Reach more learners through webinars

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about the delivery of engaging learners, to equip them with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work. Today Allison teaches us how to reach more students through the use of web-based seminars, commonly known as webinars. Think you’ve heard it all? You might just be surprised.

A little about webinars

As internet connectivity improves across Australia, the opportunity to deliver training and assessment via a live web-based environment or a webinar greatly increases.

A webinar is like watching a YouTube video but with the added benefit of having a live presenter or facilitator and other participants that you can interact with. Webinars are delivered through webinar rooms which can have lots of interactive tools, such as:

  • whiteboards – so participants can brainstorm or debate ideas
  • text chat – so participants can simultaneously answer questions or offer information
  • polls and emoticons – so participants can virtually express how they are understanding the session
  • screen sharing – so presenters can share their desktop to give a virtual tour, and
  • web cam – so a presenter can either video stream themselves talking or deliver practical, hands on sessions demonstrating how to do something.

Webinar rooms also allow you to upload presentation slides, and record the session, so if learners miss a session or would like to revisit a session, they can view the recording. This also means that you can instantly create a learning resource which can be shared with others.

How might you use a webinar?

Webinars can be used to purely present information or for group activities, where participants use their own computers to access the training session. Alternatively, webinar rooms can be used in a hybrid approach, where a trainer is delivering the session in a workshop or classroom environment with students, and a few individual students join the session through the webinar room.

Webinar rooms can also be used for assessment such as viewing students in their workplaces through the web cam.  Or, a guest presenter can be beamed into a classroom environment.

Planning a webinar

As you can see webinars offer many great features and opportunities, however they do require careful planning to ensure that it is a successful experience for participants.

Planning starts with ensuring that the trainer is skilled in facilitating a webinar. Facilitating a webinar requires some rethinking about design and delivery of the virtual training to ensure that information delivery and activities are appropriate. It also means that the trainer needs to be given the opportunity to learn how to effectively use the webinar environment and its tools by having some practice sessions. Ideally, it is a good idea to have co-presenters in the first couple of sessions or with large groups, so they can help monitor participant activity or help deal with any issues.

Other planning considerations including scheduling or booking the webinar room just like you would book a classroom, so participants know where to go. Then contacting participants by email or a learning management system to provide them with instructions about the webinar room: such as:

  • having a headset with a microphone, and
  • entering the webinar room prior to the session starting so technical issues can be addressed, and to ensure participants can hear and speak before the session begins.

Lastly, ensure that you have some technical support before, during and after a webinar session to help troubleshoot any issues. This support can be offered through:

  • a link to online help information
  • having someone people can ring if there is a technical issue, and/or
  • providing a separate practice session prior to the beginning of a series of webinars so participants can ensure their webinar works on their computer and also get to know how to use some of the webinar’s features.

Facilitating the webinar

Webinar environments allow a facilitator to be as creative as they like in the delivery of their training. There are a few key things to remember, however, such as hitting the record button at the beginning of a session.

Other must haves include:

  • Welcoming participants with an introduction and a photo of the trainer so participants build a connection with him or her.
  • Explaining to the participants the different features of the webinar environment and how they can interact with them.
  • Incorporating virtual icebreakers so participants start to feel comfortable with their virtual colleagues.
  • Lots of interaction between the trainer and the participants through questions and activities.
  • Having a ‘Plan B’ if for some reason the webinar room is not available or you cannot load your slides or your web cam decides not to work.

Training online offers lots of opportunities for a wide range of students. Being an online student can feel very isolating, however, so always ensure you follow a webinar session by communicating with the participants either through email or your learning management system.  This follow-up communication will allow you to share the link to the session recording, and to ask for feedback about whether participants found the session useful.

And don’t forget your trainers!

Remember that your trainers need to feel confident enough to facilitate their students in an online environment. This means ensuring that they have been adequately trained to deliver via a webinar. But with a little thought and support you will find that webinars can be an effective way to deliver training and easily reach more learners.

Capturing learning with Tin Can (xAPI)

Matt Mason, eWorks Accredited ConsultantMatt Mason is an award winning instructional designer and writes some of our most popular blogs. Here Matt considers the importance of tracking learning, and how to do this using a powerful tool – xAPI.

What is xAPI?

xApi is a powerful tool that can be used to track learning events and other data. The simplest description of how xApi works is that it captures data, or a statement. The statement consists of an actor (the learner), a verb and object – or simply put “I did this”. In essence it captures a short story of an individual’s learning events.

The feature that makes this different to other analytical tools or programs is the freedom. The simple statement structure gives you the freedom to capture almost any event. xAPI has the freedom to talk to other learning record stores and device freedom means that any enable device can send xAPI statements, even when there is only occasional connectivity.

Credits: © Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime.com

Capturing learning stories

Learning events or stories go beyond what has happened in a Learning Management System (LMS), rather any learning event an individual has been involved with can be captured. This could be automatically captured by performing an action or manually recording the event.

For example, we have an individual…let’s call him Billy.

  • Billy uses Tappestry, a mobile app that allows him to capture and track what he has learned and what he wants to learn about sales techniques. This data is sent to an organisation’s learning record store to measure and track these informal learning events.
  • Billy had a coaching session with his manager on closing the sale. His manager records the discussion, feedback given and future plans in an app on his phone. This session is recorded and stored in the record store.
  • Billy attended a sales master workshop. The workshop registration system captures an xAPI statement about attendees.

At a course or learning program level we can capture a range of data and tell a variety of stories:

  • For the individual learner we can examine their learning path and identify where they are struggling.
  • We can look at the course components and get a story of what is working and what isn’t.
  • We can identify the content that is providing value or how learners are interacting with different media.
  • At the course level we can see how learners are progressing or identify areas where non-completion occurs.

Putting it all together

All of this data (the xAPI statements) are recorded in a Learning Record Store (LRS), such as Learning Locker (which incidentally has a Moodle plugin). In an operational setting, dashboards can be created to provide a visual display of these xApi / Tin Can stories. Couple this with other metrics – such as sales, retention and customer service levels – and the success (or non-success) of a learning program can be measured. We can use these metrics to tell the story of high performing individuals, who have developed greater capabilities. Once the successes and non-successes have been identified then more stories can be gathered.

Consider the power of these stories. They provide:

  • The opportunity to maximize on what you are doing well, and learn from anything that didn’t quite go to plan.
  • Rich evidence of learning and engagement that could be shown to an auditor.
  • Unlimited marketing opportunities!

So, are you capturing the data you need?

Is your LMS helping you tell your stories of success? If you want to be able to tell better stories we’d love to hear from you. Contact the eWorks team today.

And if you’re interested in the more technical side of how xAPI is structured…

Why not do some further reading about the research done by Holmesglen TAFE: Beyond SCORM- New Interoperability Standards.

Virtual Labs: Transform your IT delivery

Jason Kinsella, CEO of Cloud PeopleJason Kinsella is CEO of Cloud People, an Australian online education company. Cloud People’s Virtual Labs platform has been developed to help education institutions deliver cloud-based practice labs to their students in a user-friendly, cost effective way. Here, Jason explains how Virtual Labs can transform the delivery of IT courses and improve student engagement.

Can you learn IT online?

When learning IT skills, hands-on practical experience is essential. IT practice labs bring theory to life, by giving students an environment in which they can apply the practical skills they learn in an IT course. While this might seem obvious, giving students access to real IT equipment for labs, coursework, or practical assessments remains a huge challenge for educational institutions and IT learning organisations. And as education moves from traditional classrooms to the online environment, this challenge is even greater.

What are IT practice labs and how are they beneficial?

An IT practice lab is a web-based environment that contains real IT equipment. Students can access this environment 24/7 using any modern web-browser to develop their skills, without having to install any software. By using IT practice labs, students can deepen their technology understanding without the risk of harming any production systems. In other words, they won’t ‘break’ anything.

Cloud People, has been working with TAFEs, universities and private registered training organisations (RTOs) for almost ten years. In that time, we have seen a number of ways that these organisations try to include IT practice labs as part of their IT learning delivery. Generally they either build an in-house solution, or they provide their students with access to a software vendor’s online labs offering, such as Microsoft Online Labs.

Unfortunately, both of these approaches have their limitations. In-house solutions are expensive to implement and difficult to maintain: They require significant datacentre infrastructure and a team of engineers to manage them. Software vendors’ online lab solutions, while usually provided at no cost to the institution, can be overly generic in their content, are limited in technical support, and operate in complete isolation from your LMS, so there is no visibility of student activity, and therefore no way to track their progress.

How does Virtual Labs transform the delivery of IT practice labs?

Two years ago at Cloud People, we started to develop a platform to solve these challenges. The result is Virtual Labs, a cloud-hosted platform that provides learning providers with a fast, easy and secure method to create full-featured IT practice labs. Our platform has been developed in close partnership with our customers, and in particular, course administrators. The creation and publishing of courses is intuitive on the platform, and it is easy to create new content, or import your existing content.

Virtual Labs is fully integrated with LMSs such as Moodle and eWorks’ TVC. As a result, course enrolments can be automated, and students can seamlessly gain access to practical modules of IT courses, with real equipment – servers, desktops and networking equipment – in their own secure, private cloud. Student results from Virtual Labs practical exercises can then be pushed back into the LMS, to assist with assessment, and provide evidence for auditors.

Our platform also contains detailed, real-time analytics about individual student interactions including access, usage and engagement. These insights are key to improving engagement and completion rates. With a growing focus on the measurement of learning and learner profiling, it is essential that learning providers measure and understand this information.

Virtual Labs LMS Dashboard

We have seen institutions increase student engagement and completion rates, while reducing the total cost of ownership by implementing Virtual Labs. This has been very encouraging for us. We still consider Virtual Labs to be a young product, and feedback from our customers is invaluable in helping us define the future product roadmap.

Do you think your institution could benefit from Virtual Labs?

If you’d like to know more about Virtual Labs, we are currently offering free Virtual Labs trials to all eWorks customers.. Please contact eWorks for more information.

Easy video streaming through your LMS: Why reinvent the wheel?

john-collins-headshotJohn Collins is passionate about cloud-based e-learning solutions which enable the delivery of online training anywhere and anytime. Today, John explains how to easily stream video through an LMS using inexpensive and user-friendly tools on the market – a highly effective alternative to buying and setting up a custom streaming media server with your LMS.

Moodle and video content

Moodle is rapidly emerging as the most popular LMS in the world of global education. eWorks’ customisation of Moodle – TVC – offers a wide range of additional features specific to managing vocational education and training (VET). eWorks’ TVC clients frequently ask how to best deliver video content to their learners using Moodle. There are a number of reasons why we continue to recommend the two major players in web-based video streaming – YouTube and Vimeo.

YouTube and Vimeo – how it works

Both YouTube and Vimeo offer a wealth of opportunities for learning, sharing and collaborating via learning management systems. Displaying and streaming videos in a Moodle course page is easy to do, by simply copying the YouTube or Vimeo share address on the page of the video you wish to add as course content and then hyperlinking the share address, to text or an image in a Moodle label resource. The selected video will then be displayed within the Moodle Course page.

Where you are producing your own video, you first upload this to your own Vimeo or YouTube Account. Once your file has finished uploading to either platform it is re-encoded into different versions of varying quality in order to optimise playback performance over different internet connection speeds. You then follow the simple steps above to display your video in your course page. This is where the value in using these systems comes into play and provides a superior experience for your learners, in comparison to locally hosted content.

Video and privacy

Where your organisation requires a degree of restriction to content, this is achieved through the combination of the password protected Moodle course with either:

  • Hide this video from Vimeo.com (Plus + PRO only) – This video can be embedded on other sites (such as an LMS) but can’t be viewed on vimeo.com.
  • YouTube’s option to either ‘unlist’ your video (i.e. it is not included in searches) or make it private (only those you nominate can view the video).

Free guide to using YouTube and Vimeo

For further information, JISC digital media have written an excellent guide to using YouTube and Vimeo for education.

Need a hand setting up your Moodle?

Contact eWorks for some friendly advice.