Another interesting presentation today at the iLinc Customer Summit came from Barb Nead-Nylander of the Dow Chemical Company. She talked about Dow's requirement for all of their online instructors (well over one hundred of them) to take an internal training and certification class before being allowed to host a meeting or course for the company.
She pointed out that expecting teachers to be completely comfortable with the web conferencing technology and tools at their disposal is no different than in days gone by expecting teachers to be able to run the 8mm projector or run the overhead slide projector and use markers effectively.
Barb said that when things don't run perfectly, the students don't blame the instructor, they blame the technology. For instance, Dow looked at student evaluations and feedback for the same virtual class taught by two different instructors, each using iLinc's conferencing technology. The instructor who was prepared, practiced, and comfortable with the technology had an average evaluation of 4.5 out of 5 for the course with positive comments about the content, the delivery, and the experience.
The instructor who didn't practice with the technology and was admittedly uncomfortable using it resulted in an overall evaluation of the course at 3.22, with comments about how the conferencing technology was too confusing, detracted from the experience, and distracted the students from the material. Which goes to show... If your attendees are spending any time thinking about the delivery mechanics instead of your content... They aren't going to be thinking happy thoughts about it.
Barb's trainer course is a full three to four hours and covers the web conferencing features and functionality, but more than that... How to use them effectively. How and when to use audience interactivity, how to run breakout sessions, best practices for delivery methods. And when the instructors finish their certification course, they are expected to actively practice with the technology until it feels comfortable and natural.
Take a tip from Dow. Presenting using web conferencing technology is a learnable skill and should be treated as part of the professional training and development that any employee would be expected to receive and practice in order to develop proficiency at their job. The results are tangible and measurable.