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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Webinar Software - Adoption Advice

Good question about adoption of webinar software / services - this time from someone who went to my workshop in Cincinnati - Revolution in Workplace Learning - who by the way - called it "awesome." Here's the question:
We are currently moving toward web-based training for an external audience and have been experimenting with a modest product called Ready Talk. It doesn't have any bells and whistles like web cam compatibility or video streaming, online polling, white boards or anything cool like that. We are considering moving to other products such as Adobe Connect.

We are looking into a contract where we have to purchase a minimum of five licenses for the platform. I think we'll feverishly use three of them possibly four, but my office manager thinks I am nuts. I've made the case, or at least the statements on the reduced costs for travel, lunch, and copies we can expect.

What I fear is that we are secretly not committed to the shift in the way we meet. Our webinars have been successful by our standards and for the most part, we've been early adopters of the technology. This tool would make our web-based training and consulting work worlds better with more opportunities for engagement and collaboration online.

I just want to be sure that I'm not committing too heavily.
To me there's a few additional questions embedded here (between the lines):
  • Do you need to commit to that particular tool? Can you change out technically fairly easily? Can you change out contractually? Any experience with being able to try these things out and possibly moving later?
  • Anyone have concern about adopting Adobe Connect vs. the myriad of other solutions out there? Has anyone had enough experience with Adobe Connect delivered to a wide audience that you can say what kinds of issues they might expect?
  • What about all the features mentioned? Are those important in practice?
A few thoughts.

First some findings from the eLearningGuild's recent research report on Synchronous Learning Systems:
  • Guild members are resoundingly positive in giving synchronous learning very high marks for its impact on their organizations. Specifically, 94.7% are convinced that a SLS is essential to their organization.
  • WebEx enjoys the largest market share with 42.6% of Guild members that use a SLS indicating that they use WebEx Training Center. This is followed by Microsoft with 29.3%, Adobe with 24.7%, and Citrix Online with 11.7%.
  • 30% of Guild organizations that use a SLS use more than one tool in their organizations.
  • Members that receive formal training on how to deliver synchronous learning report much better results than those that receive little or no training.
The last bullet is an excellent point. If you've done webinars, you know that they are different to design and deliver successfully than other kinds of presentations and training.

In addition to the four they list, I've personally had experience with GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar, Elluminate, Centra and Interwise. I've run into a few technical issues with Interwise before. And I used to with Elluminate, but have not had much issue recently.

I personally often adopt whatever is most easily available. I tend not to use a lot of the different features, but certainly like to having polling, recording, chat, screen sharing. In fact, after you've had these features, it sometimes feels weird to be in a presentation hall and not be able to easily poll the audience (and not have a back-channel automatically).

Those are my quick thoughts, but my guess is that there's lots more thoughts out there on what to do around choosing webinar software.

5 comments:

V Yonkers said...

I too would be interested in the answers to this. While I have never conducted a webinar, I have participated in a few, some using elluminate and some using other platforms (I don't remember which). I would therefore ask the following questions from a user's standpoint:
How easy it is it for users to interact with the software (for those of use with limited skills, e.g. is it web based, do participants need to down load software, can participants register and get easy access to the webinar)? How is the "traffic flow" (how many participants can sign on at one time and are there bottlenecks if they sign on at the same time)? What interface is required (for example, if I have a Mac or don't have Java or have dial-up, will I have trouble logging into the webinar)?

Kevin Shadix said...

Good questions here. I have delivered training and presentations with WebEx and MS, and had good results (OK, the first time was not so great!). I've also attended some dry, boring, badly done sessions. So to me, I think the point about training is a crucial one. I am about to make a pitch to create and deliver formal training on using synchronous e-learning tools to my global organization. I know from experience that getting a little formal help will give people more motivation and confidence in using the tool themselves.

Features -- I think, like any e-learning product, it's how they are used to support the objectives. Done right, some features can really add to the course. I like to use polling, for example, the same way I would a live classroom: "How many of you have attended a webinar before?" Did you like it? What worked, didn't work, etc?. Screen/application sharing is also a great one....especially for technical training, or any training involving showing examples of creative work.

One tip for synch online training: Just as with live classrooms, I think they work best when limited to small, workshop-sized groups. Not big groups. Smaller size helps you to be more personable and engage learners by name, etc.

Ray Jimenez, PhD said...

One thing I have added to my webianrs is to provide participants before and after the Webinar an online resource center to interact, read advance materials, view demos, interact with each other. This helps me focus the actual webinar on "application points" or critical few and avoid using the Webinar as my only way of sharing information or training people. Furthermore, the Webinar becomes more interactive rather than a lecture.

L. Beatriz Arnillas said...

I have tried Elluminate (love it) and my students need no training to join at all. They love it too. I've also tried Adobe Connect and it seems good too. Has anyone looked at IOCOM? It is a new product. It is not exactly the same, as it can also use high definition video and accommodate both high and low bandwidth participants.

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