This post outlines why, when you’re teaching advanced material online and you need to verify that the students have learned and implemented your material, courses are a better online training tool than webinar training.

This article is from HeatSpring’s Online Education Playbook. We’re expert at both clean energy AND how to utilize online tools to enhance training. If you’re business depends on training, click here to read HeatSpring’s online education playbook.

If you are currently rolling out an online training program and are considering how and when to use webinars, this article is for you. If you already have a series of webinars, and you’d like to increase their effectiveness, this article if for you.

If you’ve already created a series of webinars, don’t feel bad. You’re miles ahead of companies that have done no online teaching at all! If you have a series of webinar content already, you have a solid found of information that you can improve upon. You can sign up for this course to learn how to turn those webinar trainings into great online training courses. Click here –> “How to Turn Your Webinars into Amazing Online Training Courses”

This article is also for our HeatSpring students. We’re often asked: “How does this online course work? Is it like a webinar?” Our response is “yes, its like a webinar, but much better” This article will explain why.

Frequently, we’re asked by manufacurers that want to do a product training or one of our instructors to use webinars as the main means to run a course. A few years ago, we used webinars, but quickly found out that they are not an effective tool for the type of high quality training that we do.

HeatSpring Training Playbook

We’re creating the HeatSpring Training Playbook that will teach everyone how to deliver amazing online trainings. Since 2011, all of HeatSpring students have taken material online, either blended as part of a face-to-face course, or 100% online. By doing this, we have learned exactly how to deliver blockbuster amazing education in an online format.

We’re sharing HOW we use technology to deliver amazing trainings and amplify the impact of our trainers to the benefit of our students and customers. Our goal? Help other people improve their training by at least 10X, hopefully 100X better than they are. Higher quality training, faster, and with fewer resources in terms of cash and time. The first post for the playbook is how to use blended learned to increase the effectiveness of your face-to-face training.

Why Talk About Webinar Training

Webinars are critical to discuss in online education because they’re extremely common, frequently misused, and there are better options.

My goal is not to be negative just to be negative, but because I strongly believe (based on our experience and the number of students we’ve trained) that webinars are a horrible way to deliver very advanced information if you need to make sure that the student is learning and implementing what they’ve learned.

To be sure, here are a few things that webinars can be good for, and we use them for these applications. 

  1. Short live presentation on very simple topics. Think about a 20 minute company update or a short “education” bit that is veiled as marketing and good enough content to charge money for.
  2. Live Q+As. Webinars are okay for this, I’d argue Google+ is actually better. Both work.
  3. 1 on 1 conversations where it’s useful for the teacher/instructor to show their screen while troubleshooting as issue or walking through a problem.

What subjects are webinars not good at?

Here’s are few examples of the type of subjects that live webinars are not so good at. This is based on our experience building online courses like; Net Zero Energy Design, Geothermal Designer Boot Camp, 40 Hour Advanced Solar Training, Manual J Boot Camp and others.

These ideas are coming from our history doing clean energy training, but with this list you can imagine many topics across many different industries.

  1. How do you size a 500kW bi-polar inverter?
  2. What’s the best way to size a pump?
  3. How do you structure a PPA?
  4. How do you test and measure soil conductivity?
  5. How does debt financing work vs lease financing?

Why are webinars insufficient? Why are people using webinars?

The reason people are using webinars is that they “kind of barely work” for this situation and they’re the closest tool that exists that most people are aware of. The problem is that people try to use webinars to teach a large group of students VERY complex products, concepts, skills and technologies where it’s VERY important to know how well students learned the information.

For this application, webinars don’t work, you need to be building courses.

First, why do webinars fall short? 

  1. Their “live-ness” is a liability for 2 large reasons. First, people saying incorrect things. Being very specific about what you are saying is extremely important as the topics become more advanced. Second, the technology itself not working. Many times if you have 20 people on a webinar, 1 or 2 will have technical video or audio issues, and this compounds itself as you start to train more people and more frequently.
  2. They have to be kept short, which makes it difficult to get into the details of a complex subject. The shortness also makes them rushed and tends to decrease quality. How many webinars have you participated in that are an 11 out of 10?
  3. Students cannot watch it at their own pace when they have time to focus and they cannot watch it many times over and over again. Additionally, webinars are usually held at 11am and the people watching are doing 4 other things at the office barely paying attention.
  4. You CANNOT make sure students are learning and then implementing the material that has been taught in the webinar. Again, this is okay for very basic subjects, but it is not okay for important topics. The instructor needs to able to verify the students have learned and used the material. This typically takes the form of short but regular quizzes, homework assignments and capstone projects at the end of the course.
  5. Webinars do not provide two way communication. Students don’t have 1 on 1 access to the instructor when they need it.  If a student has a question about a specific topic, let’s say on minute 6.53 to minute 9, it’s very difficult for that student to ask the question and get a good answer in a live format. Again, this compounds when hundreds of students are getting trained.
  6. Cannot supply supporting documents, resources and tools during the lessons. In many trainings it’s very useful for the students to have the tools and documents that the instructor has during the lesson, so they can read along or use the tool while the lecture is happening. In a course, it’s very easy to do this, in a webinar, not so much.

6 Reasons Why Courses are Far Superior for Training

  1. With a course, you can verify that the students are learning the information! This is typically done with progress bars, short quizzes, homework assignments, and capstone projects. You can also have post-course modules 2 weeks or 1 month after the class to re-evaluate what students have been able to implement.
  2. There is no execution risk. You can make sure everything works before the event. Courses easily scale to hundreds of students every month. After the course is created the first time, it takes 90% less time to run a course each consecutive time.
  3. You can still use webinars and live sections as part of the course! We typically use them for a live Q+As throughout the course.
  4. Students can learn at their own, when they have time. They can watch the lessons and the reading as many times as they need to understand the material and get help from the teacher when needed.
  5. Courses can be spaced over a week, 4 weeks or 6 weeks, based on difficulty of the subject to give the students a proper amount of time to learn the material.
  6. You can easily provide the students with downloadable tools, resources, specification sheets and other supporting documents they need to learn the material.

You can sign up for this course to learn how to turn your webinar training into great online training course. Click here –> “How to Turn Your Webinars into Amazing Online Training Courses”

This article is from HeatSpring’s Online Education Playbook. We’re expert at both clean energy AND how to utilize online tools to enhance training. If you’re business depends on training, click here to read HeatSpring’s online education playbook.