Not enough interaction. A live webinar without interaction is a video (stream) and not a webinar. A video isn’t suited to be played in a webinar and a stream has different purposes (see below).
TO BLEND OR NOT TO BLEND
Both, slight preference for ‘not to blend’
This is actually the story of its life for the webinar; you can do just about anything with it. It is a kind of one-pan meal. It can easily stand on its own, where participants go in reasonably unprepared and where follow-up is not really necessary. The transfer takes place almost entirely during the webinar. So, a fulfilling meal. At the same time, it can be powerful, didactically speaking, to integrate a webinar (or several in a series) into your larger learning journey. I can be a welcome change from non-live or asynchronous parts of your course or training. Or it can be used for deepening a piece of theory.
We're keeping it close to home: we're also using the live webinar as a standalone during this Extreme Learning Makeover.
For example, on April 20th there will be a webinar by Learning Glass about using a lightboard for online sessions. In principle, you don't need any specific knowledge before attending. In one hour you will get an explanation and a demonstration of a lightboard, where you will learn what it does. You can ask questions and there is interaction, but at the end it is all over. Lesson learned.
Later in this learning track, there is a live webinar from HBtraining about 'blending' virtual classrooms*. This current blog can be seen as a preparation for it, the webinar will go into it in more detail and after it a whitepaper will be available. Starter, main course and dessert.
*Getting Inception-vibes from this? Live online learning about live online learning about live online learning...
TECH AND DIDACTICS
Basics - Zoom is the obvious example, followed by WebEx, GoToWebinar, Livestorm and Adobe Connect. They all have the standard options: screen sharing, chat, Q&A, polls and management of camera and microphones. The differences are at a detailed level for the outsider, but learning professionals often have a specific preference. For example, the tools differ in price, number of possible participants, integrations, reporting and customisation.
In terms of transfer or didactics, it depends more on how you use it than on which tool you choose. For example: specifically using and responding to the input you receive via polls, instead of purely telling your own story. And don't forget your use of slides; make it visual, little text, no reading aloud and not too many slides (also known as: death by PowerPoint).
Additional - Often, video conferencing tools are reasonably useful, e.g. the Google Meets and MS Teams of this world. There is also a whole world to discover when it comes to presentation skills, energisers and picture and sound settings. During the webinar, you can also use tools such as Mentimeter (for extensive polls) or Kahoot (quizzes), but then you actually cross the line into virtual classrooms.
Integrated - If you are making the webinar a part of your blended learning programme, then integration with your learning platform or LMS is important. That way you keep it clear and easy to access. Moreover, you reduce the number of moments that your participants could drop out, for example because they have to look up an e-mail or instructions. There are also didactical benefits, e.g. by being able to activate prior knowledge. In the platform of aNewSpring you can easily integrate the most common webinar tools in your online learning journey.
Wanting to put everything in it. A virtual classroom should not be a stand-alone solution, because not all learning happens live. Preparation and application afterwards are part of it.
TO BLEND OR NOT TO BLEND
It's all about impact. A cliché word by now, but a virtual classroom is the go-to instrument if didactics, engagement and transfer are the goal. Preparatory assignments ensure a more equal knowledge level of participants at the start of your session. Applications or hand-in assignments ('homework') afterwards anchor the acquired knowledge and skills even further. Combining live and asynchronous learning makes it even stronger. The “die hard” learning designer can go crazy on this and pull out all the didactical stops. It all sounds very heavy and serious, so don't forget to keep it exciting and inspiring as well. Take a look at our customer cases for inspiration.
In the webinar later on in this Learning Track by HBtraining, their 'Online Learning Advisor' will be presented. This is a sales training course in which role playing is used to train in a virtual classroom. Beforehand, participants are given the assignment to record videos (vlogs); these preparatory assignments are assessed and taken into account during the live (online) training. In this way, the power of live training is combined with practising and preparing yourself in your own time. Take a look at the interview with the director of HBtraining for more background information.
TECH AND DIDACTICS
Basics - The same as the webinar; Zoom, WebEx, GoToWebinar, Livestorm and Adobe Connect are the most used tools. The difference is that for a virtual classroom, these tools actually only provide the environment to get together and more is asked of the facilitator to apply solid didactics. That's why video conferencing tools like Google Meets, MS Teams, etc. are also good to use.
The crux of the matter lies in the use of extensive interaction possibilities, activating work forms, working from the input and response of participants, collaborative assignments, etc. An important functionality that a tool should have is breakout rooms, so that you can let the participants work together in groups, just like in a classroom setting.
Additional - As mentioned above, there are tools that can facilitate specific online work forms. Mentimeter does extensive polls and other interaction (e.g. word cloud, graphs) and Kahoot is there for engaging online quizzes. A popular additional tool are interactive whiteboards, think next-level post-its and flipcharts. Sometimes these are built-in (Google Meets, MS Teams), but there are also stand-alone tools such as Miro and Mural. Because of their popularity, new tools are popping up like mushrooms. Again: there is a lot to learn about interactive, online whiteboards and therefore about all of the didactical possibilities.
Integrated - Make your virtual classroom part of a larger learning process and integrate it into your learning platform. This prevents the learning process being disturbed by (technical) circumstances, such as different tools (and logging in every time...) or searching for instructions. This also has a huge impact on the design of your learning journey. One-to-one replacement of the 'analogue classroom' by a virtual classroom is not recommended. Online didactics is an entirely different ball game; start from your learning goals.
Too little structure. People can talk extensively and for a long time about very little. Set up your video conference with strict guidelines; clear assignment/outcome, clear end time, timeboxes, no slides and let everyone have a say.
TO BLEND OR NOT TO BLEND
Within a learning journey, a video conference is a specific tool that you use in a targeted and supportive way. If it stands alone, its weaknesses and limitations immediately come to light. Certainly when it comes to short moments, it is ideal to use it as a recurring element. In between, everyone can make assignments, read, practice, etc. in their own time. And let's be honest, you make everyone happy with a short meeting.
Intervision or peer coaching is a good example. These meetings are essentially about contact and conversation, without distractions. A small group that sees each other and where the group size allows everyone to participate in the conversation. If necessary, you can even do your intervision in a special place; outside or not at the (now) standard home office.
Another way to use this is as a social moment; a planned coffee moment or end-of-day drinks. This also (indirectly) contributes to the impact of your training, especially if interaction or personal matters are discussed.
TECH AND DIDACTICS
Basics - Here, MS Teams and Google Meets come first. Zoom is the next most logical alternative as there is a 'meeting' option. Zoom may have the advantage of being more universal, but nowadays it is easy to connect to all video conferencing tools without an account. Skype also still exists, and many people have Whatsapp or Facetime, although this might come across as a bit unprofessional. Didactically, it does not make much of a difference, although a reliable, stable and clear connection is very much appreciated.
Additional - Given the enormous use and ‘normalisation’ of video calling, you will find this feature in more and more tools and platforms. Also as separate tools, open source and free. Small extra functions can be nice. For example, the ability to raise a hand to streamline conversations, to mute the sound of others or to set backgrounds. A good camera (position) and microphone also make these kinds of meetings more pleasant.
Integrated - Sending a link through email is fairly straightforward, but some learning platforms allow you to set up this kind of online meeting very easily. For example, aNewSpring has a fully integrated video conferencing tool in its learning platform. No extra login or tools and therefore without the extra hurdles that can arise from that (forgetting a password, just to name one).
TO BLEND OR NOT TO BLEND
Both, but works better in a blend.
This can be a perfect variation in your learning journey. Yes, I know: active participation, interaction and working on assignments are generally more effective than sitting and listening, but don't be blinded by it. A stream is ideal for showing examples, doing live demonstrations or as a place for storytelling. It can be a fun and inspiring start of a learning process or somewhere halfway as a nice surprise. In principle, it can also stand on its own, but there is much more to be gotten out of it when you throw it into the mix.
A simple example is an inspiring guest speaker who is a guru in the field of [fill in the blank]. Of course you can send a (YouTube) video of such a person, but it does have extra impact when someone does their talk live. And because it is online, it makes the world a lot smaller, making it easier to 'fly' someone in from abroad to tell your participants a great story. Afterwards, a few short questions via chat and for those who could not be there, there is always the option of watching the rerun recording.
TECH AND DIDACTICS
Basics - Same as video conferencing; MS Teams, Google Meets and Zoom as the most obvious options. The most important lesson is that the didactics of a video stream are almost entirely about the content of the video. The learning technology is purely supportive and has to provide the right conditions for your participants; easy access, good quality picture and sound and a stable connection. Producing the content is a completely different area of expertise (and tools).
Additional - In this age of video-on-demand with endless series and films, people (subconsciously) expect high production quality. You are one down if it is obvious - and it is in a few seconds - that you are making a video yourself with your phone or laptop camera without much preparation. As a reference for quality, you can look at the better-known, educational YouTube channels, which simply look sleek and well-made. To do this, learn about video production; lighting, sound, equipment, set-up, presentation skills and scripting. Practice also helps.
Integrated - Integrating a live stream into your learning programme is technically not much different from a webinar or video conference. Make sure you have the right preparation and afterwards apply what has been covered. One option is to attach conditions to participation in the stream; an assignment that has been submitted or a preliminary test. The results of these can be included in your live moment.
Thinking it will happen by itself. This does not work without moderator(s); thorough preparation, enthusiastic encouragement and positive guidance. A discussion must get going and not drift off. A clearly present and recognisable moderator ‘brings it to life' and is an anchoring point for participants.
TO BLEND OR NOT TO BLEND
This is also a good alternative to 'another online meeting', especially in longer learning journeys or programmes of weeks or months. Meeting regularly, on a fixed day and time, to discuss something gives different perspectives and allows different voices to be heard. It is also a targeted tool that can be used for a small topic. Make sure you frame it well with rules of conduct.
A good example of a live chat is the use of a Twitter hour; L&D Connect does it every Friday morning at 9 AM (CET). They throw in a topic or statement (with hashtag) and let people respond. Then come the memes and gifs.
Another example is to arrange such a fixed moment via an internal platform with a chat function (such as Slack, Teams). Pick a day and time and surprise participants with a prickly statement. Be present with enthusiasm and recognise everyone who responds for the first time.
(By the way, you can also chat with us via the website, of which we have written a blog with the most frequently asked questions about aNewSpring.)
TECH AND DIDACTICS
Basics - A bit trickier, and you quickly end up at learning platforms that have this kind of (social) features. Forum discussions can be used, although often not as smoothly and responsive as a live chat. Realise that a crucial aspect is liveliness, which does not happen automatically. There is a kind of 'threshold' that has to be reached. When only one or two people respond, the conversation will not get going, but as soon as it gets going, others will join in more easily and it will keep going. Watch out, too many reactions (if your group is too big) can also be a reason for people to drop out. It can be a delicate balance to get right.
Additional - The example above already mentioned alternative options: Twitter, Slack and Teams. You could also consider a group on Whatsapp or something similar, but with strict rules. In addition, instead of a statement, a poll or vote can also be a kick-off.
Integrated - Treat your live chat as a live meeting in your learning process, and then preparation is especially important. Not only for the content of the discussion, but also for the rules and instructions.
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