Webinar or Online Course: Which One Should You Choose In 2020? - Henry Harvin

Planning to attend an online class?

Confused between webinar or online course?

Which is the best bet in 2020?

The education industry is going through a very difficult time in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown has severely impacted the sector which is closed since the second week of March. Students across the globe are losing their valuable time and resource during the imposed lockdown.  It is the online platforms like Skype and Zoom that came into the rescue of the education sector. Most of the schools and colleges are conducting online sessions instead of wasting time due to the delay in reopening the schools, colleges and universities. 

Online platforms help teachers to interact with students from the convenience of their home during the lockdown. The resources needed is a digital media like laptop, mobile phone or tab, and wi-fi network for high-speed internet and an account in the digital platform. The scope and reach of online classes broaden to far greater horizons than we ever imagined.

The online platform offers unique opportunities for people who would otherwise have limited access to education because of their busy schedule. The advantages of online learning are it is easily accessible, budget friendly, time convenient, personalised, flexible and above all, during the time of Covid-19 social distancing norms can be exercised. 

In response to the increasing demands, along with schools and colleges many institutions have also started e-learning options in 2020. Webinars, online courses, podcast, web conference, etc are some of the live online modes of class. Even though people are familiar with these terms, they get confused while choosing the right mode of learning. This article helps you to differentiate between a webinar and an online course and how to choose between the same wisely.

What is a webinar?

A webinar and an online course come under the category of live online learning. The term webinar is coined from web and seminar, i.e., web-based seminars. Webinar is an online learning event attended only by the online audience. The annual growth of webinar is steadily increasing as it is cheaper, effective, live and interactive. 

Webinars have become an essential ingredient during the lockdown not only in the education sector but also in the business world. The trending webinars that people are undertaking during the lockdown includes education webinars, employee training, product demonstration, corporate communication, lead generation, customer retention and brand management. 

What is an online course?

An online course is a new genre of face to face physical classroom. These courses deliver the modules through a digital platform where the trainer interacts with the learners online and deliver a series of lesson. The main components of an online course are information, communication and assessment. 

There are different types of online courses like university courses, massive open online course, company training courses, e-learning sites and personal brands. Online courses are further divided into synchronous and asynchronous online course. Synchronous online course is a form of live stream where a teacher shares information in real time and the trainee can interact with the trainer live, in real time. On contrast, an asynchronous course is where a student goes through the lesson at their own pace. All learning materials and recorded videos will be shared with the students for a particular period of time and they can undergo training depending on their free hours. 

Difference between Webinar and Online Course 

Webinar is a live teaching session which offers a broad range of various topics. It is usually followed by a question answer session where the participants can ask questions to the speaker. Online classes are e-learning which concentrates on particular topic in-depth. Live online classes are more interactive. The content of a webinar divides into opening, body and closing. Whereas in online course the content, just like university course includes different modules and assessments. 

Once the webinar invitation is shared, huge number of people can attend a webinar without any registration as webinars are usually conducted free of cost. Online course on the other hand is open only to a closed group who are registered for the programme. Online courses are usually paid ones, but much cheaper compared to live classroom sessions.

The duration of a webinar lasts from 30 to 60 minutes.  The length of an online course varies from course to course and institution to institution. Those who have attended a webinar will given participation certificate and online courses provide course completion certificate. Unlike webinar online courses have assignment and tests for assessment before giving the certificate. 

In a webinar the trainer delivers his prepared content and keep the session open for question and answer session at the end. In an online course the trainer tries to facilitate the experience of the attendees’ which makes the session more interactive. Attendees will be given tasks and assignments in an online course which will be analysed and feedback will be given by the trainer. 

Five reasons to attend webinar/online course in 2010

All educational institutions are taking the e-learning route to compensate the time lost due to forced closure of institutions amid coronavirus. Learning is a process which has no boundaries like age or gender. In 2020, not only the students are attending online classes but also professionals, teachers, housewives, artists and so on. Along with receiving knowledge, it also helps in boosting personal growth and self-confidence. 

Below are 5 reasons for you to attend an online class during lockdown.

Reason 1: Learn at home

When you are forced to stay at home, use your leisure time to learn at home. You can gain knowledge in your own comfort zone, easy and cosy. 

Reason 2: Improve your skill

Not everyone gets an opportunity to build their skills along with their busy work schedule. 2020 is the time to spent for developing your hobbies and special skills, as staying home has left a lot of time on hand. Attending short webinars on topics you are passionate about will help you in this process. 

I am a student who prefer blackboard teaching. However, any platform which provides us a new information is always good. The main advantage I found with online class is that they can be accessed from anywhere and the content are mostly updated information. As a PharmD student amid coronavirus, I choose webinar over an online class as it gives brief and updated information about the developments in the medical and pharmaceutical sector.

Archa Fenn, PharmD Student 

Reason 3: Budget friendly

Many online institutions have reduced their course fee during the lockdown. Most of the reputed brands are conducting free webinars on different topics, in social media networks, which is an added advantage for the viewers. 

Reason 4: Online content

Every time you attend an online class, the trainer provides you online content which can be referred even after the class. If you missed a topic during the class, you can revisit and revise the topic at your convenience. 

Reason 5: Career development

As you are saving ample time in commuting to and back from office, dedicate the time for an online course that can develop your skill set and get you a promotion in your job.

Structure of webinar/ online course

Webinar

An informative content with free-flowing structure is the backbone of a webinar. The structure of a webinar is very simple, which includes a captivating introduction, good body content, a motivational conclusion and a relevant call of action. It includes outline and the key points of discussion. 

Introduction

A good webinar always starts with the proper definition for the webinar. It introduces the topic and gives an essence of the entire session. Additionally, the trainer makes a clear statement about the length and the format of the session.

Body

The main topic is delivered in the body. The trainer uses PowerPoint, Google slides, videos, images and even live whiteboard for explaining the concepts. 

Conclusion

To close the session, the trainer summarizes the main topics covered and to include the audience, open the floor for question answer session.

Online course

Objective

Like the webinar, the objective part defines the online course, goals, modules and expected takeaways. 

Content

Content is the body part of an online course. Unlike webinar the content part of an online class is more interactive and the course materials are shared with the students for future reference. The course materials include PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, videos, notes and other interactive learning resources. 

Assessment

Paid online courses have assessment or exams at the end of the course to achieve the certificate. The assessment criteria vary from course to course. It is usually done in the form of assignment or an online test.  

Choosing between Webinar or online course for me depends on the situation and the courses offered. For instance, if I’m looking for a course that would enhance my technical skills, I would prefer online courses as it may offer in-depth and customised knowledge into my subject. Online courses also have their own tests and assessments which further helps in evaluating my understanding.


On the other hand, I would prefer webinars for self-improvement or management courses for personality development, as it provides basic and generalised courses applicable for everyone. So basically, I would be choosing online courses over webinars for professional enhancement, and it is convenient as compared to Webinars in terms of time schedule.


Tisa Stephen Alex, CA Student

How to conduct a webinar/ online course

Webinar

Step 1: Pick a topic

The duration of a webinar is very short and so it is very important to pick a topic which is narrow. If you try to put too much information in a short time, you will lose the clarity of the information. Hence, select a narrow topic and progress in a singular direction so that the audience can absorb every information you pass to them.

Step 2: Decide the format of webinar

Deciding the format is a crucial step before developing the content. Depending on the topic and the skills of the presenter you need to decide which format will work the best. Different formats of webinars are presentation webinar, interview webinar, question answer webinar, and panel discussion webinar.

Step 3: Create a structure

Planning the structure is the key to a thought-provoking webinar. A good introduction holds the attention of the audience. The body part should be crisp and clear content which gives the audience a strong idea on what you are trying to convey. Telling a story and illustrating with examples will draw the attention of the audience and keep them listening. To conclude, use a motivational close and a call of action.

Step 4: Preparing presentation

A good PowerPoint presentation includes crisp, clear and bullet pointed text, and plenty of visuals to support the points. To prepare an engaging content, use the power of technology to make it more engaging with multimedia presentation, charts and videos. Canva, Piktochart, SlideDog are some of the tools used commonly for this purpose. 

Online Course

Step 1: Decide the topic

Deciding the topic is the foundation of an online course. Before choosing it is important to know your goal and your audience’s. Decide a topic which you are passionate about and which students are willing to pay and attend. 

Step 2: Research

Once you decide your topic, it is important to do market research to see if the market demands the topic or not. You may be an expert in your topic, still read and research on all possible resource. Brainstorm and jot down the points. 

Step 3: Prepare course outline and learning outcome

Preparing course outline and learning outcome gives the students a clarity on what to expect through the course, what skills they will master, and what knowledge they will gain. A clear outcome ensures the right students join your course. 

Step 4: Creating Course Content

Content creating is an art with which the trainer decides what to teach and what not to, from the pile of information in your mind. Once the content is ready the next task is to bring a logical order for the content, and breaking them down into modules and subtopics. Place the topics and sub-topics in a progressive and logical manner.  

Step 5: Presentation

There are plenty of ways to deliver your content. Plan on how each module has to be delivered. Decide on different teaching methodologies like video, audio, presentation, graphics to be used in each module. A balance of text, visual and audio delivery methods will help to make the content proficient. 

Step 6: Assessment and Feedback

Assessment and feedback play an important role in an online course. Planning and executing assessment and tests can be done with the help of different software. Feedback given to the students will allow them to assess their progress and fix potential areas of self-improvement.  

Challenges of webinar/ online course

In spite of being the fastest and the latest wave of education, e-learning is posing challenges for both trainers and students. Some common problems faced by students are:

Challenge 1: Adaptability struggle

Switching from a traditional blackboard led classroom to a virtual classroom makes learning experience completely different for the students. It takes time to get accustomed to the new wave and understand the benefits of e-learning.

Challenge 2: Digital literacy

To attend an online course, it is mandatory to have a minimum knowledge of working on a computer or laptop. When the students lack basic computer knowledge, it leads to issues in logging in, participation in class activities, submitting work and to interact with the trainer. 

Challenge 3: Technical issue

Many students, especially the from rural areas face problem with bandwidth. As many of these students don’t have a computer or laptop, they end up attending sessions through mobile. Learning technical course through a mobile is a difficult task as mobile won’t support every software to the fullest.

Challenge 4: Interaction

Unlike traditional classes, during online classes students are more conscious of their self and are reluctant to be an active participant. 

Online learning has become more popular during this lockdown for both technical and non-technical learning. Online platforms made available from kids to mature citizens for number of learning activities. Even though this learning method got its place very fast, there are enough challenges faced by both the learners and the instructors.

 As an instructor the main challenge I faced was the difficulty in interacting with the students online and capturing their attention for longer time. It was really difficult to understand how much the student really understood the topic. 

Another major challenge was the unavailability of technical learning tools as many of the students didn’t had access to the software.  The success of an online learning is rested on strong band width. But most of the students get tuned to the class with mobile data which provide a bad bandwidth which in turn leads to a miserable learning experience. 

Mr. Biju Mathew, Guest Lecture and Online Trainer

Online platforms

Webinars and live online courses are conducted through video conferencing software. There are many free, paid and ad subscribed video conferencing software used for webinar and online course. Zoom, Click Meeting, Skype, Livestream, Webinar Jam, etc are examples for such software. Some main features of these platforms include multiple presenters, video and audio sharing, screen share, live chat for attendees, recording option, calendar scheduling and invites, etc. There are some pre-recorded video hosting options like YouTube, Vimeo and Amazon S3.

In 2020, since people are confined within the four walls of house, e-learning is the best way to expand one’s knowledge. Although e-learning existed in India before pandemic, classroom learning continued t be the primary source of education. However, after the outbreak of coronavirus every educational institution and firms are compelled to adapt the new mode of imparting and receiving knowledge. They are also trying to build a teacher and student friendly online education infrastructure. 

Frequently asked questions 

What are the equipment required to participate in a live class?

To access a webinar, one need:
Any of the digital device like computer, laptop, mobile or a tab.
Internet connection for high speed internet
Headphone or speaker

Will I have access to the study material after my class is over?

Yes, the study materials will be available for the participants for a particular period of time even after the class. The materials are usually shared through Learning Management System (LMS) link. 

Why do I need to mute myself during an online session?

Mute is the new silence in an online class. All participants are expected to keep their audio in mute, unless they want to speak. This is to avoid any background noise.

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