Webinar Case Study – A Year of Pathology Training (Part 2 of 3)

  • 1 Year
  • 75 Webinars
  • 39,894 Live logins
  • 130,871 Recording views

PART 2: OPERATIONAL AND TECHNICAL ISSUES

We started off using the CAP’s existing GoToWebinar account. It was already in place and made rapid setup possible. By the second lecture, we had a problem… We had maxed out the default 1000 person attendance capacity for interactive webinars under that plan. People had been blocked from attending. That wouldn’t normally be a big problem. GoToWebinar allows you to set up webinars in “webcast mode,” allowing up to 3000 attendees. There were minor tradeoffs (a buffered audio/video stream meant less use of instant back-and-forth interactions with attendees, and people lost the ability to call in and listen by phone as an audio option). We could live with those issues.

But it turns out that you can’t change the mode of an already scheduled series. Remember that we wanted a single registration to let people attend any lecture on any day. We had around 3000 people registered already. And there was no way to keep them in the system. I had to schedule a new series under a new title. Then we had to reach out to everyone and ask them to register again under the new link and to receive a new login link for the remaining daily lectures. As you might imagine, there were a few days of confusion as people attempted to login under the old link.

INSIGHT – PLAN FOR SUCCESS. IF YOU THINK YOU MIGHT GET ANYWHERE CLOSE TO A CAPACITY LIMIT, STRUCTURE YOUR SETUP ACCORDINGLY. AND VENDORS – YOUR CUSTOMERS WILL ALWAYS WANT TO CHANGE OPTIONS IN MIDSTREAM. WORK ON DEVELOPING WAYS TO MAKE THAT POSSIBLE.

These daily webinars were happening so fast that in most cases there was no lead time for a prep and familiarization session with the guest lecturer. Instead, we would just log in 30 minutes in advance of the go-live time and go over the essentials in private mode. On one of the early webinars, the guest lecturer accidentally clicked the button to take us live to the audience before the start time. I rolled with it and did a little interactive chatter with the early attendees. This quickly turned into a popular part of the daily routine. It even spawned a segment known as “Coffee With Ken” with its own Twitter hashtag! Sometimes I used an interactive poll to stimulate the conversation and sometimes I just used the Q&A facility to read what the early attendees wrote in. Sometimes I shared a picture of something in my life. I picked a new leading question or topic each day (online “conversation starters” websites were a great resource). The only criteria was to keep it light and fun and not connected with pathology.

One of the program stakeholders told me that this pre-show lighthearted segment was rated as a valuable part of the lecture series. “At a time when everyone was scared, and seeing medical crises on a daily basis, and didn’t know what would happen next, it was 15 minutes of hanging out with friends and building a sense of social engagement and community.”

INSIGHT – COMMUNITY BUILDING CAN BE A STRONG BENEFIT OF WEBINARS. LOOK FOR WAYS TO “BE HUMAN” AND SHARE THE JOY OF BEING TOGETHER TO SUPPLEMENT THE VALUE OF YOUR FORMAL SUBJECT MATTER.

Most of the visuals in our lectures consisted of microscopic images of cells taken from pathology slide studies. The lecturer needed to rapidly point at a small feature of a cell wall or nucleus and then shift attention to something else in the image. This led me to a shocking discovery that I highlighted in a blog post last year… Your Windows cursor is a lie.

Even though you can change the size, color, and shape of your mouse cursor on your screen, only you can see the altered cursor. The default small white arrow is passed to screen sharing and screen capture programs. This meant that lecturers with high resolution monitors always showed a tiny cursor that could be very hard for attendees to see. The only way to get around this was to use the built-in highlighting tools in GoToWebinar, but we found that the presenter had to turn off the highlighter to advance the slide, then turn it on again. Doesn’t sound like a big deal until you try running a lecture with 200 slides being shown in rapid succession, trying to quickly highlight one small thing on each slide.

INSIGHT – IF A PARTICULAR TYPE OF VISUAL INTERACTION IS CRITICAL IN YOUR WEBINAR, TEST THE HECK OUT OF IT AHEAD OF TIME. TEST HOW THE AUDIENCE SEES THE CURSOR, THE ANIMATION, THE HIGHLIGHT, THE ANNOTATION. AND KNOW HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR FLOW OF OPERATIONS.

Late in the program, the CAP tested a platform switch, moving from GoToWebinar to GoToWebcast, which they relied on for certain other educational offerings. Even though the technology names are similar and are offered by the same vendor, they are quite different in behavior. We discovered that our account was not provisioned to allow screen sharing, which meant that lecturers needed to provide me with their locked-down PowerPoint presentation a day in advance so I could upload it for display. It reduced flexibility and agility, and meant that lecturers could not show live digital microscope images if desired. We ended up going back to GoToWebinar as the technology platform that worked best for this particular series.

INSIGHT – EVERY WEBINAR PLATFORM HAS STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. SOMETIMES YOU CAN’T TELL WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOUR NEEDS UNTIL YOU TRY IT.

In Part 3, I’ll examine how the CAP integrated social media to expand its effectiveness.