... Everyone is going on-line but don’t expect it to be effective unless we all understand the skillset required*. Tips for schools & educational organizations: Understanding “Webinariquette” (or webinar etiquette) and the real requirements for an engaging online teaching experience.
Athens, March, 2020, during lockdown
Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis
The Covid-19 pandemic has moved everyone into home working. It has also moved educational organizations like schools, training companies and other such organizations into finding solutions for their businesses into webinars, recorded sessions, video snippets and other on-line methods. In only a few weeks in early 2020, technology platform companies like Adobe, Zoom, Webx and others have increased their revenues and use dramatically. A simple google search on any reliable source can prove this. Furthermore, the number of minutes spent by readers at news sites increased 46 percent from the beginning of the year, and overall visits rose 57 percent, according to a study of more than a dozen general news websites by comScore (March, 2020), a media measurement company.
Everyone is going on-line. Logical.
Is that good? Of course!
Can it help? Obviously!
Is it effective? Not always…
As with anything, there are good examples and poor examples in education. There are good, useful online courses and less good. As an educator, I feel there is always a benefit in almost anything educational we do, but in an ecosystem where the barriers of entry are so low, there are a lot of solutions that are NOT really solutions. The issue is not for a school or an educational organization to acquire a platform but to know what to do with it and how to make the best out of it. There are technical requirements and then there are operational requirements. I have a feeling that not many educators have recognized this point in an industry (education) that has NOT changed at all in the past 50 years despite the amazing developments technology has to offer. It is not GIVING a tablet to students, it is teaching the student and the educator the best optimum way to USE the tablet. In essence, the point is not having the technology, but knowing how to use it. Similarly, if you give someone a Ferrari to drive without understanding the potential of the car, let alone knowing how to drive it and its limitations, chances are that the driver will either get into an accident or waste an opportunity to enjoy a truly amazing car.
We actually needed a ‘shake’ to get into serious analysis on how to BEST incorporate technology in education. Therefore, what is the skillset required for a great engaging experience? What should we take into consideration?
Therefore, here are the important points before, during & after the online education event:
Changing the approach; Educators need to ‘rethink’ and understand how to use instructional design knowledge when MOVING a class from face to face to on-line. You simply CANNOT do the same thing.
Time & duration; Educators need to understand (and parents if we are talking about a school) that Face to Face time does NOT equal on-line time. There is a difference between ‘guided’ hours recommended for courses and a full on-line course (or a blended one). What students were doing face to face is now covered in close to 70% of the time and therefore a mix of methods is required to achieve solid results. This is due to the attention span being shorter online, being punctual with time and activities taking slightly a lesser time as there are no physical break – out rooms, document sharing being faster on line etc. Furthermore, candidates tend to take a longer time during the break in f2f. There are limitations to what I am saying as it depends on the time of training, but 70% is a ‘rule of thumb’.
Agenda & Outline: A face to face course of a full day needs to be broken down into chunks. The attention span of individuals doing online courses (depending on the course of course) is short and this is why most on-line sessions are 30 min, 60 min maxed to 2 hours.
Send a message, an outline & an agenda to stimulate participants; Send some info prior to the webinar to get participants prepared. This will help a whole lot. It is like going to a meeting without an agenda (my brother always says that).
Pick your co-pilot; The importance of a host (your co-pilot); When you decide to teach on-line, it is important to have support. In airplanes there is a pilot and a co-pilot. The pilot flies the plane, the co-pilot communicates with the ground and assists the pilot with tasks. For webinars, there is an educator and someone who supports with filtering questions, checking the system, recording and sound issues, a back up plan and other important areas.
Develop opportunities for interaction; Candidates on-line will have lots of distractions.
Recorded vs Live; If you want to deliver a lecture, there is no need for a live course. Simply record it and send it. Therefore, educators need to understand which parts to record and which parts require discussion and debrief.
Transparency; Always remember that what happens on-line STAYS on-line (I think you got the point – not in the Las Vegas sense, especially for recording the sessions or videos that are uploaded).
Effectiveness; Remember that the lesser the audience for an on-line session, the more interaction and the greater the effectiveness. A good number is 10 – 12 participants.
Material; Have material ready. In this digital day and age, we have so much content, it is a pity not to use some of it. Please note however that quantity is not the focus. Quality is. Extra resources, videos and articles should be a few that compliment your training and does not require candidates to spend the rest of their lives to cover it (unless they ask for more).
Back up plan; Have a back-up plan if things go wrong.
During the webinar
“Housekeeping issues”: There is a different type of ‘etiquette’ for webinars. I call it “Webiquette’ or ‘Webinariquette” (the latter being my term). This is not the same as ‘netiquette’ or simple web etiquette. It is how to handle a webinar. You need to take time in the beginning of a session to explain what will happen, how it will happen, how participants can participate, what the system does, what they can do etc. etc.
Why – How – What; Simon Sinek’s “Start with why’’ has never been so relevant. Start by saying Why you are doing the webinar, How you will do it and What will you do…
Hard vs Soft skills; There is a misunderstanding among many that soft skills cannot be easily delivered effectively on-line. Effectiveness has to do with the competencies of the educator, the effective use of technology, on-line communication skills etc. Therefore, this is debatable, even though the ‘best’(still) way to deliver soft skills given what is available by most platforms (even those that include break out rooms) is face to face.
Act like a sportscaster; Don’t expect participants to see what you are ‘seeing’. Talk like a radio sportscaster rather than a TV sportscaster. On the radio, the sportscaster is telling us who has the ball, in which part of the field, who is next to the player with the ball, what is happening in the stands etc. Similarly, when you are showing a slide, anticipate that the participant may not know where to look and what to do next, so this is part of the job.
In communication, as the experts say, seeing someone is important. Albert Mehrabian's 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication suggest that a speaker's words are only a fraction of his efforts. The pitch and tone of his voice, the speed and rhythm of the spoken word, and the pauses between those words may express more than what is being communicated by words alone. This is an important point online. Therefore, using your voice and camera well can make a difference.
Mix of activities; It is always better to make the training more interesting by using a mix of methods and activities and not just one person talking, unless it is a presentation (logical of course). Use visuals and be interactive. Monologues don’t work well.
Summarizing; Given that webinars are ‘bite size’ chunks usually, it is important to summarize more than ever as candidates log in and out more often than in a face to face training where there is more ‘space’ in a room to use (things can be posted without ‘minimizing’ them like you would on a PC screen”.
Attendees; There is also an etiquette for attendees (checking the system early, knowing how to participate, audio, camera, overall set up, respect for others, being late etc. Schools may need to spend more time on these issues to make sure their students are aware.
Discussion; As Seth Godin suggests, the whole point of an on-line course is the discussion and the inter-activeness. If this is not the case, the engagement will be absent. I totally understand that some topics require less or more engagement. So this depends.
True or false? A good and inspiring trainer can most probably deliver a solid webinar while a poor face to face educator will probably be worse on-line
Cameras; There are people who HATE the camera as educators or attendees. There are also people who are resistant and will continue to say ‘no’ to on-line. Remember that.
Whiteboards & other such systems; They are useful as participant attention is greater when you create online. Just think of a video of someone drawing live (and you are watching how the drawing is created) and the same video in audio with the end result (drawing) being present for the whole time (check another bitesize of mine on flowcharting - https://www.studysmart.gr/blog/bite-size-thoughts/maps-guide-us-to-our-destination-so-why-not-use-them-to-guide-our-students).
Be supportive; Make people feel comfortable
Feedback; Don’t forget to ask for feedback to get better!
After the webinar
Keep your promise; The time after the webinar should be considered ‘training time’ as it is essential to get things done immediately, keeping your promises made earlier.
Take notes to remember what happened; If you are planning on seeing the same group, keep a log book. Whatever happens on line is not as ‘remembered’ as in face to face as the setting is similar on the screen usually. Educators tend to forget to keep a file or a log book about what happened and things to remember. Using these in the next session can make all the difference.
Check your feedback; Feedback makes us better so have a look at it to fine – tune and test ideas. Think of what else to do next time round.
There is a lot more to say on the subject but my intention was to stress some key points that may help other trainers do a better job. There are a number of resources out there to learn more, so good luck! Lets all get better in this. I guess we are going to need it.
_______ Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis is founder or StudySmart, ICDE for PwC and a SoFIA Board member.