This blog post is written by our partner Course Merchant who is hosting a series of free face-to-face workshops – The Rise and Rise of Online Learning – that talks attendees through the latest technology being used by training organizations, shows hands-on examples of what this tech can do, and teaches ways of evaluating its use for their businesses. This post offers a taste of one of the topics in the workshop: Web Conferencing.
Web conferencing: what is it?
Web conferencing – also referred to as video/voice conferencing or webcasting – is a way of bringing people together to interact in a virtual “meeting room” setting. These sessions can be used for company meetings or updates, recording lessons or lectures, or any one-or-one or multi-person meetings.
Generally a meeting convener will send out invitations via email with a link that lets them join a meeting at a select time. Once they have joined the meeting, attendees can raise their hand to ask a question, talk via two-way audio, text chat with other people in the meeting, or mute themselves if they’re only listening in.
Presenters can share screens and webcams, send files to share with attendees, show presentation slides or use a whiteboard with markup tools like pointers, zooming, highlighting and more just as if they were in a live lecture hall or classroom. Meetings can also be recorded, and polls and surveys of attendees can be conducted to gauge audience response and to generate discussion.
To avoid anarchy, each meeting has a moderator who can make others presenters, or mute or expel attendees if necessary. Meetings can be open discussions or one-to-many to mimic a lecture.
Web conferencing software vendors include paid-for corporate options like GoToMeeting, Zoom, and LogMeIn or open-source and free options like BigBlueButton and Appear.in, respectively. Some Learning Management Systems also have web conferencing capabilities built in. The exact functionality capabilities will depend on the platform as there are some differences between options, but all systems provide a great opportunity to connect and share knowledge and resources virtually.
Here are some advantages and factors to be aware of when considering web-conferencing solutions…
- Reduced costs: It is no longer necessary for instructors and students to travel to a physical classroom. Online education & training events can take place without the travel and subsequent accommodation costs.
- No geographic limitations: Attendees can be geographically dispersed anywhere in the world.
- Social collaboration: In addition to text chat, there are breakout rooms where two learners can collaborate one-on-one.
- Flexibility: Multiple instructors can be connected at the same time to create a panel of experts. A person can be made a presenter without having to walk out to the front of a physical classroom, an instructor and student can connect in a one-on-one session, etc.
- It relies on technology: All attendees need a good internet connection.
- Time zones: Geographically dispersed groups may have difficulty attending the live meeting depending on the time chosen and where that falls for those in different time zones. Time zone differences need to be taken into consideration.
- Cost: Most web conferencing systems have a subscription/license fee. Free options are available but may have limited functionality, e.g. limited to 4 attendees at a time, etc.
All in all, web conferencing is a very useful technology in education and training. Make it to one of Course Merchant’s upcoming workshops to find out more about the advantages of web conferencing, what options are available in the market, and try web conferencing first-hand.
Questions about what web-conferencing solution might be the best fit? Ask us!
eThink has partnered with a few of our favorite web-conferencing companies in the industry and can provide advice on what solution might meet your specific needs.Contact Us