Which webinar platform do I use? This is a question I often hear with people looking to start delivering content through webinars, or more accurately Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT). More and more organisations are moving to the use of virtual tools to deliver training to their staff and clients, taking advantage of the benefits VILT offers.
Note: In this article I am talking about webinars or VILT as a training tool, to provide an effective learning experience. I am not talking about webinars as a marketing tool, generally a talking head with little interaction distributing information but not providing the learning experience required.
What are the benefits?
There are numerous benefits of VILT, including:
Reduced cost. VILT allows people to stay in their location and travel, accommodation and venue hire costs are effectively eliminated. Training materials are generally distributed electronically so printing costs are also eliminated.
Increased capacity. The possibilities of reaching more people, engaging with more participants than would be possible in a face-to-face training session due to costs and space.
Just-in-time. Training events can be delivered on a greater as needs basis through VILT, rather than having to schedule travel and book venues.
Convenience. Participants will generally be able to find an hour or so to attend a virtual training session, than a full day workshop. They also have the added convenience of being able to participate from anywhere they have an internet connection, such as workplace, office or beach.
Cognitive load. Virtual sessions are often delivered over an hour or two, with more focused delivery. This means that participants will be able to retain the relevant content and reduce the risks of cognitive overload.
How do I get started?
The key to getting started (and ultimately selecting the platform that suits you) is in through some thorough analysis and design of how VILT will be used as part of your learning strategy.
Questions to consider include:
Who am I delivering to? A learner analysis is required to make sure that they have the technical capacity to attend virtual sessions. If delivering within an organisation or to an organisation you should consider if there are any potential technical issues, such as firewalls that block incoming video streams.
- The number of participants you will be delivering to.
- How participants will access the audio (VOIP or teleconferencing)
What format is my content? Consider if you are simply showing PowerPoint slides or will videos or other online content also be delivered during the session.
How will I facilitate the session and get participants to interact? This is a critical question, with different webinar platforms providing different interaction tools.
- Do you want participants to communicate through a chat function?
- Do you want participants to be able to actually speak to you and others?
- Do you want people to be able to interact by drawing or annotating on a whiteboard?
- Do you want to show a video of yourself while presenting?
- Do you want to have smaller group discussions in a breakout room?
- Do you want to use polls to engage and question participants?
- Do you want to share documents with participants?
- Do you want to share your desktop?
- Do you want to record your session for participants to replay and review?
How will I market and promote my training? Do you need a registration functionality or do you want to integrate with other tools (such as learning management system or content management system)
What budget do I have? Price may have an impact on the webinar tool you use, or the maximum number of participants that you can have attending.