Category Archives: Online Education

Five Tips for a Successful Online Event

You’ve probably seen the Progressive Insurance commercial with the people on a video conference where one person can’t seem to get logged in and others talking over one another. Maybe you’ve experienced this on one of the numerous online meetings you’ve attended over the past several months. We laugh because it’s all too real (there’s always someone who can’t figure out how to mute or unmute themselves) and yet painful at the same time. You shake your head at the sight and think, “it’s been almost three months since ‘work from home’ became a thing. Why can’t they get it together?”

It’s one thing for a work meeting to go online and get messed up. It’s an entirely different thing to move a large-scale event online such as a conference or convention and watch it go belly up for a number of reasons. Conferences are intended to be networking and learning events and an online version doesn’t seem to solve anything but the need to not meet in person. So how can you redeem the event you’ve been planning and give attendees something that approximates the live, in-person experience? Here are some tips:

  • Choose your platform wisely. How many people do you expect to take part in the event? What type of activities are you planning? Will you have multiple speakers and will they be in one place or remote? This is point where you decide whether the event will be a video conference meeting or a webinar. In a meeting, participants can, for example, speak, see each other, and be placed in discussion groups. The webinar is a “one to many” broadcasting tool where participants are limited in what they can do and cannot be seen. There are several meeting/webinar platforms that can accommodate and online event. Many people instantly think of Zoom, but don’t forget GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar, Adobe Connect, and WebEx (and others). Depending on the size of the event and what you want to do, you may need to adjust the plan to accommodate the number of participants, etc. Don’t forget to check out recording capabilities or limits, too.
  • Create an agenda with your participants in mind. Give them a break – or two. People may leave the event if they feel like they have no time to use the bathroom or answer a voicemail. You build in breaks for a live, in-person event, so do it for an online event, too. If you’re using a platform like Zoom meetings where people are visible and can speak to one another, add time in your agenda for small discussion or “breakout” groups. This gives participants the ability to network with each other and breaks up the time they spend just watching. You can also create opportunities for networking before or after the main event on the platform. Give consideration to how long the event will run and what you want to achieve when planning your agenda and activities.
  • Determine if speakers can deliver using the online platform. The best speakers can fumble when presenting online. Verify that your desired speakers can deliver well to an online audience or plan to spend some time working with them to ensure a good experience. It’s best if the speaker can be seen by the participants. All speakers should have access to the proper equipment: good internet connection (hardwire is preferable), webcam, microphone, lighting, and uncluttered background. They should understand how to position the camera so that they are looking into it at the proper height. If they are sharing slides, they need to know how to share and advance the slides. If you are engaging a speaker for an online event, ask to see video of one of their online presentations or get on a video conference with them and verify that they know what they’re doing!
  • Engage a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant who knows the platform can handle all of the “I can’t hear” comments in the chat, troubleshoot technical questions, and assign participants to breakout rooms, if you’re using them. In addition to the technical assistance, have members of your team assigned to monitor chat and questions during sessions. Having people in place to deal with the online logistics frees you, the organizer, to focus on speakers and agenda.
  • Deal with the little stuff. There are a lot of little details that go into an event, whether it’s online or in person. You have decisions to make about the program, its length, the topics, registration, etc. Just because your event is online, don’t treat it any less seriously than you would if you were welcoming people to a ballroom with balloons and tote bags. Start planning well in advance of the event. Be determined to create an experience that participants will enjoy and be satisfied that they attended. The devil is in the details!

Events can be a great opportunity for people to gather, even virtually, to exchange ideas, learn something, and get to know someone new. If you plan well and craft your event for the online space, you will give attendees a great experience, limited only by your imagination (and your people’s internet connection).

What Do You Want To Learn?

I wrote one book (my dissertation) and always wanted to write another – and another – but never got around to it. I thought that writers were a special breed and everything they wrote would get published and hit the best seller list. How could I do that?

I read a lot and realize that many people write books. Some are good, others are not so good. And yet others are really bad. But somehow they got published. I began to think: I can do this. But how? When I wrote my dissertation, it was for a specific purpose (to earn my Ph.D.). I could have published it, but it would have needed more work to get it into shape for publishing. I didn’t have the energy or desire at that time to put in the work. Then, I left academia for business and all thoughts of publishing were left behind.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve returned to the idea of writing and publishing a book. For some time, I’ve followed a company, Scribe (formerly Book In A Box), that helps authors publish their books. They offered a workshop that I was too cheap to attend. It was intriguing, though, and when the pandemic hit, Scribe took the workshop online and let people take it at no cost. I signed up.

I spent 10 hours over two days plus a couple hours on day three watching live webinars with Tucker Max, author and founder of Scribe, and his staff and actually working on my book. I learned how to position the book, write an outline, deal with all the fears that accompany writing a book, and create a writing and editing plan.

But why tell you all this? Yes, I do hope you’ll take a look at my book when it’s published. That’s not the point, though. Too often, we trainers are so focussed on delivering training that we forget what it’s like to sit in the seat and be the student.

Why is it important to be the student now and again? It gives you perspective. Do you see the trainer using techniques you employ in your classes? How well do they sit with the students? What works? What doesn’t work? You consider how you teach and what you can improve to help your students learn the material, retain it, and be able to use it when needed.

If we want to be effective trainers and teachers, we need to evolve and learn new ways of teaching. That’s where learning comes in. Many trainers who had never presented online had to quickly learn how to deliver a webinar in the past two months. Some did well; others stumbled and limped through their webinars. What if you had watched other trainers deliver webinars over the past few years and started offering your training online prior to the pandemic? Sometimes circumstances force us to learn something new, but online training isn’t new. It’s just that some have come later to it than others.

So what do you want to learn? Find something and take a class. Use it to gain knowledge and skills, but also to learn how others teach. You will gain some level of expertise in a topic and perspective in the art of training adults. Take what you like and leave the rest.

In college, I lived in a dormitory that carries an inscription on one of its exterior walls. It says: “The end of learning is gracious living.” We thought that it meant we could leave the rigors of our educational pursuits behind us when we earned our degrees and start living well. The college interprets this quote differently and sponsors a “Day of Gracious Living” when they encourage alumni to contribute to the annual fund. The sentiment is that when we finish our learning, we’ll be gracious and give back. It’s an effective way to get alumni to contribute, but I would argue that we shouldn’t stop learning. Just because you have a degree or credential doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from continuing education.

Go ahead. Take a class. Learn something new.

Can Online Training Be Better?

I have to admit, I like delivering online training classes. I don’t have to “dress for success” (or at least not in the same way) and my commute is very easy. I get to teach from the convenience of my home where I have everything I need at my fingertips. My “assistant,” aka Calvin the wonderful wiener dog, appreciates being able to hang out with me while I teach, too.

I know that people will debate whether online training classes are better or worse than in-person classes. I would contend that poor content and training delivery is bad for learners, regardless where it originates, in a classroom or online. Nevertheless, online training requires the presenter to adapt content and change delivery for the online platform. In person, the trainer can gauge the reaction of the people in the classroom and change delivery or content accordingly. When online, the trainer relies on beefed up participation to get real time feedback. Sometimes this goes awry.

Online training has its benefits though. Both the trainer and participants can be anywhere. This broadens the scope of the trainer’s reach and delivers content to people who might not usually have access to that trainer or topic. Most online platforms are easy to access, depending on internet connection, of course. As a trainer, becoming familiar with various platforms and managing the content and delivery with them necessitates a learning curve. Once you’re familiar enough with a platform, you’ll waste less time trying to figure out what to do and more time actually delivering content.

With a broad reach comes the opportunity for participants to network with people outside their usual circle. I know some trainers who actively discourage participants from using the chat or questions functions to communicate with others. I’m not so concerned with that. I see the chat or questions boxes as opportunities to get to know other participants and engage with them. Most platforms will let you save the chat to your computer. That way, you can refer back to it and connect with other participants outside the formal training session.

This leads me to one of the biggest issues I see with trainers presenting online classes. It’s true that participants can engage with each other even if they aren’t in the same room; however, we must be intentional in creating communities of learning when online. This doesn’t come as easily as when you’re in person in a classroom. There is no natural inclination to talk to other people or exchange ideas when you’re attending an online class. The trainer and the students must make an effort to foster community and participate. From the trainer’s perspective, this can be something as simple as asking people to contribute their name and location in the chat box or more complex such as using breakout rooms with small group exercises. The trainer holds the key to unlocking the door to creating community online.

As we wander back to classroom training, will learners follow? The convenience of online training will continue to appeal to people who may not be able or are just unwilling to travel to an in-person class. The trainer who wants to broaden his/her reach beyond a local geography will continue to embrace and utilize the online space. I can see a move toward more “blended learning” approaches that use online training for the knowledge base and in-person workshops for the application of what was learned online. This type of online training could be static, on-demand courses or live instruction.

This still begs the question: When there’s a choice, will people continue to attend online classes? I think so. Online training existed prior to the pandemic, and it will continue to thrive. The difference going forward is the commitment trainers have to improving the online class. Its ease of use and the familiarity we’ve gained over time will make online training a viable alternative to traditional, in-person classroom sessions.

Live! And Online

Please, please stop saying “unprecedented” when referring to this global pandemic! It might be a hot mess or crazy times, highly unusual or extraordinary, but please call it something other than unprecedented. We’ve heard that before. Help me to consider the current situation in a different light and you’ll have my attention.

I’ve had to think of my training business in a different way when it became apparent that the pandemic changed how people need to get training. Online training has existed for some time. There are self-paced, digital courses available in many fields. Anyone visiting the “support” or “help” areas on websites for assistance sees many examples of training tools designed to help an end user navigate the steps necessary to do just about anything. These types of training are necessary to provide, but they don’t make up the majority of the type of training I provide.

So what about synchronous training? You know, live, in person training courses that advance a learner to proficiency in a subject or skill. Is it possible to convert that type of training to an online version? I think so. I believe there is the opportunity to engage students in the online space that is not the same as in a classroom, but can still provide a similar experience.

There is also the need to create online versions of static professional development classes. These are often continuing education courses that professionals need because a state regulatory agency recognizes the need to keep licensees updated in their respective fields. The content may not change often, but it does change over time. With no opportunities to meet in a classroom for the foreseeable future, the professional using existing digital offerings depends on classes that are updated infrequently with no opportunity to interact with the instructor or other students.

Classroom training can be converted to online opportunity. What will attract the person who wants to learn the material? In a word: Interaction. A class offered live, online can have a degree of interaction with the instructor and other participants, depending on the platform used to deliver the class. In addition to interaction, current offerings can also deliver up-to-date material.

Here are five strategies I’ve used to convert my classroom-based classes to the online environment:

  • Change the presentation to fit the online environment: You may need more or less words on the slide, depending on how you normally construct your presentations. Consider using different kinds of graphics to illustrate your points. You might want to use video and animation to break up the monotony of the slide deck.
  • Use breakout rooms: Consider using a platform that gives you the ability to assign participants to breakout rooms where they can discuss topics in small groups. Give them questions or topics to discuss in a handout (either send it to them prior to the class and/or let them download it from the platform). Have one person report out of the group when the participants reconvene.
  • Step up their participation: Use polls to solicit answers to questions or feedback. Use techniques such as “Write this down,” “Raise your hand if . . . ,” “wave if you . . . ,” “Write in the chat box . . . .” Take people off mute if they have questions or comments. If you’re asking them to give feedback in the chat or questions features of the platform, read them and respond. You have to be intentional about involving people online because you won’t be able to judge their reactions to what you’re saying as you would in the classroom.
  • Use your webcam: Yes, it’s disconcerting to think that the participants are seeing you but you are probably not seeing them. Talk to the camera and imagine you’re speaking to one (or more). Use gestures. Be animated. Don’t just read the slides!
  • Give them a break: Depending on the length of the class, consider working in a break. Most people can’t sit and pay attention for more than 90 minutes. If your class is an hour in length, there’s probably no need for a break.

All of these adaptations require work. Reevaluate the content of the class. What is essential? What is fluff? Make a meaningful experience for your participants. Give them a reason to be there with you for a live online class. Make it an extraordinary experience.

What is this feeling?

For those of us who are self-employed, Covid-19 could be a blessing or a curse. I see many entrepreneurs and small business owners pivoting and making changes to bring their businesses to people in other, chiefly online, ways. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? I see the announcements popping up on social media. There are webinars and calls, e-books and videos. But what about those of us who are just starting our businesses? It’s time to do a lot of “business development,” right? In other words, work to find future rather than now opportunities.

I can embrace that idea and have been trying to make contacts and set appointments for that future date when I’ll be able to hold in-person training classes. I am well-versed at presenting webinars and have done a few recently. Unfortunately, webinars haven’t been replacing my other offerings. This means a loss of income in the short term.

I surprised myself one morning this week by writing the following in my journal: “I think I am grieving for what might have been if this pandemic had not taken hold. It has caused me to consider if I really made the right choice. I feel like I don’t want to go back to where I was, but I don’t see a way forward from where I am now.” If you’re just starting a business when the pandemic hit, your opportunities probably dried up. You are mourning for what might have been. This grief is real. I realized that when, serendipitously, a Twitter notification popped up on my phone that lead me down a social media rabbit hole.

In the process of surveying my Twitter newsfeed I saw a friend’s post where she shared an article from the Harvard Business Review, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.” In this article, the author interviews David Kessler who co-wrote On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Kessler pinpointed what I and others are feeling right now: “Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain.” My mind races forward three months, six months. I see my nascent business failing and then extinct before it really had a chance to get off the ground. “Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst.”

What is the antidote to this grief? According to Kessler, it’s staying grounded in the present. What can you do now, today to remind yourself that you’re o.k.? In our communities, it can be practicing social distancing. For ourselves, it can be practicing mindfulness of our breath, our physical space, or just washing our hands and staying as healthy as possible.

This article was enlightening and sobering at the same time. Yes, I can give myself permission to focus on the present. I still need a way to earn a living and keep food in the refrigerator. I try to pitch my online offerings to people in a position to hire me. I feel sales-y and somehow inconsiderate. I find myself talking too much on these calls. I know this is the kiss of death (I teach sales skills after all!), but I can’t seem to stop myself. Focussing on what I can do today to advance my business has turned into frustration.

At the same time, I see announcements of webinar offerings by colleagues and competitors. I watch some of these webinars and marvel at how some trainers ever got someone to agree to let them present. I’m a little jealous and mad at myself at the same time. What am I doing wrong?

As more and more trainers race to put their content online in webinars and videos, the market becomes saturated. The audience for all of these online offerings is getting tapped out. How many webinars can you watch in a day or week before you just start deleting the email announcements or scrolling past the posts in your newsfeed. I call this “webinar fatigue.” It’s fine to watch and listen to people telling us what we should do for a while. Then, it turns into nagging and our attention begins to wane. We long for the connection, the dialogue, after a while, and webinars are not a substitute for human interaction.

The best webinar presenters understand this and work hard to create opportunities for connection while presenting. It helps when the presenter is interacting with the audience via the chat or questions function in the platform. Some platforms, like Zoom, give hosts the ability to put people in “breakout rooms” to interact. Sometimes even participants help each other out and start communicating among themselves in the chat. This aggravates some presenters (it’s disrespectful! they aren’t paying attention!) but I see this as a way to create community, even if it is in the context of an online offering.

I suspect that the number of webinar or online offerings will decrease over time and only those that are truly worthwhile, either because of the topic and/or the presenter, will stick around. I can’t worry about that now, however. I need to let go of what I can’t control and focus on what I can do now, today. If you’d like to talk to me about presenting some training, great. I’d love to connect with you. If you’re tired of training options, connect with me anyway. I’m here to help in any way I can.

On The Frontlines of Online Training

As I sit here in Ohio under a “stay at home” order from the Department of Health, I’m reminded of the Monopoly game and the opportunity to draw the “land in jail” card: “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to jail.” I suspect that a lot of us feel like we just landed in jail without our $200 for passing go. Converting in-person training classes to online training occupies our brains and our work life. Organizations and businesses are scrambling to provide training for their employees to keep them engaged and moving forward when it seems that everyone is stuck in place. It’s no different in the real estate world where I work.

Although real estate services have been determined to be “essential services” in Ohio, many agents are not going on appointments, whether to list properties for sale or lease or to show prospective buyers and renters new homes. We’re living in an era of low inventory, and the current state of affairs has lead to even less properties coming on the market. (There are some people listing their homes for sale, however. People still need to move.)

There’s no better time for a real estate agent to sharpen their skills and work on their business, right? Brokerages and agents who adapt and learn during this time will be in a position to benefit from pent up demand when people reenter the market. Now is the time to ramp up learning opportunities, and remote/online learning can fill the need.

I will confess – I like presenting live, online training sessions. There is the challenge of engaging participants despite the distance. In most cases, I can’t hear or see them. How do I know that what I’m teaching is learned? This is the major difference between online and in-person training, and it scares most trainers who are accustomed to judging a student’s acquisition of the material by their immediate feedback, whether that feedback comes in the form of body language, questions asked, or passing a test. In the online classroom of webinars and meetings, we use other tools to judge students’ understanding of the material.

Trainers can still ask questions of the webinar participants to gauge their comprehension of the material. I have participants write responses in the chat box at regular intervals. I also have them respond to requests for input such as: “What topics do people look for on a real estate website?” The primary goal of this is to get the participants thinking about the kind of content they might provide to consumers on their individual websites, but this also serves as a group exercise to foster a kind of esprit de corps among the participants.

Polls give the trainer the ability to judge whether the participants have absorbed the material being taught and/or set the stage for what’s to come. I like to run polls to determine first where participants are in their understanding of the material I’m about to present. I can get reactions to a statement or have them indicate opinions. Polls can also help me determine if the material I taught “landed” with the participants. I have to always keep in mind what my purpose is when I construct the poll.

Because I can get very absorbed in presenting the material, I schedule breaks in the flow of the topic to solicit questions from the participants. Depending on the ease of use of the webinar platform you use and the size of the audience, questions can be written in a chat or questions box or microphones taken off mute for participants to speak. These are brief “check ins” for me as the presenter to make sure I keep participants’ attention and to help me assess what I need to repeat in the course of the training.

Some online training platforms such as GoToWebinar and Zoom let the organizer attach surveys to the webinar that can launch at the completion of the webinar or the next day. I ask participants to rate me as an instructor, tell me what topics they were glad we covered and which ones they would like more instruction on. I also give an opportunity for participants to contribute topics for future trainings.

I know I’m not a perfect trainer online just as I make mistakes in the classroom. I’ve learned to speak online so that participants get the message though. And right now, I’m glad I’ve honed this skill so that I can continue to train even if I can’t stand in front of a group of real estate agents personally.

The Brave New World of Training

Whoever thought we would all be using the term “social distance” six months ago? By now, we know what it means to maintain social distance from one another, and it doesn’t include sitting in a room with more than 10 people. We have gone from assembling people in one place to share our expertise with them to scrambling for ways to reach our students and prospective students. It’s not easy, but there are ways to provide training outside of the classroom.

Yes, you can go online with classes, and schools, colleges, and universities are learning quickly what “distance learning” really means. Companies that specialize in online learning send me multiple emails telling me how they can help. I appreciate it, but I’m not the one who needs their assistance. 

I truly respect those trainers and coaches who have created an online presence that predates this situation. They have been on the forefront of learning in a digital age. They understand that teaching in an online environment requires skills beyond explaining something.

Watching a webinarIt is not simply a matter of taking your slide deck and talking through the slides, except now you’re doing it as a webinar. Live, online training without engaging participants falls flat. People tune out. As a trainer, you lose their attention before you’ve had a chance to give them real content. And then there’s the sound, screen sharing, and every other technical thing that can (and does) go wrong. Hmmm – maybe this isn’t as easy as everyone thought.

Live, online training can provide immediate feedback from participants. Examples include: using polls during a webinar, launching a survey at the end of the online training, or opening up the audio to let participants ask questions instead of typing them in the questions box. Let’s not forget the role of social media and its ability to reach people beyond the classroom (or webinar). Short videos, blog articles, infographics, and pictures can provide opportunities to teach something. An online “challenge” to people to create something and share it on a social platform invites participants to learn through doing and creates community among the creators.

As trainers, we need to be creative with how to reach and engage students at this time. When I started writing this article, I was sitting in an airport on my way home from a business meeting. I’m happy to say that everyone was doing a good job with the social distancing, washing hands, and using hand sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to be there, potentially exposing myself and future contacts to disease. I took a few minutes, opened my notebook, pulled a pen out of my bag, and started writing the topics I feel confident that I’m able to present online. I decided to focus on what I can do rather than what has been lost.

We can shut down our training businesses and look for alternate income streams while trying to maintain “social distance” until the current situation resolves. Or, we can embrace the technology and learn how to use it for our benefit. See you online!

 

Seven Tips for Creating Screen Capture Video for Training

I don’t know about you, but I often search for videos to show me how to do something. It could be anything, but often it’s something technology-related. Most recently I needed to download and set up Audacity (a free audio recording software) on my Mac. I consider myself to be somewhat “techie” but this was a challenge for me to get the settings right. What did I do? I searched for a “how to” video on YouTube.

One of the biggest changes in my training world has been the increased need for technology training. There are multiple tools – online and software-based – that real estate agents use in their daily business. The successful agent needs to know how to manipulate data and use online platforms to market to potential clients, create marketing materials, and manage transactions. There are a lot of options out there, and they want to know how to use them quickly and competently.

Hands-on classroom training is good, but it doesn’t help when there’s no class or the agent can’t get to one. Online training fills the gap, but the question remains, how do you demonstrate the tools and motivate the agents to adopt technology in their businesses? Along with the “how,” the trainer needs to sell the “why.”

Classroom training has the benefit of giving the trainer face-to-face contact with the learner. When teaching tech tools, I can readily see if someone understands a concept or action and address any questions or difficulties. When using online training to accomplish the same goals, the trainer has to anticipate the questions and issues that pop up and use that knowledge when creating online training.

Screen-capture video offers me the ability to demonstrate the process for using a tool and give tips and recommendations for successful use. I record my screen while talking, then edit the video to add features that help deepen the viewer’s understanding of the tool.

Here are seven things I’ve learned when making screen capture videos for training purposes:

  • Longer is not better! Most people have short attention spans and are unable to digest large quantities of directions at once. In my experience, learners receive and comprehend videos in the two to four minute range best. Remember, I want them to be able to duplicate the processes learned, not just watch a video.
  • Plan your edits in advance. When considering the process you’re recording, think about which steps or areas of the screen need enhancement or callouts. Most editing software (I use Camtasia) will let you zoom and pan on areas of the screen and add callouts like arrows and circles. Plan what parts of the screen need attention and when so that your editing will be a smooth process.
  • Use intro and exit slides for clarification. I learned that it makes for easier viewing to have an introductory slide/picture that gives the topic of the video. Exit images include a recap of the instructions covered in the video or tips for success. I can choose to talk over those slides, if I wish, but typically I do not.
  • Check your sound quality. When I first began to record screen-capture videos, I used the earbuds that came with my smartphone to record the audio portion. This was a cheap solution, but not the best. If I moved my head, the microphone didn’t necessarily follow my mouth. I invested in a decent headset with an adjustable microphone. No matter how I move, the microphone stays with me. I also recommend recording some test videos to check the sound levels and adjusting accordingly.
  • Know what to say when. This sounds self-evident, but you will quickly derail your video if you’re not sure of the process you’re trying to instruct or you get off track. I used to script my videos, but now I write notes and practice before recording. I make sure I can succinctly move from one action to the next while I describe the process. Practice helps!
  • Record in one take. You will not be perfect in your delivery. You will forget a word or stumble over a phrase. The internet will slow down as you’re trying to get something to process on screen. Take your time and edit out the mistakes or gaps. You can record snippets of the entire process and create the complete video out of the pieces, if you want. I know that I will edit the video to add features, so cutting “umms” and “ahhhs” is part of my editing process. I have learned to pause, then start a phrase over if something happens (like forgetting a word). As you listen to yourself in the editing process, you’ll discover what your verbal “tics” are. I tend to say “so” far too much. I’ve learned to lessen the frequency of certain repetitive words when I record now.
  • Make a plan. Many of the online courses I create consist of multiple videos. I make a plan to determine which videos I need to record and in which order they will appear in the course. I don’t need to record them in the same order, but it is helpful in a some cases to progress through aspects of the tool I am featuring in the course in my video recording. This may also seem self-evident that you need to plan out your course elements, but it’s helpful to consider when sitting down to record multiple videos at once.
  • Captions. I have not yet used captions for my videos; however, I am going to begin to do this. Why? Captions enable viewing on social media (such as YouTube or Facebook) without the sound. It also gives hearing-impaired people access to your videos. Some platforms such as YouTube will automatically create a transcription of the audio portion of your video. Camtasia offers a “speech to text” option to create the transcription. With any automatic transcription service, you’ll need to check the accuracy of the text as compared to the video. The next step is to use your video editing tool to add the captions to the video. I’m going to test this process, then decide whether I want to pay someone to create captions for my videos.

I distilled these tips from my experience creating screen-capture video. With some practice and attention, you can create your own videos and edit them to your specifications. The bonus? You get to tell your learners which features are important for their businesses or positions and how to best use the tool.

There’s something new in our fields almost every day that a video can help explain or demonstrate. That means I need to get back to my computer and get back to recording!

One-sided Webinars

Because I can’t be everywhere all the time, I use webinars to present training. You likely have either watched a webinar or had the pleasure of presenting one. They are ubiquitous in the training world. Webinars let you broadcast your training to whoever will log in, and if you remember to click the “record” button, you can post the recordings for anyone to watch at a later time.

I have something of a love/hate relationship with webinars. I like the convenience of holding webinars. I don’t have to arrange for a room, drive somewhere, deliver training, and drive back. I can open my laptop and start a session in a matter of a few minutes. I plug in my headset, and away we go!

It’s not that easy, though, to present a good webinar. You know, the kind where you plan according to a goal for the training, create the presentation or map out the tool you’ll demonstrate, construct polls for interaction, and create the follow-up survey. And if you’re conscientious, you’ll edit the video for clarity, dropping out the gaps in the presentation and the ummms and ahhhhs that naturally occur during live training, and then post the recording and add it to follow-up e-mails from the platform.

Another pitfall of the webinar format is when presenters follow the one-sided approach to their webinar. They soldier on through the material without giving any thought to how it might be received. Questions go unanswered, comments in the chat box are left dangling. Webinar attendees lose interest and check their e-mail. I, too, am guilty of being one-sided on occasion. The webinar format can be convenient, but it can be deadly dull, too.

The best webinars are engaging. Presenters frequently stop to ask questions of the participants and request feedback. Then, they pay attention to the questions and feedback and incorporate that into the presentation. Polls and surveys can help get feedback from participants. Good presenters keep the tone upbeat and move at a pace that keeps the topic fresh.

A good webinar also depends on the presenter having assistance from someone running the technology or having practiced enough to know the technology. I don’t have the luxury of an assistant and have to run the webinar dashboard at the same time I am the presenter. I have been guilty of forgetting to take myself off mute before starting the webinar. (I also failed to notice the comments in the chat box telling me the participants couldn’t hear anything.) Now I have a checklist and follow the same process each time I begin a webinar. I practice the material before I present live. I make sure it fits in the time allotted and leaves room for questions and feedback.

With planning and preparation, webinars can be a great tool for training people across a company with a geographically large footprint. They don’t have to be one-sided, either.

The Online Education Conundrum

A few years ago, I started advocating for an online education portal where our agents could go to access training classes if they couldn’t attend training in person. Unfortunately, the stigma of a previous incarnation of an online education portal for our company caused senior leadership to reject the idea. I should say that this was an early instance of online learning that was quite rudimentary. It left much to be desired.

Fast forward a couple years, and the attitudes changed in light of a growing company with the need to offer training to people in several locations. Instructor-lead training is the norm, and the ability to offer classes in multiple locations at times people were willing to attend has become problematic. Now, online education seems to be the solution to the problem.

Instead of evaluating various platforms available in the marketplace, we took a different approach. One of our partners is a local college of business that provides online pre-licensing and continuing education courses across the country. Without much knowledge of the platform they were moving their online education offerings to, we agreed to partner with them in a new venture. The college would offer our agents the ability to register for pre-licensing courses or take continuing education courses online through a custom-designed portal. We would have the ability to place our education offerings online using this platform and our agents would have access to them via the same portal.

This seems like a win-win situation. The college gets more business for their pre-licensing courses and online continuing education, and we get a place to put our content online. The agents get access to what they need, when they need it.

Here’s where the questions pop up: What kind of platform is this, and how easy is it to build courses for online use? The platform the college chose was designed for use by K-12 institutions. It does the job, but it’s not an easy platform to work with for our purposes. I find myself creating content, then having to manipulate it in such a way as to get it into the course I design. One example: videos can be uploaded directly to the platform; however, for viewing ease, I upload the video to YouTube, copy the embed code, paste it into a text document, save the document with a particular title and .html, move that document to a zip file with the same title, then upload it to the platform. This is not what I would call user-friendly.

The end result is not bad. I can categorize the courses, and they work as designed. Unfortunately, we have yet to launch this platform for our agents despite having access to it from the back end for almost a year. We are waiting for the college to migrate all of their content to the platform, and then we’ll be able to make it live. I often think it would have been much easier for us to contract with a platform provider directly. We would have had it up and running by now.

The benefit to having this online education portal with the college may be intangible at present, but the relationship offers us other benefits we can’t deny. Our recruits get an automatic scholarship when they register through our portal. We have a revenue sharing agreement that gives us a portion of the proceeds from online continuing education that our agents complete. And, we have created a relationship with this college that offers us access to resources we can’t maintain on our own.

I’ll keep plugging away at placing our content on the platform. Once we go live and agents have a chance to experience the training, I’ll be in a better position to evaluate if this is the answer to our prayers.