Since their introduction, webinar platforms have become more than just a place to hold meetings online. Many organisations are using webinars as part of the learning mix. When they're used well as part of a blended learning solution, they can be a very effective way of bringing groups together as part of their learning journey. I often see them being used before a face to face event to get the conversation going and set the scene. They're also very effective when used as a follow-up to an 'in real life' session.
But for many that are new to delivering learning online it can be a scary concept. There's not only the problem of how do I use the tech, but there's also the problem of how can I keep people engaged online.
In a conversation this week, someone asked my advice on how to get started. It got me thinking about an interview I did a couple of years ago with Kassy LaBourie, who I personally view as a global expert on the topic of using webinars to deliver 'live online learning'. Her sessions are highly engaging and she uses a range of techniques to keep audiences tuned in, taking part and collaborating.
Here's a couple of the tips Kassy shared with me that I thought would be helpful.
1) Make sure as a facilitator you have the knowledge you need. Before running a live online learning session, it is well worth your while finding and attending some sessions. Many of them are free to attend. Connect, take part and observe how well the facilitators engage their audience. Is it just a one-way broadcast of information, or does it feel like you're included and able to contribute? What do you see and hear that keeps you engaged? What tools are being used in the session? One place you could start is with the Learning and Performance institute who run regular sessions that you can attend, usually free. You'll find sessions with them that specifically focus on how to engage people online. You'll find their calendar of sessions by clicking just here.
2) Help participants to learn online. Just as it's a new thing for many facilitators to run sessions online, for participants it's new in many cases too. In a face-to-face sessions, you don't really need to worry too much about teaching people how to learn in a classroom type environment. We learned this from a young age says Kassy and by the time we reach the working world, we're pretty experienced at learning in the traditional way. But learning online is different. We need to make sure we take time to show people around, help them to use the tools available and let them know how they can interact. In an organisation I used to work in, we held some 'introductory' sessions to first show people how to use the environment and the tools before they attended any sessions with any real content. It worked well and there was a clear difference in comfort between those that had attended the introductory sessions versus those that had not. Sometimes you won't have the luxury of running introductory sessions though and it'll be straight into the content. But do make sure you take time to introduce people to the tools that you are using as part of that event and help them to be comfortable in the environment they're in.
As L&D practitioners, we all already have many of the skills that are required to deliver online sessions. There's just a few tweaks that might be needed to approach certain things in a slightly different way. If you are getting more involved in sessions that are run online or perhaps there is a need for you to do so in the future, it's well worth investing a little time in developing your knowledge and skills in this area. The great news, you don't usually have to travel far from your home or work to get them!
Are you making the step into delivering online learning? What have you done so far to develop your skills? Perhaps you've already made the step and are up and running. What tips and stories can you share with others? I'd be interested to hear from you.