setting up and learning Zoom
Before beginning the workshops, I set up a Zoom account and received two lessons from my niece, Libby Eiholzer. She has been using Zoom over the past several months to meet with her colleagues in the Cornell Cooperative Extension. I also watched a number of YouTube videos on the subject. Then I met with the Ecuador workshop coordinator several times to practice using Zoom with an interpreter. Finally, I upgraded my Zoom account from “Basic” to “Licensed.” This enabled me to meet with more than one person at a time and more than 40 minutes at a time.
Assessing the situation in each city
Before we began each particular workshop, I asked the coordinator to assess the situation in his city by inquiring whether each participant was able to connect online or not. After a consensus was reached about how we would meet, I held a test meeting with the coordinator, interpreter and some of the participants. And during the meeting we explained to the participants how to use Zoom. To keep it simple, I used the same Zoom password for all the meetings of all the groups. However, I will change that password for the next series of meetings.
Printing and distributing the workbooks
In addition, the workshop coordinators printed and distributed a workbook to every participant so they could follow the teaching and fully participate in the discussion of each topic of the workshop. The workbooks are valuable not only as learning tools but also as teaching tools. In the workshop, participants are trained not only how to understand the material for themselves. They are also equipped to train others using the workbook as their teacher’s manual.
Getting Everyone Connected
Connecting from their homes
With the groups in Ecuador and Colombia, all participants were able to connect via Zoom from their own homes. But with the Dominican group, participants were not able to connect from their homes because the internet system is both erratic and expensive. So the workshop coordinator and the interpreter set up equipment in one of the church’s school classrooms.
Connecting from a central church building
Since the Dominican group could not meet individually, I also paid for one month of internet service (about $70) to be connected to the largest of their church’s classrooms. And they brought their modem from home to connect the internet service to the main laptop. I also paid for them to buy an external Zoom-capable camera and tripod so they could project my image on a sheet hung in front of the classroom. That was all hooked up to the interpreter’s laptop. Then they set up another laptop pointed toward the group so I could see the participants sitting in the classroom. They hooked the first laptop up to an audio speaker so the interpreter and participants could hear me speak. And I could hear the interpreter and classroom participants speak over the two laptops. Finally, I paid for their lunches prepared by the coordinator’s wife and her team since the participants were coming from various parts of the city. One of the benefits of having the group meet together in one place was that they could take a lunch break and enjoy fellowship with one another like we do in a normal workshop.
Meeting Days and Times
With the Ecuador group, we met for two hours in the evening nine times over two weeks. With the Colombia group, we met for three hours on six Saturday and Sunday afternoons over four weekends. And with the Dominican group, we met for six hours per day for four days in a row.
Recording the Meetings
At the conclusion of each Zoom meeting a recording is made automatically. In order to prepare a YouTube video for participants who might miss a class, first I uploaded the Zoom video file to my YouTube account which took about 30 minutes. Second, I edited the video using the YouTube tools to remove any unwanted material – the front end when everyone is signing on and the back end when I’m meeting with the interpreter and coordinator to discuss how the meeting went. Third, I clicked “Save” on the edited video. That began 4-5 hours of processing the edited YouTube video. Fourth, I posted the video on a YouTube “Unlisted” playlist that I created for each group. (Unlisted so that only those who have a link can view it.) Finally, I sent the playlist link to the coordinator so that he could send it to all the participants via Whatsapp.
Creating an Online Test
For the first two groups, I created a 25 question short answer test on Google Forms based on the Review Questions and Application Questions in the workbook. I asked the coordinator to send everyone a link to the test so they could take it at the conclusion of the workshop for several reasons: 1) in order to gather as many of their full names and emails as possible; 2) to qualify them to receive a “this workshop only” certificate; 3) to certify that they had written out out all the answers to the Review Questions in their workbooks; 4) to certify that if they missed one of the meetings that they had watched the video recording of that workshop; 5) to gather some testimonials from the participants; and, 6) and to help them think through the material one more time. I did not create a test for the third group since most do not have email. But I asked the interpreter to gather their names and a short testimonial from each person and to interpret those for me.
Creating Printed Certificates
I created the certificates using a template found on Microsoft Word, printed each person’s name on a certificate and emailed the certificates to the participants or the coordinator for printing.
Teaching in Person is Better
Zoom is not my preferred method of teaching workshops. It’s much better to train pastors in person in their own countries. But under the current circumstances, and since these groups have been waiting six to twelve months already for the next workshop, using Zoom was an acceptable alternative for the participants. It enabled them to continue making progress toward their goal of completing the full series of workshops without further delay.