My first ‘real’ Webinar (1)

My blog is not only dedicated to interculturalism but also to communication in general. That means that I also share with you my experiences from the professional world of communication. Nowadays, we are all almost flooded with webinars, web conferences, virtual fairs and much more. Each year I hold an ‘Intercultural Management Communication’ course for foreign students at the TH in Karlsruhe. About two weeks ago I was informed that the course is taking place – but definitely as WEBINAR. To be honest: I had hoped that the chalice would pass me by (at least now), as I already had an idea of what kind of work was coming up. But as so often, it turned out differently than you think.

WEBINAR vs SEMINAR

The majority of my business partners and colleagues have not fully understood my fears. They would do webinars every day, according to the motto that this is the easiest of all exercises. But one colleague, whom I appreciate not only because of her professionalism, knew immediately what I was talking about and first expressed her regret for the amount of work and then asked me immediately: “When can you present your approach and conduct a training? Then I already understood that my ‘approach’ was right and that the whole thing is not so easy…

The research and preparation upfront

There are not so many books about webinars in German language and certainly none that are good and gave me the knowledge I was looking for. A book that has brought me a lot is by Jürgen Sammet and Jaqueline Wolf (from the renowned Springer Verlag): “Vom Trainer zum agilen Lernbegleiter – So funktioniert Lehren und Lernen in digitalen Zeiten”. For me the best start. I can only recommend the book. It is full of ideas and knowledge but above all it systematically prepares the teacher/trainer for a webinar. The book by Silvia Luber and Inga Geisler is in no way inferior to this: “Online trainings und webinars – Von der Vermarktung bis zur Nachbereitung” from the Beltz publishing house. I have acquired both books as e-books, so that they can also give me valuable tips when travelling.

I also used a lot about research the Internet. I came across some great blogs that summarised my experiences very well. Here is a big praise to the Austrian and Swiss colleagues who seem to me to be more open and flexible in their approach to the online world. But of course there are already many initiatives and very active teachers in Germany – no question. But I liked the Austrian pages also very much: Schule und Lehrerweb. Especially the latter with great tools that are also well received by students and professionals. But the German site of the trade union Erziehung und Bildung has a lot of interesting information.

Who knows better what attracts attention than the students?

I try to keep in touch with my students after my courses. What do I like about this customer or target group? First of all, many students are open for new things and are flexible. They are also the decision makers and managers of tomorrow. But at the moment the poor must also have a high tolerance level: Either the teachers go through with their topics as usual, or they try something new, which might not work right away, or the connections break down, or, or, or, or…

1. Conclusion: When it comes to online learning and training, we all need a high degree of willingness to learn, patience and tolerance – but also the willingness to make mistakes, because in this area it is currently more important than ever – Nobody is perfect! 

The majority of my students try to find and correct the error together with me. They also give uncomplicated feedback about what is good and what is not. IT students are among my particular favorites: Most of them have an unbelievable perseverance to find and fix errors and to explain it to me until I understand it. What could be better for me?

2. Conclusion: Teaching and learning at eye level – a win-win situation especially in the online sector.

What fits in the apprenticeship is made suitable for the job

During the preparation time for this first webinar alone, I got an enormous amount of ideas and suggestions for what I can improve, be more creative and thus more individual in my professional context in the future. Even though some of my sources are designed for school lessons: Those of you who are professional trainers or lecturers will certainly be able to get some ideas or suggestions and adapt existing offers.

Which provider is the best to conduct webinars?

No sooner had the switch to ‘online teaching and online learning’ been made than privacy concerns were raised. The online service Zoom was particularly heavily criticised – and rightly so. However, a lot of improvements have been made since then and various comparative tests show that the others are not much better. However, as an independent teacher you are dependent on the decisions of your customers and therefore you should be familiar with the most common webinar programs over time. Here are a few that are used most often:

  • Zoom
  • Webex
  • Skype Professional
  • Microsoft Teams
  • GoTo Meetings
  • Etc.
But I find it very time-consuming to have to deal with all the programs. Some applications are not very easy to handle, as the user interface is constantly being changed to convey a supposedly innovative approach. Also the universities sometimes do their own thing. For example, the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt has developed its own program, which is very much based on Zoom, but is a program in its own right. Unfortunately, you cannot change it and therefore you have to be very flexible.
One needs to apply all this in practise
Just a few tutorials to master the webinar program is definitely not enough. Of course, you can get trained as a certified online trainer for good money, but not everyone has the euro sitting so loosely in their pockets at the moment. Since I initially bought the Zoom Pro account for a year, I concentrated on Zoom. I realized: There are plenty of You-Tube tutorials, but I have to say that the best are from the States. Every step is explained in a clear and understandable way and is easy to follow. But be aware: there are zoom tutorials for Mac operating systems and for Microsoft. They differ in some cases.
It also means that you should get familiar with the programs in 2 languages (German and English) if possible. But this also allows the trainer to be more flexible with his clients. Some participants may not know how to release the screen. So if I am in an English speaking course I should have all programs in English mode and vice versa. But you have to look at a lot of tutorials to find exactly what you are looking for or need. Zoom offers many tutorials and background information. But it is not always sufficient, so I supplemented my knowledge with the help of You-Tube. Many problems became aware to me only in practice. Therefore my course with the students was worth gold. Because only with the help of this ‘dry run’ I was able to discover and eliminate error sources. 
3. Conclusion: The best tutorials are the English ones – but you have to have time and patience to find them. 
This was the first part of my experience in creating a ‘webinar’.
The second part will follow soon – namely the practical implementation. So stay tuned!
Stay healthy and see you soon, Waltraud