Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Webinar Software - Adoption Advice

Good question about adoption of webinar software / services - this time from someone who went to my workshop in Cincinnati - Revolution in Workplace Learning - who by the way - called it "awesome." Here's the question:
We are currently moving toward web-based training for an external audience and have been experimenting with a modest product called Ready Talk. It doesn't have any bells and whistles like web cam compatibility or video streaming, online polling, white boards or anything cool like that. We are considering moving to other products such as Adobe Connect.

We are looking into a contract where we have to purchase a minimum of five licenses for the platform. I think we'll feverishly use three of them possibly four, but my office manager thinks I am nuts. I've made the case, or at least the statements on the reduced costs for travel, lunch, and copies we can expect.

What I fear is that we are secretly not committed to the shift in the way we meet. Our webinars have been successful by our standards and for the most part, we've been early adopters of the technology. This tool would make our web-based training and consulting work worlds better with more opportunities for engagement and collaboration online.

I just want to be sure that I'm not committing too heavily.
To me there's a few additional questions embedded here (between the lines):
  • Do you need to commit to that particular tool? Can you change out technically fairly easily? Can you change out contractually? Any experience with being able to try these things out and possibly moving later?
  • Anyone have concern about adopting Adobe Connect vs. the myriad of other solutions out there? Has anyone had enough experience with Adobe Connect delivered to a wide audience that you can say what kinds of issues they might expect?
  • What about all the features mentioned? Are those important in practice?
A few thoughts.

First some findings from the eLearningGuild's recent research report on Synchronous Learning Systems:
  • Guild members are resoundingly positive in giving synchronous learning very high marks for its impact on their organizations. Specifically, 94.7% are convinced that a SLS is essential to their organization.
  • WebEx enjoys the largest market share with 42.6% of Guild members that use a SLS indicating that they use WebEx Training Center. This is followed by Microsoft with 29.3%, Adobe with 24.7%, and Citrix Online with 11.7%.
  • 30% of Guild organizations that use a SLS use more than one tool in their organizations.
  • Members that receive formal training on how to deliver synchronous learning report much better results than those that receive little or no training.
The last bullet is an excellent point. If you've done webinars, you know that they are different to design and deliver successfully than other kinds of presentations and training.

In addition to the four they list, I've personally had experience with GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar, Elluminate, Centra and Interwise. I've run into a few technical issues with Interwise before. And I used to with Elluminate, but have not had much issue recently.

I personally often adopt whatever is most easily available. I tend not to use a lot of the different features, but certainly like to having polling, recording, chat, screen sharing. In fact, after you've had these features, it sometimes feels weird to be in a presentation hall and not be able to easily poll the audience (and not have a back-channel automatically).

Those are my quick thoughts, but my guess is that there's lots more thoughts out there on what to do around choosing webinar software.

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