Webinars are everywhere and available for everything. With all the Webinar training that goes on, and all the tools available, we wondered what makes an effective Webinar. We surveyed 1,908 recent training participants about their experience with Webinars. Overall, 66 percent of participants agreed the training was effective. Not bad, but it's almost 12 percentage points lower than when we've asked the same question of participants in classroom-based learning.
Want to boost the effectiveness of your Webinar? Remember the "three Ps": Pre-work, Post-work, and Participation.
Pre- and Post-Work
We asked respondents in our sample to rate methods used in Webinar training and compared this to ratings of effectiveness. The two practices that were most related to perceived effectiveness were pre-work, such as readings and assessments, and post-work, such as readings and quizzes. Like any form of training, Webinars seem to work best when they include reinforcement and extend the learning to a variety of contexts in the learner's life.
The third component of an effective Webinar was good old-fashioned participation. The ability to ask questions was tied to greater perceived effectiveness. Small group discussions (e.g., participants in the same location having time to discuss among themselves) also contributed to people's perception of effectiveness. This mirrors an earlier survey we did on traditional training that found the inclusion of group discussions was one the best predictors of a successful training (click here to read more).
Equally important for Webinar curriculum designers, our survey results call into question some assumptions about process factors that help make Webinars more effective.
We were surprised to find that topic didn't make much of difference in how people evaluated the Webinar. While training on new products or procedures was rated the highest (with 75 percent saying it was effective), and compliance training was rated the lowest (with 67 percent saying it was effective), these differences were generally not large. The general appeal or perceived practicality of the topic may have more to do with perceived effectiveness than the fit of the topic to the Webinar format. In other words, new things are more, well, new and interesting.
Class size also didn't make a large difference. Oddly, the minor differences we found indicated that smaller class size (those with 10 participants or fewer) were judged to be slightly less effective. Perhaps the casual feel of a smaller Webinar may encourage a less structured approach by the presenters.
Finally, Webinars that included cutting-edge technologies such as whiteboards, polling, real-time leader video, or live chat only showed a small improvement over more stripped-down sessions. However, these higher-tech elements did seem correlated with a greater enjoyment of the Webinar experience.
Perhaps what we were most struck by was the similarities between effective Webinars and effective classroom training. The three Ps of effective Webinars—Pre-work, Post-work, and Participation—are really the three Ps of effective training. The tools may have changed, but the principles are the same. As a trainer, solid preparation and solid practices will help you win every day, regardless of the medium. Or in the words of journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Mark Scullard is the director of research at Inscape Publishing, a leading provider of training materials for the corporate market. He has more than a decade of research and data analysis experience in the development of psychological evaluation tools and methods. He received his doctorate in psychology from the University of Minnesota, with a supporting program in statistics.
Jeffrey Sugerman is the president and CEO of Inscape Publishing. He has more than 20 years of experience in senior management, marketing, and business development in the technology, training, and publishing industries. He holds doctorate and master's degrees in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Northwestern