Karen founded Kaleidoscope Training and Consulting, which offers courses for technical trainers and subject-matter experts to improve delivery and presentation skills, learn online training strategies, and prepare for MCT and CTT+ designation. She also supports organizations that are transitioning to online instructor-led training.
What follows is an interview with Karen:
Q. What are you responsibilities at your current job?
I meet people online to coach them on using whatever tools they’ll be using, I review their content and look for ways to improve learner engagement or make materials more usable in a virtual classroom environment.
I’m also a trainer and teach classes. I participate in instructional design, online event production and hosting. And, of course, sales, marketing, scheduling and invoicing and all the other tasks that go along with running a business.
Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages of webinars?
I like that, in some ways, they are lean. People can get in and out without wasting a lot of effort getting there. Socializing is limited, so for people like me who don’t like to make small talk, it’s easier.
The main complaints users have are around technology problems and the lack of social connection. There’s a learning curve. Learners must be disciplined to not multitask in exchange for not being held captive in a classroom.
Q. Have you ever run into any bloopers during a webinar presentation? How did you handle it?
Omigod, yes. All the time. Things crash. Files don’t load. I’ve had people who chew and burp into open mics. That’s pleasant. I’ve had presenters accidentally disconnect from the session while they are presenting.
Just last week my students were being evacuated for a fire drill floor by floor. We were missing 25% of the students and then another 25% while those of us in other cities chatted or took a break. I posted a message for them to alert me with Green checkmarks when they returned.
I handle these kind of issues by discussing and preplanning solutions (Plan B) whenever possible. I’ve fallen back on plans B, C and D to solve technical issues.
I’ve done impromptu reviews of content while waiting for presenters to rejoin. I’ve called presenters on the phone and had them to do their presentation from notes while I advanced the slides.
I think it’s critical keep cool and be honest. Try not to blame technology or be negative in any way. I need to keep my voice calm and give clear instructions to students. Freaking out doesn’t help. Apologizing desperately just draws negative attention.
Q. Could you name a few things you’ve found that really help improve learner engagement?
1. Get all the administrative tasks and technical issues out of the way BEFORE the session.
The software interface should be part of the background—like chairs and desks and lighting in a physical classroom—NOT the focus. People complain that the first 15 minutes of every session is wasted with students just logging in, installing software and getting their audio to work. Much of that preparation should be handled days, not minutes, in advance.
2. Teach the participants how to use the features of the software.
For example: how to type in Chat, how to respond to polls, what the status indicators mean (green checkmark versus red X), and how to mute and unmute their own audio. They don’t typically start using them without being invited to use.
3. Asking people to AGREE to participate.
I include a poll at the beginning of each session that gives them a chance to commit or admit they cannot commit. By doing this, I let them know that this webinar is designed to be interactive and participants are encouraged to contribute. Previous experiences may have taught participants that they can be passive.
4. Use the features of the virtual classroom to ask questions, lots and lots of questions.
Ask questions like; “What is your experience with this?” Or “How would you apply this?” Or “what were the issues with the old process?” Asking “Any questions?” doesn’t count.
5. Always instruct participants on how you want them to respond.
For example: “Please click the raise hand button and wait to be called on,” “Please type your responses in Chat,” “Please read the poll and click on the appropriate response,” or “If you agree, please change your status to green checkmark.”
Q. Are there any books, blogs, magazines, etc. that had a positive impact on your training career?
Zillions. Here are a few live ones:
- The eLearning Guild www.elearningguild.com
- Ken Molay http://wsuccess.typepad.com/about.html
- Dr. Ruth Clark http://clarktraining.com/blog/
- Bob Mosher http://www.learningguidesolutions.com/index.php/usa/read/about/moshers-corner/
Q. What are some last tidbits or advice you would give other webinar hosts?
- 1.See yourself in a service role
- 2.Your learners are your guests
- 3.It’s up to you to make sure they are prepared to have an excellent experience.
This interview is complements of Bloomfire, a software site geared for easily sharing knowledge and the discussions that surround it. You can invite members to find and follow experts, ask questions or share with others by uploading documents, videos or presentations, recording a video on your webcam or creating a screen cast on the fly.
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