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Social Learning and Webinars

February 19, 2009

Update: I’ve embedded the SlideShare below:

Earlier this week I did a webinar for north of 250 people.  The title was Embracing Social Learning Across Your Enterprise.  In keeping with the theme, we decided to keep the chat open and live throughout the session so people could share expertise and ideas, riff off of my material, and connect with each other.  This worked pretty much exactly as we hoped.  But we had some hiccups too.  Let’s start with the bad news and save the good news for last.


  • Information flow.  With over 250 people on a webinar, a significant sub-portion were active in the chat.  Enough that the flow of information in the chat was sometimes hard to follow.  It also made it more challenging to follow individual threads.
  • Spammer.  A guy actually came into our webinar and promoted his own product which he was touting as a community product.  So, just to be clear, a guy who claims to understand community and is selling a community product invaded our webinar which was anything but salesy, interrupted the valuable and insightful dialog of our participants, and tried to hard sell his own stuff.  All I can say to him is good luck.  If he made that many rookie mistakes, he clearly does not understand community ethos or the basic gist of the model.
  • Distraction:  I’m a reasonably bright guy and had some interesting things to say on my webinar.  Some folks felt like they didn’t get as much value from my presentation and material because they were engaged in side discussions.  Of course, if they were engaged in side discussions, then they must have seen some value there too, right?

Good stuff

  • Social learning aka “Distraction” :  So sure, people were engaged in side conversations, but they were *valuable* side conversations and obviously of interest to the participants or they wouldn’t have been having them.  At the end of this post, I have included a typical exchange that wove throughout the session to give you some sense of the depth of some of these discussions.  There were also numerous examples of participants posting questions that were answered by other participants, in some cases, easy questions like “what does ‘wiki’ stand for?” and others that were deeper like “how do you measure ROI?”  In a few cases, participants even linked to outside resources that would be helpful and germaine to the discussion.
  • Social networking:  multiple people reconnected during the webinar — old colleagues, friends from previous jobs, even people at same company who didn’t know each other or that they were pursuing parallel initiatives.  People were sharing LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter handles.  It was pretty cool to see the community connect up.  The Social Learning Question Of The Day @SLQOTD Twitter Group that Kevin Jones put together has had a similar benefit.  I’m now following all sorts of people I didn’t know before by virtue of connecting through a community interaction.
  • “Stem” Discussions:  While I think the webinar went well, the discussions spawned in the chat require follow-up and more dialogue and thought.  Kevin and I are going to use some of these questions as the basis for some of the Social Learning Questions Of The Day (like today’s for example).  Others will become fodder for blog posts; others will make into whole new webinars slated for Jan and Feb.  Still others will be magzine submissions.  And many will also be used to help us frame product decisions, sales collateral and messaging around our Social Learning Suite and Community offerings.  None of this would have been possible without the chat.
  • Multiple Channels:  People who wanted to just watch me do my thing on the webinar could do that.  People who wanted the connection and live sharing could do that.  Participants who could somehow manage do both at the same time could do that.  But, regardless of the descision participants made during the session, all participants are going to be provided with a transcript of the chat, a copy of the PPT presentation, and a link to the webinar recording.  We also going to send out a White Paper I wrote earlier this year on ROI from Workplace Community, and we’re going to include some links to related articles that I wrote for CLO, Training, Talent Management etc…  We’re also going to turn this into a SlideShare and post to the world at large.  The point is that regardless of the decision someone made during the session, this isn’t the world of ILT where if you miss something it’s gone.  With all of the interactions captured, you can have sidebars at will and then catch up on the main arguments whenever necessary.  Or you could follow the main thrust and follow-up on the sidebars later.  Flexibility and learning control are a big part of socila learning, and I’m glad we gave those options to our participants.

What else?  If you were on the webinar, what did you think?  Was the experience good or bad?  What points am I missing here?

And now as promised, an example of a great social learning exchange from some of the webinar participants.  Some things worth noting:  this discussion spanned the first 20 min of the session and was woven in and out of dozens of other posts, yet they stayed on track.  Testament to their ability to process multiple threads.  Also notice how the participation grows as Faith continues to show her expertise and authenticity on this subject.  This shows how knowledge and experience can surface, be validated, and lead to recognition in the community.  Remember, this was just an off and on non-threaded exchange across just 20 min that had to compete with some serious distractors (me, other people chatting, scrolling windows).  Here it is with many thanks to Faith for helping out her fellow participants and showing some leadership.

  • Vicky:  Has anyone achieved OJT via social learning?  We have a 2000 person virtual call center and still require they stay at the training center for six weeks; could we send them home if they could OJT from home with a social (community) of mentors to assist.
  • Faith: This is in response to Vicky: You can do all your training virtually and informally with your agents. I did it when I was the VP of Training for 1800Flowers.
  • Mary: How did you do that?
  • Faith:  In response to Mary: I converted the training materials to virtual, used Webex.  We also had chat rooms for each class before and after the class.
  • Mary:  we are in the process of doing something similar.  Thanks.
  • Faith:  Vicky and Mary please feel free to contact me to continue the call center training discussion. I am on at xxx
  • Mary:  Gotcha.  We are going to use sharepoint discussion forum for for post training collaboration
  • Vicky:  We do use SharePoint too.  I am on also and look forward to a future discussion
  • Faith:  Vicky: You can have more engagement in the virtual environment than with brick and mortar. It’s about the training for the trainers as well as how the training is designed.
  • Susan:  Mary: have you found any success with folks engaging on the sharepoint discussion boards?
  • Faith:  You can also have the trainer share their video to still see their facial expressions.
  • Tim:  Who here is running the call center training?
  • Mary:  We’re going to launch this month.  I’d be happy to share our results with you
  • Tim:  <– starting a new training depart for call center environment
  • David:  Tim- feel free to reach out- LinkedIn or Facebook at xxx
  • Faith:  Here is a Webinar I did with a few other experts about Ten Secrets to Engage folks Virtually

By the way, the session Vicky linked to is very informative and worth a look.


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