Stream57 put out a press release today announcing new features targeted at the use of their webcasting product for e-learning and training applications. This started me thinking... I've been noticing a lot more publicity and attention being paid to remote training lately.
Before I started Webinar Success, I worked in product marketing at a Silicon Valley software company. My uses for web conferencing at that time were primarily lead generation, sales presentations, analyst briefings, customer update sessions, and internal demonstrations of new product features or branding changes. My time spent running formal corporate training classes had been many years earlier, before web conferencing was available. So I'm still discovering new and interesting features and ways of applying the technology to training needs.
Of course some of the big enterprise-targeted web conferencing vendors have had specialized education and training versions of their products for years. WebEx Training Center (undergoing a name change to WebEx Online Classroom), Saba Centra, iLinc's LearnLinc, and Elluminate are examples of enterprise conferencing packages with features designed to support education.
Along with live collaboration products for educators, there are also companies specializing in products for creating on-demand educational presentations. Examples of these products include Brainshark (which I use on my website), Articulate, and Adobe Presenter. Adobe is really more of a hybrid, allowing users to present on-demand content inside of a live collaborative training session run with Acrobat Connect Professional.
When looking at remote training products, a variety of features become important in ways that are unfamiliar to those outside the domain. There are usually much more stringent requirements for tracking attendance, progress, and interim status for students than for casual attendees of a marketing-oriented event. You may offer a series of sessions that make up a total curriculum.
Testing features become much more critical and sophisticated than the simple polling and surveys found in most conferencing products. I have seen implementations where the product can create different tests for different students to minimize the opportunity for cheating. It's common for these products to shuffle the order of questions and answers between sessions. You may be able to configure whether the student gets to review correct answers, take another shot at an incorrect answer, or is forced to go back and review content before moving on.
Some products include electronic certification attached to a student's records after they successfully complete coursework and testing. The online system may link to a larger Learning Management System (LMS) to handle records maintenance and a variety of other administrative tasks. As you get into these types of integrations, you need to be aware of a new vocabulary of standards and abbreviations such as SCORM and AICC.
But even with all of these special considerations, the basic tenets of good presentation content and style remain remarkably consistent for any type of web-based presentation. Shy away from text-heavy visual content. Keep your voice engaging, enthusiastic, and varied. Find ways to acknowledge and interact with your audience. Speak to them as individuals rather than a group. Approach content and topic points from their point of view and exploit their self interest.
I plan to include additional emphasis on web conferencing for training over the next few months in response to the interest I am seeing. Look for upcoming webinars on the subject as I get the opportunity to talk about it with some of the vendors and experts in this space.
PS: My apologies to conferencing and collaboration vendors with training specializations if I didn't mention you in this article. I just listed a few names for illustrative purposes. If you'd like to add a comment highlighting your product and its applicability in remote learning, be my guest. This is one post where I'll accept some blatant self-promotion from the crowd!