Boring, Boring Webinars
Web conferences, or webinars, are being used more and more these days as a vehicle to deliver synchronous (real-time) e-learning. Businesses small and large are finding them a cost-effective, efficient and convenient way to deliver training to a large number of users across multiple locations. And that's great because that's exactly what they're supposed to do!
However, it's quite disappointing how many organisations are converting their training - and trainers - to this forum without really considering how to engage their learners in the experience.
For example, I was talking to a friend recently - let's call him George - who attended a training session via webinar on a well-known business software application. The session was scheduled for 2 ½ hours and, having a short attention span at the best of times, he was intrigued to see how the e-Trainer was going to hold the attention of the participants for all that time.
After the first 40 minutes he found himself checking email and at one point even put the phone on loudspeaker, got up, went to the kitchen and made a sandwich! Shortly after returning to his desk, he got an email from a colleague, also on the session, saying how bored she was - and it was her implementation!
This doesn't just apply to software training either. Information based webinars could do with more interaction and visual stimulation for the participant - even if it's just annotating a slide or running a quick poll every 5-10 minutes to engage the audience.
In a bid to save the world from boring webinars, here's some pointers every organisation/trainer should consider before running a synchronous training session on-line:
Do your homework
Is web-conferencing really the best way to deliver your material? It may be cheaper than classroom-based training, but if your learners or organisation aren't ready for it, or the material doesn't translate well to an on-line format, it could end up costing more in the long run.
Train the e-Trainer
Don't underestimate just how big a change it is to go from delivering face-to-face material to delivering on-line. You may drive the same route to work everyday in a 5 door hatchback, but it could be quite a different journey if the only means of transport at your disposal tomorrow morning was a juggernaut ...
Know your tools
Many of us use applications like Word and Excel every day without realizing just how powerful they are. Take the time to get trained up on your tool and practice using it as much as you can. It makes a massive difference to you and your participants if you can use the software properly!
Chunk it out
Two and one half hours is way too long to try and keep anyone engaged, particularly if you're not in the same room to poke them when they fall asleep! If possible try and keep your sessions to around 30 minutes each - two lots of 30 minute sessions beats 1 hour straight anytime. It also allows for those all important trips to the kitchen and bathroom that participants are so fond of during training!
Communication is a two-way thing
Who wants someone yapping away at them for 30 minutes without a breath? As a trainer, interaction with your participants means you don't have to talk so much and it gives you a chance to see if they're actually picking up what you're saying. Not off making sandwiches ...
Karen Moloney is a Learning and Development Consultant who specialises in Instructional Design and e-Learning. She has been in the business of people development since 1990 and is the founder and Director of Get Me Learning Resources. Karen can be contacted via her website www.getmelearningresources.com
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