The future of webinars and CPD. How can the learning experience evolve?

The future of webinars and CPD. How can the learning experience evolve?

I have always had an interest in education, especially when it is powered by technology. Over the years, I have managed to develop it and put to use not only through my own online courses (coincidentally, even my blog is called the Business School for Translators), or through involvement with eCPD Webinars, but also in my research. Thus, I’m always on the lookout for improvements and developments in the field. At eCPD Webinars we’ve also noticed increasing discussions around reinventing, rejigging and adding to the well-established webinar format. I’ve put together some thoughts on how we could evolve in the webinar-based CPD scene, and I’d really appreciate your comments and contributions, too!

Interactive webinars

The majority of webinars available on the CPD market are usually based on a presentation delivered by a speaker followed by a Q&A session. While this format works for some attendees, it’s generally noted that it’s hard to focus and relate to information delivered in this format. One of the ways I’m trying to make my own webinars more engaging for the benefit of the audience is to make them as interactive as possible, using polls or questions. But perhaps there’s more that could be done?

One of the suggestions I came across was including activities or tasks for attendees to complete during the actual webinar, with feeding responses back to the group. The idea of a flipped webinar, by analogy to flipper lectures, also seems to be appealing: attendees can do some preparatory work before the webinar and come in to an interactive, discussion-based meeting, rather than listening to a prepared lecture. Another possible way of making a webinar more interactive would be to allow attendees participate with voice and camera.

Blended learning

Perhaps one of the things translators miss the most is human interaction, and I personally like meeting colleagues during all sorts of CPD events. Webinars don’t inhibit this element of interaction, but they don’t easily substitute in-person events. What about trying to get the best out of both worlds?

Blended learning is based on the principle of combining in-person meetings with online sessions. While challenging, perhaps structuring courses around both on-line and off-line attendance could improve our learning experience?

New formats

Webinars usually follow a pretty similar format, with the average length of one hour of a presentation. Maybe it’s the format itself that needs a bit of a refresher. I discovered I benefit much more from online learning if I take a course which, apart from lecture-based webinars, includes assignments, feedback and some one-to-one interaction (which, incidentally, is also the format of my Business School course). I also had the opportunity of running a whole-day webinar-based workshop which went very well and involved practical exercises that attendees had to complete within a set period of time, send their results to me, and then we went through them together. An intense day, but it turned out to be a very productive learning experience.

Webinars could perhaps also be used to stream live events, making the online attendee feel closer to the in-class community. Perhaps this could prove to be a good way of enhancing the learning experience?

Diversified content

Currently the majority of webinars are based on the good old slide deck containing the main points that the speaker wants to cover. Suppose that we could see or hear something else? Some ideas coming to my mind include going on virtual tours, recorded or streamed live during a webinar. Of course, some topics would be more amenable to these formats than others, but learning about, say, architecture by seeing the insides of specific buildings could be more engaging than just looking at a static photograph.

Community

Another way of interacting that goes beyond the activities during the webinar itself, is to create a wider community in which you can ‘network’ before and after a webinar has taken place. At eCPD, we thought this is an idea worth trying out, so we’ll be launching our networking Facebook group soon. We’ll be inviting our webinar attendees to join the group and chat in preparation for and as a reflection after the webinars they attend. We’ll be piloting this idea over a couple of months.

What do you think? What would make the online learning experience better for you?