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The Benefits of Webinars For Learning How to Develop Websites

The Problem

Many small businesses and organizations in the United States are located in rural and often remote areas. This is especially true for wood businesses, whose emphasis is the use of local, sustainably harvested raw materials. However, no matter how remote, these businesses still have to reach a market with information about their product to survive, ie. Market their Product!

A website is a great tool to make your information available to the widest possible audience. Many business owners and organizations will contract with a web developer without knowing anything about what their website should do for them or whether they have found a competent and ethical web developer. Others will attempt to build their own websites without the benefit of web development training.

A few of these folks will put together fine websites with the aid of books and tutorials. Some will find a great developer who does a great job. After almost 10 years of teaching web development classes for business owners, I have found that for many, that won’t be the case. Whether business owners contract their website development or do it in-house, they need to understand the business and marketing principles of the web environment, the technical principles of web development, and how people use websites. That training is available at most community college and adult education centers around the country, but those colleges and centers aren’t necessarily accessible to rural businesses. Webinars can deliver the live and interactive training to any location that has internet access.

What is a Webinar

A webinar is live training that is delivered over the internet through your web browser. Teacher and students can be anywhere there is internet access. I have taught webinars from the back of a restaurant, a university office, a home office, and a hotel lobby. My students have attended the webinars from their offices, their homes, and I don’t know where because I can’t see them!

I can’t see the students, but I can talk to them. In fact, everyone attending can talk to each other via cell phone, desk phone or a headset plugged into their computers. While I prefer to teach conversationally, where the attendees can jump in with questions or comments, I can set it so that my voice – lecture style – is the only one heard. Of course, without the interchange, the students might actually be playing solitaire or maybe only the dog is at the computer, but then students play solitaire and check their email in regular lab courses too. At least, I can’t hear them snoring!

With a webinar, my students can see a PowerPoint presentation I have prepared right on their computers. Or the webinar software can show them what I have on my computer, if I prefer, allowing me to demonstrate how to do something while they give it a try. If a student has a problem completing a task, that student can choose to “share” what is on his or her computer, to get step-by-step help as I watch their computer screen on mine! Of course, that also means that I might see the Solitaire game in process too!

Using a Webinar

The process of attending a webinar is:

  1. Register for the webinar. Some are free, and some require payment.
  2. You will receive various emails from the webinar system confirming your registration and giving you a link to the webinar and possibly a call in number for discussion.
  3. About 15 – 20 minutes before your webinar is scheduled to start, Make sure your internet connection is working and go to the website linked in the emails. You may need to enter a code, depending on which webinar system it is.
  4. If the webinar will be through a headset, make sure the volume on your computer is turned up!
  5. If the webinar is through a phone call, call the number in the emails. Again, you may have to enter a confirmation number, which should be in the emails.
  6. After the software loads in your browser, you should see a list of the folks who have already signed in and a central area for the presentation materials.
  7. There may also be a chat box where you can ask questions before, during, or after the webinar.
  8. Just like in a regular classroom, some webinar presenters like to be interrupted with questions and comments, and others don’t. Whether you can interject questions and comments depends on the set up and software too. The presenter should tell you at the beginning of the webinar, although using the chat system doesn’t interrupt the webinar and is usually available the whole time.
  9. After the webinar is finished, you may be able to download a recorded copy for review.

Other Uses for Webinar Software

The webinar format is also excellent for one-on-one or small group training. I have trained people half way across the country, whom I’ve never met in person, how to work on their own website through webinars. Because the webinar system allows us to talk to each other and look at each other’s computer, it can become as comfortable as a classroom setting.

Webinars can also be used for group discussions and meetings. People all over the country can get together without travel costs and time. It is also a great format for a planning meeting because someone can type in the Notes area and everyone can have a copy of the Notes.

Conclusion

At first, not seeing the people behind the voices can be a little disconcerting. And, your internet connection might cut out or your headset might quit working, or your cell phone battery might die. But in the end, it’s a great system.

The National Network of Forest Practitioners has conducted various webinar topics for wood cooperatives and sustainable wood businesses. If the guys out in the woods can to it; so can you!

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