Today, we have come a long way from traditional brick-and-mortar classroom training in the cannabis industry, yet there are quite a few eLearning tools we can and should incorporate into our online learning experiences. While asynchronous learning has pushed the boundaries of eLearning like never before, it has also taken the joy away from the collective learning experience.
There are several webinar conferencing platforms available in the market today, but only a few of them offer the ideal eLearning solution with the adequate level of reliability that is required to conduct successful webinars, online training, or presentations.
The features and characteristics you need in a web conferencing system naturally depend on the purpose of your usage. Offering a weekly sales webinar has different requirements from conducting 6-hour online training daily. However, some requirements are common to most usages of webinar conferencing as cannabis businesses increasingly use this powerful online tool for new applications.
We discuss the ten (10) most important features and how they can benefit your cannabis business based on our experience with customers. It is a proven fact that employees have higher retention and an increased interest in learning when they have a peer group to discuss ideas with. Virtual classrooms are an elegant solution, leveraging the power of personal interaction to make eLearning better.
We see several solutions like GoToMeeting, Zoom, WebEx, WebinarJam, BigBlueButton, WizIQ, and many more, offering extensive features for synchronous learning in live webinars. From screen sharing, to live note-taking, to real-time interaction and much more…the list of features becomes rather daunting!
Not to worry. It is simply a matter of prioritizing your requirements and choosing the service accordingly. Nevertheless, there are some must-have features for your virtual webinar solution that make training management easier and smoother.
Must-Have Features for Your Virtual Classroom
If the keyword in real estate is Location, Reliability applies to web conferencing. No matter how good the features are, the up-time of the system and its ability to automatically correct problems will determine your success during your webinars. Most of web conferencing platforms (especially some of the recently developed low-cost systems) provide a ‘good enough‘ platform that works 97% of the time.
But web conferencing when used for business-critical applications is like electricity. It is ‘not good enough‘ to have 3% of the time technical problems. It must work all the time. Many systems allocate 1 server to 10,000+ users to reduce their costs. Reliable systems cost a little more but provide servers with fewer users, high availability, and more importantly the ability to instantly and seamlessly switch to another server or servers in case of technical trouble.
2. No Software Installs
One of the most important factors is the ease of access and use. No matter what type of webinar or online presentation you want to carry out, you need to make sure your attendees can access your conference room in simple steps. Having a browser-based system that truly does not require any software installs is important.
Many systems claim to be web-based but require installing a large Activex or running on Java (which is not present on a significant portion of computers) which defeats the purpose of being browser-based. In addition to making access easy the first time, no software installs mean that there will not be necessary to make any software upgrades which makes system maintenance convenient.
3. Versatile Desktop Sharing
When it comes to sharing your desktop or a software application, these factors are critical:
a) Image transmission should be fast.
b) It should go through most firewalls.
c) It should not use too much CPU (your computer’s calculating power).
Advanced systems optimize image transmission speed and reduce required bandwidth by only sending the areas of the screen that change.
4. Integrated Voice
With the advanced VoIP (Voice over IP) technologies available today, you should demand the system have a fully integrated voice system. This means that your attendees would simply listen through their computers without using a phone or any other device. A bridge to outside telephone lines, however, offers more flexibility. You might have attendees or presenters not always able to use the audio on their computers. Most systems, however, lack the high-quality voice that you need in web conferencing.
5. Ease of Customization
Our advice is to seek a system that can be easily integrated into your website and be customizable in terms of look and feel as well as functionality. Integration to your site does not only mean a link from your site. It should mean the ability to have attendees access the conference room with a click from your IT infrastructure. This would make user management easy for you, but also offers a better experience for your customers.
6. Full Reporting
The back-end administration of the web conferencing platform is also very important. You should be able to access reports on attendance, archive views, and typed messages… as soon as an event ends. You should also be able to export reports in Microsoft Excel format and/or use APIs to download them automatically and interface them with your Learning Management System (LMS) platform.
7. Flexible Recording
The ability to record and archive a presentation is critical. Most systems produce either very large file movies or low-quality ones. You need to ensure the recording function provides a compromise between quality and file size so that your viewers don’t need to download Gigs of data to see a 30-min movie. Another important factor is the ease of accessing the movies and the advantages of using video formats that they can be accessed from any browser on a PC or Mac without any software installs.
In addition to traditional recording methods, the conference room ‘remembers‘ every step of the presentation (including audio and video) and at the time of replay reproduces the event exactly the way it happened live in an interactive environment. This means that during the replay time, the viewers can access shared files and take polls, for instance, as if it was life.
8. Powerful Slide Show
Although you can use the application or desktop sharing function available in most systems, it is preferable to use a slideshow functionality in webinar conferencing platforms to show Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. The main reasons behind this are:
a) Your viewers may not have the same screen resolution as you do, and they may get scrollbars on presentations if you show your desktop.
b) Fast animations may not be seen properly through desktop sharing.
c) When running a PowerPoint show, it covers your entire screen (although this is configurable) and would not allow you to see participants’ messages and questions.
You need a slideshow module within a webinar conferencing platform that supports both PowerPoint, you also need to make sure it does support all or most animations. Many webinar solutions and slideshow functionality do not do a great job of supporting animations.
9. Configurable Chat
Although all web conferencing platforms offer some type of chat (the ability for attendees to type messages), many lack some important features that can enhance your online meeting experience. You may want to have the option to privatize the chat so that attendees cannot read each others’ messages.
The ability to create a moderator, the person who oversees selecting the questions to pass to the presenter, can be very useful, particularly in large presentations. And finally, having the ability to make major announcements is also a plus as it helps your important messages not get diluted among the many messages that scroll up.
10. Controllable Document Sharing
You should be able to allow your attendees to download files such as brochures, agendas, presentations, and such within the web conference interface without having to email them. Shared Folders provide this function and there may be times that you would need to mark a document as private so that only selected moderators or presenters can access those files.
That’s it! These are the ten (10) features we think are must-haves for a virtual classroom module in your Learning Management System (LMS).
Let us know what you think.