aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

If You’re Going to Do a Webinar… Read This

Posted by Ellen on April 2, 2010

Christy Tucker has summarized a presentation by Karen Hyder on making synchronous sessions more interactive. If you’re going to be organizing, leading, or coaching others in preparation for a live Webinar, take a few minutes to read Christy’s post, “Key Steps to Preparing Great Synchronous Interactions.”

Keep in mind that you want to have a Webinar for the right reason:

to provide information rather than teach someone how to DO something

And for more about what not to do when it comes to Webinars, see these aLearning posts:

Example of a PowerPoint that Would Make a Deadly Webinar

Are You Making the Right Webinar Choice?

Weave Your Own Webinar

When a Webinar is a Bad Idea

9 Responses to “If You’re Going to Do a Webinar… Read This”

  1. I disagree with you on the idea of only using synchronous sessions for information dumps rather than training. I just did some training in the last two weeks using WebEx that worked quite well. I can definitely improve it (as you probably figured out by my comments to myself throughout that post), but it was overall a successful way to train people how to create content in Moodle. I was already doing some of the things she talked about–I had breaks for interaction rather than 60 minutes of just demoing the sofware, and I used asynchronous practice exercises between synchronous sessions to reinforce the learning.

    If it’s just an information dump, why bother scheduling it for a live session? If you’re not interacting, just record it and let people watch on their own schedule. That was part of Karen’s point today about “premium time”; if learners need to schedule around the synchronous session, don’t waste their time just talking at them.

  2. Ellen said

    Christy — My apologies! Didn’t mean to make it appear as though the quote in the box was a summary of your point of view. Instead, it was a reminder of the advice I’ve been giving for some time.

    I have no doubt that you’ve provided some successful training via Webinars. Unfortunately, most Webinars that try to do more than deliver information are miserable failures. It takes an experienced instructional designer or trainer to design a Webinar that effectively teaches skills (rather than information).

    And I agree that “information dumps” are a waste of everybody’s time. Might as well send a document for everyone to read.

    What I advocate is the effective delivery of information, which is different. This can be done via case studies of lessons learned or best practices, interviews with experts, or panel discussions featuring those with different points of view or vantage points. I see these as being similar to the interviews conducted on PBS’s News Hour, with a plus: a conversation that also allows for questions and answers from those attending.

    Associations owe it to their members to keep them up-to-date on relevant issues, and Webinars are a perfect means for doing this.

    I’d love to hear more about how you designed your Webinar to teach the skills you mention!

  3. Ellen, I understood that your blockquote was your own opinion and not a summary of my notes (although I’m not sure how clear that would be to your readers).

    What I don’t understand is why, if you really believe people can’t learn to do anything through webinars, you would link to my notes on a webinar that was all about having people DO things in webinars. Why did you provide the link when everything there fundamentally contradicts your point of view, and why did you reiterate that point of view right with the link?

    If the audience will be passive, it’s still an information dump, just dressed up a bit. Talking about case studies, best practices, interviews, or panel discussions still don’t involve audience interaction. That’s still an information dump. If you can do what you’ve planned regardless of whether or not anyone shows up to attend, then you don’t need a webinar. You need a recording that people can watch on your own. I can learn just as much from the PBS News Hour if I watch it recorded 6 hours later as if I watch it live. What you’re describing as “effective” webinars is exactly what Karen Hyder advised people to do as a recording. You’re wasting people’s time if you do them live. Just record your panel discussion or whatever and let people watch it on their own schedule. Don’t pretend that’s an effective use of people’s time live. The Q&A session is the only thing you mentioned that actually fits what Karen described as an effective use of people’s “premium time.”

    The way you teach skills in a webinar is by having your audience interact and DO things during the webinar. Karen modeled that quite well in her webinar. We were interacting and engaged throughout the session. She had us practice writing questions for our own webinars in the chat–we did application right there in the webinar with 130 attendees.

    So I’m left wondering why link to information on how to do exactly what you tell people to avoid, and then pretend that it supports your advice?

  4. Ellen said

    Christy — I see why my point of view might seem contradictory and therefore confusing. Let me see if I can clarify:

    — Webinars (live or recorded) can be helpful when designed correctly and matched to the best content for treatment through this mode.

    — Live Webinars are most useful to those who wish to pose questions to the presenters or panelists, or to each other in real time.

    — Live Webinars can also serve as an excellent starting point for team learning.

    Let me explain that last one. When a Webinar topic is pertinent to a group of people and they can attend together in the same room, then the Webinar can trigger discussion and generate ideas among the attendees. The learning is essentially going on among the attendees, on their own, with the Webinar serving as the impetus.

    Here’s an example: because ours was a trade association, we charged one (small) fee per institution for access to the Webinar. We encouraged them to fill rooms and — as employees of colleges and universities, they had the means to do that –and participate together.

    We received many notes of thanks from members that said their team benefited not only from hearing the presenters but from the questions other groups asked, and the answers.

    Furthermore, they benefitted from the internal discussions they had as a team; several groups held meetings to discuss what they had just heard and seen to explore ways they might implement those ideas.

    No one would say that was a waste of their time or that they would have had the same benefit from a recording. Yet we would agree that the type of content covered was information (rather than skill).

    Unfortunately, many Webinars *are* — as you and Karen assert — a waste of valuable time for the attendees. Trying to teach a task within a Webinar without the right structure around it (see my “When a Webinar is a Bad Idea” post)is a good example of just that.

    Thanks again for your comments, Christy!

  5. […] « If You’re Going to Do a Webinar… Read This […]

  6. […] As I mentioned in comments to an earlier post, sometimes the power of a live Webinar comes from the impact it can have on a group. If your members are institutions and the topic will appeal to a group of employees within that institution, a live Webinar can give that team the opportunity to attend together to process the content relative to their own objectives and needs. […]

  7. Dave said

    thanks for the info. webinars are the future!

  8. […] If You’re Going to Do a Webinar… Read This […]

  9. How to stop thinking about Something

    If You’re Going to Do a Webinar… Read This « aLearning Blog

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