Thursday, May 31, 2007

Delivering an Interactive Webinar

eLearning Guild’s online symposium is a great way for people to meet at a conference without the need to travel. The symposium for May 17 and 18, 2007 was titled 'New Techniques for Designing and Developing e-Learning Interactions' and would be keynoted by Patty Shank.

My topic was 'Rapid Interactivity Building for True Learning Outcomes'. This being my first experience of addressing several hundred people in an online webinar, I was thrilled to experiment with this new medium. E-learning Guild’s Karen Hyder was most helpful in getting me familiar with Acrobat Connect Professional, the web conferencing system.

We went online, Karen made introductions, and asked me where I was. Right then, a plane took off from San Jose airport, next to the building from where I was presenting. As I tried hard to ignore all distractions, all along I’d been thinking – how am I going to draw people in, how will I get them to participate? The agenda slide had been a bit of a monologue, really. Would the next slide do the trick?

I flipped to next slide, and two things happened. A poll came up, where the audience was to assess their level of familiarity with interactivity technology. I also asked a question in chat panel – Anybody heard of Silverlight? In a flash of a second, votes started appearing in the poll, and answers and questions started popping on chat. Then, for the next hour and a quarter, there was no looking back.

Interactivity in online webinars has its own distinct flavor. More people can talk back to you than you would ever hope for in a face-to-face session. There is little inhibition, no noise and no interruption when someone raises a question. Besides, there is a great opportunity to help each other. Someone asked where to get more information on Silverlight, and before I could answer, another participant had provided a web site link. The way this back channel worked was amazing. It's nearly impossible to do that in a classroom without a lot of distraction.

Thanks to eLearning Guild, the entire online symposium has been recorded and is available. If you are curious to know about rapid interactivity for true learning outcomes, here is the link.