Well, that didn’t work.

Today, I was very excited to rush home from my part-time job to get to my laptop in time to attend a webinar.  I’ve decided that part of the way that will help me get ahead in the m-learning world is that I have to do a lot of listening in order to learn myself.  My graduate courses have covered a lot of ground, but they haven’t covered everything, so I might as well take advantages of free resources that are readily available to me, and do some of my own additional m-learning and e-learning.

Anyway, I just wanted to say…I was disappointed. I’m not going to name the specific webinar or who was hosting it to protect the innocent. I’m sure this host has put out plenty of good webinars, but this one wasn’t that great.  Was I benchmarking this against others I had attended? Well, sure, who wouldn’t?  When I attend a seminar in person or a webinar online, I’m just another student or learner like anyone else. I want to come out of that hour feeling that I learned something, or gained some new perspective on topics that I already know.  That really didn’t happen here.  Now, again, I’m not going to totally “diss” the presenter. It was obvious that the presenter knows his/her field well, but it was evident that he/she was asked to speak about one aspect of the field when that person was more familar with another supporting aspect of the field. I was bored by the PowerPoint slides, the information covered was not explained clearly, and the person was clearly rushing at the end, because he/she had several slides still to go and 2 minutes left on the clock.  I was bored, but I stuck with it until the end because I hoped to gain some little nibblet of information that would be new to me. Now, I’ll give the presenter the benefit of the doubt, that perhaps he/she was nervous, or was jumping on slightly unprepared, or perhaps even just rushed out of one meeting into this webinar and didn’t have a chance to switch mental gears well and it just got out of sorts. That happens.  But still, I was watching the numbers for the participants start very strong, and dwindled down very quickly in the last quarter of the alloted time, and that can’t be a good sign.

I happened to see that another tech comm acquaintance of mine was commenting on Twitter about the same webinar (again, not naming names to protect the innocent), and it was interesting when we started speaking through direct messages–offline to the rest of the world–that we were having the same experience. I had attended webinars with this other person, so I know that he/she had other similar experiences as I had. I was just glad it wasn’t me, but that maybe the presenter had not done his/her homework, and really wasn’t addressing the right audience.

I mentioned my disappointment briefly on Twitter, but chose to include no details. I had another acquaintance direct message me, and his/her reply was that many people will come online claiming to be experts, but really aren’t, and it can be a letdown. He/she continued by saying to me that some people are “knowers” and some are “do-ers”, and sometimes being a “knower” isn’t enough to be an expert and be doing presentations like that.  I couldn’t agree more.

I’ll be straight-up. Look, I’ll admit that right now, I’m more of a “knower” than a “do-er”. I’m not in denial about that, and hopefully I’ve tried to make it clear while I’ve been writing this blog that I am–in many respects–still a newbie. I was in the e-learning world many years ago, before I became a mom and tried other things, so in that respect, I was a do-er at one time, and I’m trying to become a do-er again.  For now, I am mostly a knower, but I will never admit to being a know-it-all.  This is why I know I have a lot to learn. This is why I attend webinars, and read blogs, and keep up with all the great articles that other e-learning, m-learning and tech comm professionals are posting on Twitter or elsewhere. I’m hoping that by the time I finally get the chance to DO the job of working in the e-learning and m-learning field, I will be able to DO my job even better. But will I be an expert? No, and frankly, I don’t think there’s truly anyone on the planet that know EVERYTHING about a given topic, even the foremost authorities on a given topic.  Being the daughter of an educator and being a lifelong learner, I think I will always be a learner, because the world is moving very fast, and there’s always something new to be discovered. I am knowledgeable and competent in many things–some topics more than others. I am always more than happy to share what I know well with others, and learn from others as well, and have healthy debates and dialogues on topics. That’s true learning and teaching.

Anyway…back to the webinar. Even with this webinar, I felt like basic e-learning principles weren’t being followed. Nothing about the instructional design of the webinar engaged me as a participant. I have been in webinar where I felt like, “Wow, it’s done already?” but this was not one of them. I was waiting for it to be done.  I left it feeling that I didn’t really learn anything, and that, heck, even being a newbie I could do a better job with that webinar. I am not boasting when I say that or being conceited. I try very hard not to be that way.  But, I felt that the main topic was approached with too much detail, and didn’t get to the meat of the topic. It gave me the feeling that if I wanted to do a webinar, or had to do online presentations and stuff, I couldn’t do any worse that this person.

As I thought about it more, I’ve given presentations to people anywhere as young as a Cub Scout to high-level executives in my career, and in the end, the message is the same– know what your audience expects, deliver on the expectations or do better, and like any good technical writing, keep it short, clear and concise, yet engaging. Heaven knows how many times I had to get up in front of my Cub Scout den to teach a bunch of little boys some dry subject that was required by the Boy Scouts of America, and I had to make it interesting for them. Same thing goes for grown-ups too– you’ve got to keep it moving, and even take the driest topics and make them interesting.

Nowadays, part of the drive with m-learning is that content and formatting addresses these same topics of keeping it short, clear, concise, and engaging.  With technology available today, we don’t need boring PowerPoint presentations! Even Powerpoint has the ability to include video, audio and animation. There are free programs available on the web like Prezi to make presentations even more lively, animated and interactive.  Presenters need to think of how they would be sitting in the audience of their own presentation. Do you think it’s good? Would you be interested in learning more after hearing it? What would make the presentation more interesting to you?

I’m looking forward to still watching and participating in future webinars as I learn more and more about m-learning and e-learning. I know that m-learning is growing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up, but applying the same best practices of m-learning into webinar presentations will go a long way in keeping the caliber of the field high–and keeping my interest.

About TechCommGeekMom

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has recently started her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemvillegas, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog.
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