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Best Practices for Online Education via Webinar

By Michael Rogers

One of the most effective applications of webinar technology is the administration of educational courses. The ability to overcome geographic boundaries allows courses that would typically attract a small attendance to bring in a larger audience per session. Effectively utilized, webinar technology can allow organizations to see a reduction in costs and resources required to facilitate these courses.

Synchronous? Asynchronous? Or Both?
When implementing an online education program, it is important to first decide: will the training take place synchronously or asynchronously with participants? Each has its pros and cons, which we will discuss below.

Synchronous
Synchronous education requires that classes are held at the same time for all participants, and typically implement the full-featured definition of a webinar; that is, live, online and interactive. This provides the most in-depth and classroom-like educational experience. The students can interact with the instructor and with their peers to dive deeper into the topics of discussion. It is easier to receive timely response to questions and feedback on educational progress.

The downside to synchronous education is inflexibility, as the courses must be held at the same scheduled time for all. In addition, it requires additional resources from the instructor, who must be present at all sessions. This method also requires a more elaborate webinar setup to facilitate live interactions among participants.

Asynchronous
Asynchronous education acts less like a webinar in the defined sense, and is instead a different presentation of an event recording. This is typically offered via pre-recorded instructional sessions that students can view on-demand at their convenience. There is little to no opportunity for real-time discussion and interaction.

The benefit of asynchronous is that it requires fewer resources. A simple recording is all that is required – no complicated webinar technologies. In addition the instructor can record each session once, and use it for multiple offerings of the course. The downside is of course the reduced opportunity for interaction among students and the instructor.

How about a hybrid?
One additional possibility is the combination of synchronous and asynchronous educational sessions. Pre-recorded segments are available for students to view at their own convenience, complemented with regular live classes that allow participants to come together, ask questions and receive feedback. This provides convenience and flexibility, with slightly fewer resource requirements.

Webinar technology is not cookie cutter, and how you apply it to your educational sessions can add a dynamic twist to old offerings. When planning your sessions, think like a participant – make sure they have all the necessary resources available, and make sure the event has adequate time for breaks scheduled. Like any event offering, execution will pay huge dividends towards building future attendance.

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