Webinars in 2012 ‐ Where are They Going?

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Webinars gained popularity in the early 1990’s when their primary purpose was to provide access to subject matter experts, hear a lecture, and have opportunities to ask questions. However, with such rapid progression in social media and collaborative learning, the webinar curriculum is in transition. Some essential modifications to accommodate the changes in 2012 include:

The Implementation of Social Learning. Social Learning has been one of the most influential trends in online education over the past few years. Knowledge is more often being shared among peers; thus, there is a shift in roles. The initiatives of the webinar planners become the responsibility of the participants. This results in what we call a collaborative approach to learning. Paralleling this trend is needed to support the increased desire for a more active learning experience. The outcome is a shift in the webinar model from the “podium” type of presentation to one that focuses on collaboration.

 A Movement Towards Openness. It is estimated that roughly 90% of webinar hosts still prefer to keep the chat area accessible only to presenters. This is a trend that will be changing in 2012. The balance between control and openness is shifting, and there is now more of an expectation for participant dialogue and an increase in contribution. The result is the creation of a back channel process to invigorate the presentation.

 A Blended Learning Approach. More organizations will be incorporating webinars into a course structure that includes community driven content, idea sharing, and pre and post session work. These programs can potentially span the course of many weeks. In this format, the webinar can be used to introduce new learning components or topics, summarize ideas, or provide the opportunity for connecting with subject matter experts.

Webinar Structure. In addition to opening up lines of communication, webinar planners will begin to insert set times for interaction that will include purposeful chat sessions that ask participants for their experiences or ideas. To support this structure, a second webinar host will need to be responsible for incorporating audience contributions into the presentation. This format keeps participants engaged throughout the entire session.

Alternative Business Model. More organizations will be using webinars as a component to a more significant fee-based learning program, such as, a virtual course. There is an increase in sponsorship where members may watch at no charge. Sponsors will typically receive about five minutes to speak in addition to branding and promotional opportunities.

In 2012, there will be significant changes in the use and design of webinar programs. An increase in program attendance is expected as organizations learn how to apply new tactics for planning and delivery. There is always a learning curve in understanding a new medium and discovering its full potential; however, we are confident the changes outlined above will positively impact the webinar experience for all participants.

Is your association experimenting with webinar formats in these ways?  Do you have any advice, lessons learned, or tips to share?

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