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The Webinar: The New Face-to-Face?

by Leah K. Pockrandt

Technology has created a new era of business education. Today’s professional can attend a seminar in Texas after lunch and still be home for dinner in Minnesota without ever leaving the office.

E-learning, the ability to access a training session via the Internet, is available to anyone with a phone line and a PC. E-learning provides participants with the opportunity to receive information about a particular topic in his or her related field. The instructor may be a business associate, university professor, or other expert.

Some companies also participate in e-training, which allows companies or organizations to offer training modules to its employees via a company Intranet or via an independent organization’s Web site. Such training may allow employees to review company policies or procedures at their leisure instead of scheduling separate training sessions.

Webinars are the online equivalent of seminars. These instructor-led training courses are often offered in real-time with participants from across the country. Webinars are often archived on a system, or participants receive a copy of the event so that the participants can access and review the material at his or her convenience.

Companies such as Risk Management Association (RMA), Shel Holtz Webinars (http://webinar.holtz.com), ASAP Software (http://www.asapsoftware.com/ midsize/geteducated.htm), and Corporate Website Marketing (http://www.corporatewebsitemarketing.com/webinars.html), along with associations such as The eLearning Guild (http://www.elearningguild.com) offer training and learning opportunities via the Internet to companies and individuals. Participants pay a fee, and log onto a Web site at a given time as well as call a specified phone number. All of the Webinar participants are then linked together via phone and Web conferencing systems. Other organizations host their own training opportunities. United Way of America has utilized Webinars as a way to provide up-to-date information to United Way professionals while allowing those individuals the opportunity to save money on travel and other expenses.

In this era of fiscal responsibility, when companies are looking at whether or not they should retain employees, much less train them, Webinars and other e-learning opportunities provide a way to increase the frequency and success of corporate events (Axelson, 2000) while giving those employees a needed edge (Hickey, 2002). “There is much market potential for solutions that can bring dispersed groups together and save participants time and money,” said Barbara Axelson in “Webinars Cut Face Time; MShow.com Unites Dispersed Groups in Hours.”

Of course, e-learning has its opponents. Since the Web doesn’t have a way to monitor the good e-learning opportunities from the bad ones, participants need to be wary. Brooke Broadbent, an e-learning consultant based in Canada (http://www.e-learninghub.com), contends that hype damaged e-learning. In fact, even though it’s still a fledgling mode of education, e-learning sessions at conventions are often poorly attended because participants know it’s now used as a marketing ploy (Ellet, 2002) as the new fast way to get information and save money. But the expense of time can be more costly than travel expenses if the quality of the Webinar is inferior. In his book, ABCs of E-learning, Broadbent said, “Concentrating on ‘e’ to the detriment of ‘learning’ is a colossal mistake.” He adds, “The best technology will not render a worn, turgid, content-centered course into a fresh, dynamic, learner-centered adventure.”


Sources
Web Sites

ASAP Software http://www.asapsoftware.com/midsize/geteducated.htm

Corporate Website Marketing http://www.corporatewebsitemarketing.com/webinars.html

The eLearning Guild http://www.elearningguild.com

The Risk Management Association

Shel Holtz Webinars http://webinar.holtz.com/faq.htm

Books and Articles

Axelson, Barbara. “Webinars a virtual success; Zapdata.com redefines search for customers.” B to B (July 31, 2000): 85:32-34.

----. “Webinars cut face time; MShow.com unites dispersed groups in hours.” B to B (Sept. 11, 2000): 85: 40-42.

Broadbent, Brooke. 2002. ABCs of E-learning. Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Ellet, Bill. “Learning about e-learning in a book.” Training Media Review (March 2002): 10 (2): 10-12.

Heafey, Sharon I. “Rapid pace of e-learning offers advantages. San Diego Business Journal (Feb. 5, 2001): 22 (6): 18-20.

Hickey, Kathleen. “Online learning: Web gives new ways to learn about supply chain and logistics.” TrafficWORLD (Aug. 19, 2002) 17.

Pressly, Thomas R. “E-learning: Strategies for delivering knowledge in the digital age (review).” The Ohio CPA Journal (April-June 2002): 61 (2): 62.

Rosenberg, Marc J. 2001. E-Learning: Strategies for delivering knowledge in the digital age. McGraw-Hill.