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The advent and explosion of e-learning has put many people in a precarious position: they need to keep up with increasing lexicon and level of complexity What’s the difference between a webinar and a webcast? Are e-learning pieces webinars? Is all online learning “synchronous learning”?

Here are some clear distinctions to help us all finally understand what we’re talking about—and hopefully create better webinars and e-learning in general for our audiences.

Webinars

(or web-based seminars or e-seminars) are meetings/training sessions where speakers and participants simultaneously attend online. The meeting is hosted using a webinar platform (like Adobe Connect, GoTo Meeting,etc.). Audio is provided by telephone bridge or VoIP (an acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol) through computer speakers. A webinars is a two-way communications medium where a key feature is interactivity—the ability to give, receive, and discuss information. Hosting a webinar requires the use of a webinar platform software .[1]

Webcast (or video, like TED Talks) 

Involves the one-way broadcast of an event over the internet. Itmay include live audio or video programming.  A webcast is the internet counterpart to traditional radio and TV broadcasting.  Unlike a webinar, a webcast does not allow interaction between the presenter and audience.[2]

Teleconference and video conference 

Teleconferences and video conferences are meetings of geographically separated people through a two-way communications system for the live exchange and mass articulation of information. Teleconferences are conducted using only an audio telecommunications interface over a phone line. Video conferences are conducted using closed-circuit video/television equipment at each location in conjunction with a telecommunications system.[3]

E-Learning 

E-learning involves training or education material and programs accessed using a computer or electronic device (e.g., a mobile phone, PDA) and delivered to individual learners via internet, intranet, extranet, satellite, broadcast, video, interactive TV, and/or CD Rom.  The course may be formal or informal and can include graded assessments and knowledge checks. Additionally an e-learning course might be synchronous (“live” and “online” with instructors and students present at the same time like in webinars) or asynchronous (“canned” and “online” with links, multimedia content and the ability to interact with content).

[1] Webinar – Communiqué.com, http://www.communiqueconferencing.com/Webinar/webinar.asp

[2] Webcast – PC Magazine.com,  www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=Webcast&i=54370,00.asp and Answers.com, www.answers.com/topic/webcast

[3] Teleconference – InFocus.com, www.infocus.com/Support/Glossary/T.aspx; Wikipedia.org, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleconference; and Princeton.edu, wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

I hope these distinction are helpful to you!