The paradigm is shifting from live classroom to a virtual online setting. Learn the identical material in a faster period of time at a fraction of the investment. Why are some not adapting so quickly? Is it the fear of the new word “webinar”, a new learning concept, a new series of keystrokes on the computer, and orchestrating the telephone at the same moment? The complication is not the technology itself but the comprehensive awareness of attempting of doing something wrong is what holds people back initially.
How Webinars are Different
Here’s a quick example of the cost breakdown of a live class. Add $4 to your live class just for gas alone to get you there and back assuming 10 miles each way and your tank gets you 20 miles per gallon. Add another $100 of your hourly wage to chauffer yourself to location assuming a 30 minute commute each way. Pay up to $20 in course handouts that will most likely end up in your “educational closet”. Already we are at $124 plus tuition before the instructor opens his/her mouth. Time in preparation, driving, review, and organization of material will add to the list of “To Do” items before and after the live class. Webinars save time for the student, course provider and instructor.
Taking a class online will save you more than just the tuition at the door. The system of learning enhances the audio, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles. Too often in technology courses people mention it would be more helpful to see how to do something and practice at the same time rather than just hear the explanation. Webinars will show you why to, what to, where to, and how to.
Two processes must take place in order to maximize the experience from webinars. First, learn how to use the functionality. Second, learn how to learn from webinars.
Learn the Functionality
Two key pieces of equipment needed to attend a webinar are a telephone and a computer with a high speed internet connection. Here are some basic steps to help get you started in the webinar:
1. Register online. Put in your contact information and credit card number and then you are automatically registered and receive an email confirmation with the time, day, password, learning objectives, and course materials.
2. Attend Webinar. The day and time of webinar click on the link within the email confirmation, enter the log-in information, and password if necessary. Now you will be placed directly into the session. You may have to remove your pop up blocker or install Active-X control in order to proceed to the instructor’s screen.
3. Dial into teleconference. The email confirmation should have given you the toll free or toll in number to call. Enter in the meeting ID# and attendee ID# and you will be directly placed in to the conference call.
Learn how to learn from Webinars
1. Ask questions. Instead of raising your hand in a live setting you can ask the instructor questions a few different ways. In the participants panel click on the hand which is like raising your hand in class to ask for permission to ask a question. There is also a Q&A section of the webinar that will allow you to ask the instructor questions privately in a text format.
2. Chat with the instructor or other students. The chat panel will allow you to ask the instructor quick questions or ask another student questions during a class. This allows people to be more freely in asking questions that they not normally ask in a live setting.
3. Take notes. There are three different ways to take notes. First, have a pad of paper handy to scribble down a few ideas or examples. Second, open up a new document in Microsoft Word to type your notes during the class. Finally, the best way to take notes is to make annotations to the screen or handouts while the webinar is going on. This allows you to change documents or make notes on transferred files from the instructor. This is an attendee privilege that the instructor must give. Also, some webinar providers may not have this functionality so be sure to check.
Questions to ask Your Webinar Provider
1. Toll free, toll in, or other dial in conference. A toll free call is free to the attendee. A toll in call is a long distance number that may or may not cost the attendee depending on their phone service. Other conference call programs can be used along with a webinar to save the host money. Attendees like toll free numbers because they cost nothing additional to participate but will cost the host extra.
2. Video capabilities. It is always a nice touch to see the instructor live demonstrating a concept or solution from their location. It is also nice to see the course provider or sponsor to initiate a call. Check to see if your webinar host can add video to enhance the experience.
3. Attendee privileges. The instructor has total control of the entire meeting, communication settings, video, and how the attendees interact with one another. At any time the instructor can allow everyone to view the class roster, allow students to take notes on the shared documents, or allow the students to chat with one another.
4. Video review. Take the entire presentation, phone calls, interactions, chats, polls, and questions answered and make a video of the entire class. Is this possible? Yes… depending on the webinar provider you select. This extra feature will allow students to review the material presented or allow those that missed the class an opportunity to make it up. These videos can be password protected to ensure only some have permission to view.
5. Tests. The surest way for instructors to gauge the classes and their effectiveness is to give a test at the end. Tests can be true/false, multiple choice and/or a combination of questions. Some webinar companies to provide this service so be sure to check.
6. Course Materials. Instructors can preload all of the PDF, word, excel, PowerPoint documents into the online registration and make them available to upload and download during the webinar. This will help those that make changes at the last minute to save on printing and delivery costs.
Although webinars are a high impact low cost solution to learning there are also some disadvantages.
1. Networking. Some take classes in remote locations just for the face to face interaction with other agents to expand their referral database. Networking is limited to brief chats, telephone announcements, or sharing of the class roster by the instructor if permitted.
2. One on one attention. The instructor online should not answer questions that are specific to one situation unless he/she believes it will benefit the entire group. The webinar should proceed quickly with the information so that all students are participating and not losing focus with the material.
3. Large groups. Effective webinars should limit themselves to fewer than 30 people because it will be difficult for the instructor to keep up with all of the questions, chats, polls, and other items unless he/she has additional help with the online system. Groups over 50 should be considered online events instead of learning sessions.
Webinars will not replace the classroom experience but serve as an effective follow up to courses rich in content or highly technical demonstrations. The instructor and the course provider must be able to work together to create a learning environment for all to benefit from this in-demand, innovative solution.
Doug Devitre is a recognized national speaker and consultant on internet marketing and technology. His weekly webinar schedule can be found at http://ReTechTraining.WebEx.com or visit www.ReTechTraining.com for additional information.