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Successfull experiment with web based training

I have been meaning to try webcasting for training from a very long time.


I was finally able to try it for a corporate training with a client. This is an account of our experience, hoping that it will motivate those who have been thinking of similar initiatives, to actually give it a try.


The topic for the session was related to object oriented software design, where we discussed the goals that we should have in mind when we design software. There were a total of 5 participants. We used Vyew (http://www.vyew.com) for collaboration. Vyew is an excellent free tool that supports slides, desktop sharing, desktop screenshots, and text chatting. It also has a voice conferencing facility that supports upto 20 participants. However we did not use this feature because participants would have had to make long distance calls to the conference call number. Instead we conferenced using Skype. One user had problems with his mic and could only hear. It was a slight limitation, but he got over it by asking questions over the text chat. I used Audacity to record the session. I used "Wave Out Mix" to record both ends of the conversation, but the incoming audio was not recorded properly, because the speaker volume on Audacity was slightly low.


The overall experience was very satisfying. Not being in the same room was not percieved as a disadvantage by anyone. Infact some found the fact that they could view the presentation on their desktop instead of a projector to be more convinient. Since the audio quality was good, the explanations were understood comfortably and people were able to communicate without any static. Being at a distance also did not serve as an obstacle for questions and discussions. Whenever someone had a question, they waited for a stopping point and chimed in with their question, or asked it on the text chat. Either ways it was smooth and free flowing.


 

Disadvantages:

The biggest disadvantage was bandwidth and equipment. Hosting a Skype conference consumes a lot of bandwidth on the host's computer. Those who have a bandwidth issue, may want to try Skypecasting. We decided against it because the last few times I have used Skypecast, the audio quality has not been as good as it was earlier. Also using Skypecast opens the session to any Skype user. This is fine as long as unknown users do not disrupt the session with tangential questions and discussions.Equipment also needs to be tested in advance, and bandwidth issues can be overcome with creative solutions.

 


Advantages:

The biggest advantage was that we could do the session without having to be in the same room. Potentially we could have had an open session with participants from several organizations. I have also found 8 hour corpotate training sessions to drain the participants. Such long sessions are tiring and do not allow participants any time to reflect. Since this session was only an hour long, all the participants will get ample time to reflect and even blog about it. Doing an online session can allow for really short sessions without anyone having to travel. Another advantage is being able to record the session for later use. A little suggestion: make sure that at least two people are recording. This way if one person loses the file or has improper settings, the session is not entirely lost. Most people will notice that incoming audio is slightly fainter than the audio of the person who is recording. This can be rectified by amplifying the incoming audio, but it can be a time consuming process.


The web holds great promise for the future, especially for collaborating and teaching. It can bring global learning and knowledge to students everywhere. Enabling technologies are still nascent, but it is only a matter of time before they mature and allow us to have a seamless and smooth web based events.



blog | by Dr. Radut