Webinars: like Skyping your therapist
“Are webinars the best solution for my corporate training needs?”
This is the second most common FAQ we hear from customers considering our training courses. The first: what is a webinar?
Webinars, also known as webcasts or web seminars, are live online training sessions. They are often confused with other forms of online learning, such as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and recorded video tutorials. Webinars answer yes to all or most of the following questions:
- Is the primary purpose to teach something new to a group of participants?
- Does it last an hour or two at most?
- Is there one instructor and several participants – usually around 4 to 20?
- Is it delivered live via the internet?
- Does it have both audio and visual components?
- Is there a group chat function or some other way of communicating and asking questions?
Webinars can be a convenient, often lower-cost alternative to face-to-face training courses. But are they effective in terms of participants actually learning new skills and being able to apply them in real life?
In our experience, webinars are to online training what Skype is to therapy sessions: okay in a pinch, but not as effective as a face-to-face course.
Webinars: bite-size learning
There is much evidence and many arguments supporting the theory that chunks of information are easier for learners to digest and remember. Rather than overload learners with too much information at once, the idea is to break up teaching materials into small, easily assimilated pieces.
We run our webinar series over three to five days, so participants have time to consider what they learn in each session, read up on it using the external resources we recommend, and complete a practical exercise ready for discussion the next day.
This bite-size approach seems to work well with busy people who have limited attention spans and bandwidth for taking on new information – i.e. the vast majority of us in the modern workplace.
The convenience of online training
As well as benefits in terms of actual learning, webinars are often the best solution when participants are located in different regions or countries without an easy way to get together. There is no need to travel, and a two-hour webinar takes exactly two hours, not all day plus travel time.
They can also be scheduled quickly in response to a particular need, rather than having to be arranged weeks or months in advance in order for people to make travel arrangements.
If a participant is unwell or unable to make the webinar, it can be recorded so at least he or she can catch up at a later date.
Face-to-face training fosters collaboration and deeper insights
Webinars are convenient, just like speaking to a therapist on Skype is convenient. But there are always trade-offs.
Interaction and participation
Face-to-face sessions are far superior when you want your employees to interact and learn from each other. As we found when training PayPal’s international content team, one of the biggest benefits of a training course is the live interaction with and between participants.
One of our advanced social media courses actually takes this interaction as a starting point, with practical sessions involving group participation and teamwork in a real-life scenario.
A richer learning experience
Classroom trainings, which tend to take place over one or two days, also offer a deeper immersion in the subject and a consequently richer learning experience.
For instance, a two-day WordPress and blogging workshop will help employees with no knowledge of websites become almost instantly capable of updating and improving a website and blog.
While webinars are often said to suit those with limited attention spans, face-to-face trainings with a good instructor are much better at engaging people’s attention. It is easier for participants to ask questions and the session usually becomes much more interactive in the old-fashioned sense.
This will lead to more successful learning outcomes than if half of the participants are covertly typing emails or tweeting while a webinar is underway.
Taking training seriously
If you are investing in training for your employees, you want the most effective solution for their needs, not necessarily the cheapest or most logistically convenient option.
Face-to-face training with a quality instructor shows that the company takes training seriously, takes the topic seriously and is willing to invest time and money in developing skills and capacity within the organization.
The bottom line in online training courses
Technology is making it easier to deliver convenient, quick, internet-based training sessions to update the skills of employees and individuals – something that is essential in today’s fast-moving world, where the focus is on productivity and speed. Webinars have a great role to play in this brave new world of corporate training programs.
But for the deep and long-lasting insights that come from having a group of people together in a room with one or two experts… In our opinion, a digital training space will never fully accomplish that.
Monica Guy – Director of Content Marketing EMEA