I'd like to start by saying that we are providing web-delivered courses for several reasons. The primary reason is simply that many of you have asked for them. Some people are simply unable to arrange the time to attend a classroom course. Others are in locations where there isn't enough demand for us to hold physical classes. We also sometimes have instructor limitations and find that nobody qualified is available to teach a daytime class but they could squeeze in some extra sessions to fit a flexible webinar schedule.
Whatever the reason, here we are using the tools of the 21st century to do training. Web classes have different dynamics than classroom sessions, if for no other reason than despite the whiz-bang web tools, interpersonal interaction just won't be the same. At the breaks between the sessions we'll all disappear to our other busy lives instead of compare notes about what happened, what will happen, our jobs or our job searches. Maybe I'm wrong, I hope so.
In some other ways, they will be better. If the instructor asks you all to send a chat note during the meeting telling them the answer to something, they will know how many understood it. In a traditional class, the first person to answer typically causes everyone else to be quiet so the instructor never knows if only that one person 'got it' or if everyone did. Regardless of whether this will prove to be a little better or a little worse, there is a constant demand to do this, so here we are. Over time it will evolve to be just fine since it seems to be the wave of the future.
Web Course Schedules +
Our web delivered courses will be a series of live, instructor-led webinars. You will attend using two tools. First you will use your home or work PC to connect to our web presentation system. Then you will make a telephone conference call.
We use the same qualified instructors that teach our classroom sessions. The difference is that instead of coming to a classroom, you will join us from your home or office in a series of 2-3 hour sessions. How many sessions? Our first web delivered classes will for Minitab, Sarbanes Oxley and Six Sigma Green Belt. All of these are three-day classroom courses. We expect that they will translate into either 5 or 6 webinar sessions of 2-3 hours each. Many things will simply go faster, physical breaks won't be necessary, they will be the periods between webinars, and some exercises we do in class will be simulated and will go faster. Exams will be delivered separately, via the web, outside of the webinars so class time doesn't need to be devoted to testing.
Each course will have a unique schedule consisting of webinars in the morning usually starting at 8:30, afternoon usually starting at 2 pm, and evening usually starting at 6:30 pm. We don't schedule more than two per day. Three day course webinar schedules will be designed to complete the webinar course within a week. It's better for learning if we keep it fairly concentrated.
Web Course Technology and Logistics +
You must connect using a high speed internet connection. Modem connections, even at 56k, won't work. We have to deny access to anyone with a modem connection since they will dramatically slow down the entire class. A single modem connection will literally bring the class to it's virtual knees and we can't allow that.
You will have to be willing to download and install a small program which enables access to the webinar hosting service we use. The service we use is from a major US corporation so this is safe! I mention this download because some people are adverse to such things. No download = no web course.
We will schedule 1-2 short training sessions ahead of the actual course so you can get familiar with our web conferencing system. We didn't build it, we just rent one. We don't want to take the first hour of class fiddling with the new tools.
You will receive an invitation by email once you pay. It will contain login instructions, passwords and telephone conference details. Please don't risk your enrollment by sharing these with non-paying students!
Your voice connection will be via a standard telephone conference call. It will probably be a long distance call for you and you are responsible for any phone charges. There is no additional cost to belong to the conference, that is part of the course fee. Long distance charges for 15-24 hours of calling can mount up if you don't have a good calling plan. Below are a few ways to keep this cost minor.
The conference call will be un-muted as people enter to introduce themselves but the instructor will mute everyone once the meeting starts. There is a text chat system and a way to communicate graphically built into the webinar software and if you want to ask a question or discuss something, you will use that to announce your need. The instructor may repeat your question and answer it for all to hear or may ask you to un-mute yourself and speak live if a discussion is required. It will be important that everyone follow this protocol to keep in control.
For some courses, it will be necessary for the instructor to occasionally see your desktop. For instance, if we are showing you how to use a software tool and you can't do what we describe. The system will allow us to temporary see your desktop so we can look at what you are doing and diagnose your problem.
To prepare for a webinar, shut down all other software on your computer, especially anything that beeps, pops up, etc. That includes email system. It will all be there when you get back. You will need to be in a quiet place with no extraneous noise. No dogs, talking parrots, talking kids or spouses or bosses or co-workers, etc. You will have to use a headset so you can type while listening. Besides, being on the phone for 2-3 hours at a time is a LOT more comfortable with a headset. Headsets are inexpensive at Radio Shack and most phones support them.
Our webinars will not be recorded. Just like a classroom, if you leave for any reason, you'll miss whatever was discussed.
In some courses you will receive a manual. That may be shipped to you or may be sent as a PDF file depending on the course.
Ways To Get Cheap Long Distance +
Buy an unlimited long distance plan from your phone company. Mine (AT&T) offers it for about $25/month. Easy, reliable and low-tech and is added onto your phone bill. If you have a lot of LD calling to do you can add it for a month or two then drop it when you don't need it.
Buy a VOIP system. For about $30/mo it provides unlimited local and long distance calling over your high speed internet connection. This is more difficult and high tech. I've done it and I'll warn you it might take some technical fiddling but works well once over the learning curve. Don't do this at the last minute. It's for the technology buffs. It has lots of cool features. It works best with 3 meg DSL or high capacity cable modem service. Standard high speed service may give erratic results. If you do use a VOIP line, be sure that nobody is uploading large files while you are using the phone or nobody will be able to understand what you are saying.
Buy a third party calling plan. http://www.pennytalk.com/ is one. A penny a minute plus a $.49 per call connection charge. This is not such a good deal if you are just calling friends, family or co-workers and playing lots of phone tag because those connection charges will eat your lunch but when you are using it to dial into hour long or greater conference calls, it's a slam-dunk good deal. There are others like it so shop around. Do it in advance to check out their quality or get references. We have had mixed reports about Pennytalk quality. Some like it and others don't.
Use Skype. Skype is a free service for a lot of things including Instant Messaging and computer to computer calling but a little known feature is that with a computer headset, you can use it to call ANY regular telephone for a fairly low per minute rate. I think the rate for US calls which all of our calls will be, is about 2 cents/minute with no per connection charge.
If you are attending one of our multi-day training courses delivered via webinar, Pennytalk has a 180 minute per call limit and will hang up after that. We typically do three hour sessions with at least one break so to be safe, you might want to hang up and call back in at the break. Sometimes we go a little over the three hours and you don't want to have the cord yanked on you when you aren't expecting it. Skype has no connection limit that I know of.