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The way most webinars are conducted today – presenter talking, slide show showing and “Do you have any questions?” at the end – limits their effectiveness as learning experiences. Worse, people today have already re-adjusted and lowered their expectations of online sessions. Sadly in many people’s mind webinars are now only good for sharing information with remote, large crowds and not very effective when it comes to learning. Isn’t that a shame?

To counter this perception I offer a list of 9 ways to magnify your webinars learning effectiveness originating from what I learned in my 100% online course “The Art of Online Hosting”. The list describes what you can do in online course design/delivery to maximize learning impact and results. Its key assumption is that learning – online and face-to-face – is a collaborative endeavor.

1) From the Start, Press Attendees for Clarity about the End of their being in the Course. An online course offers an opportunity to learn by doing. A certain degree of clarity of how the attendees are going to use the course  contents in their professional life after the class is over is a requirement for getting maximum learning as it focus their individual  leanring and your delivery.

2) Ask that Attendees Come Prepared for an Adventure. Although they are often based on an academically rigorous track, online courses are perhaps a little different than the classes you may have encountered in the past. As every new adventure, a 100% online class calls for opening your mind to new possibilities and suspending reliance on old beliefs and assumptions that may be limiting you. Openly challenge your attendees to embrace the idea that the wisdom you seek may be standing right before them,  in the hearts & minds of people who were strangers before the course started. Encourage your attendees to embrace this spirit of adventure to really receive the treasure waiting for them on the journey.

3) Encourage Participation. Given the peer-learning format of most effective online courses, the key to receiving the most value is, quite simply, participation. If ever there was a case to prove the old maxim “you get out what you put in”, this is it. What’s most interesting here is that in those courses, as in life, you’re not in it alone. The quality of your participation automatically raises the bar for everyone else, as theirs does for you. Your active contribution as a webinar facilitator can help stimulate a culture of learning and collaboration that yields exceptional results for everyone, not only during the course but also extending far beyond it.

4) Ask Attendees to Complete the Reading Before the Course Starts This is probably the most valuable advice we heard, and the one most often repeated. When holding an online course you’ll want your attendees to immerse themself fully in the assignments ahead of the course beginning. Having done the required pre-reading will give them confidence, valuable knowledge, and a solid basis for fruitful participation.

5) Fill in Your Profile Informationon of your Collaboration Platform and Read Each Other’s One of the challenges of working online is for attendees to get to know your fellow participants without being able to see each other or get visual cues. One of the simplest and most useful way to learn about each other is by utilizing an online collaborative platform besides the webinar platform you are using. In those online collaborative platforms (I use Yammer) I encourage people to fill in their participant profiles by uploading a photo of themselves and share personal details. This will give others an idea of who the attendees are beyond their role or position.

6) Post Weekly Assignments Design your online sessions so that your attendees will do most of coursework in rotating breakout rooms, so that each week they’ll meet new people. Design each team assignment between sessions with two parts: 1) Responding to a question, and 2) Building on each other’s responses. As an online webinar course designer, being clear about the purpose of those questions will give your attendees the best chance of receiving maximum benefit from the week’s knowledge-building process.

7) Restate the Need to Devote Regular Time to the Coursework Online courses have a regular rhythm and for your attendees finding their own beat within it will help them keep up and get the most from the assignments and conversations. For most participants devoting a couple of hours or so a week creates a good rhythm.

8) Frequent the WaterCooler While tongoing conversations in online sessions often happen in breakout rooms, I like to recommend that you also open a “watercooler” or forum on Yammer where other informal or over-arching conversations can take place. Many attendees can benefit of these extra opportunities of connecting with their peers.This is also the place where they can ask general questions of the group or request help from the presenters.

9) Plan Extra, Optional Weekly Clinic to address any Attendees Need One of the most-helpful improvement for online courses is to extend opportunities for personal engagement beyond the webinar online sessions schedule. It’s a good idea to arrange for an optional time where the group can engage each other in synchronous conversations about weekly assignments as well as get support for anything they need help with.