Why Trainers Are Turning to Webinars
Study conducted by Wainhouse Research, commissioned by Citrix Online
This white paper describes the results of a survey of 533 trainers conducted in December 2006-January 2007 concerning the usage levels, benefits, and justifications for webinars as a training application. It explores trainer attitudes concerning the relationship between a variety of synchronous and asynchronous tools, as well as the impact of webinars on live, in-person training. Among the key findings:
- While asynchronous tools (e.g., email, online workspaces and labs, and LMS/CMS products), videoconferencing, and audio conferencing were all relatively flat in 2006, there is an almost direct relationship between the use of webinars as a substitute for in-person training. Use of webinars increased 14% in 2006, which directly corresponds to the reduction of 13% stated for in-person training.
- The ability to include learners who could not attend previously is the single greatest impact of webinars on training offerings – 63% use webinars to reach more learners.
- The ability to save travel costs is the top reason why people use webinars for training, with 79% citing this benefit.
- More than half (51%) believe webinars are more or just as effective as in-person training, and another 36% believe they are almost as effective. An even greater number (70%) believe webinars are more than or just as effective as asynchronous, self-paced training, with another 18% believing they are almost as effective.
- Almost three in five respondents (57%) believe the value returned by webinars for training is high (39%) or very high (18%). Only 14% said the value is marginal.
- Ease of use, reputation, customer support, and transparent download and installation all score between very important and extremely important (between 2.29 – 2.35). These can be viewed as the top criteria for selecting a webinar provider.
- About ¾ of trainers (76%) use the same webinar system for both training and general meetings.
The trainers who indicated that webinars for training increased 14% while in-person training decreased 13% in 2006 – and the 70% of trainers who believe webinars are more than or just as effective as asynchronous tools – are a powerful testament to a fundamental paradigm shift underway in corporate training.
Introduction: How Training Organizations and Growing Businesses Deliver Training
While many a training program has succeeded in accommodating adult learners, certain challenges and inefficiencies have been central to the entire business of delivering training. The cost of delivering training to partners, employees, and customers has been high but perceived as necessary: travel, limited geographic reach, and the challenge of bringing additional subject matter experts into the classroom were obstacles to be overcome. Thus training organizations traditionally have delivered the best possible results “under the circumstances,” often with the distraction of side issues (logistics and cost) that blocked the ability to focus on what was best for both trainers and learners, as well as the entire business.
Methodology and Survey Sample
The goal of this white paper and the research that led to its publication is to understand the usage levels, benefits, and justifications for webinars as a training application. In December 2006 through early January 2007 Wainhouse Research invited a group of webinar vendors’ customers to complete an online survey on the use of webinar and other technologies for training. Lists were used, containing individuals who had been identified as trainers and educators. Incentives were offered in the form of the chance to win one of 10 amazon.com gift certificates.
About 1/3 of the total respondents (32%) are involved in training management or as training practitioners (broken down below in three groups: training professionals, training managers, or Chief Learning Officers). Another 17% are in IT management and 12% in sales/marketing roles.
Why Trainers are Turning to Webinars
Webinars have been available and in use for many years in the workplace, but the pace of adoption has quickened in recent years. Live web-based events are now seen as a key ingredient of training programs – an ingredient that is beginning to equal the importance of other approaches – and we can now say for certain that it is beginning to displace live training events (as described later in this white paper). Webinars also are growing as a supplement to other asynchronous, time-delayed technologies and approaches to training, e.g., Learning Management Systems (LMS), audio and video archival systems, etc.
How Have Your Methods for Delivering Training Courses Changed?
We asked respondents how their methods of delivering training courses have changed over the past year. This question is designed to gauge the perceived impact of webinars and other technologies on how organizations deliver training, and the results are very clear. While asynchronous tools (e.g., email, online workspaces and labs, and LMS/CMS products), videoconferencing, and audio conferencing are all relatively flat over the past 12 months,1 there is an almost direct relationship between the use of webinars as a substitute for in-person training. Webinars increased 14% in what was essentially calendar year 2006, which directly corresponds to the reduction of 13% stated for in-person training. This question required respondents to state percentages of usage of each method of delivery (adding up to 100%).
How Has Webinar Affected Your Training Offerings?
We also asked how webinars have affected training offerings. The goal of this question is to gain a more nuanced assessment of the impact of webinars on the missions of training organizations. The ability to include learners who could not attend previously is the single greatest impact of webinars on training offerings – 63% use webinars to reach more learners. A total of 56% use webinars to reach geographies not previously reachable. Half (50%) use it to replace in-person courses and almost that many (45%) use it to enable new courses. And 41% use it to achieve new types of learning objectives.
The ability to include new learners or reach new geographies is consistent with an easily-understandable benefit of a webinar. The fact that almost half use them to enable new courses, and two out of five to achieve new learning objectives, is a particularly significant finding. It is one thing to use technology as an alternative to current practices. It becomes an entirely different story to “go beyond” and use it to find new purposes. Learning organizations are under constant pressure to adapt to changing needs (new products, new policies, new employee training needs) and these numbers suggest that more than 2 out of 5 organizations are using webinars to refine and further their missions and approaches.
The Value Derived from Webinar for Training
Those who deliver training may be training and teaching professionals, or may be knowledge workers, consultants, or business owners who formally or informally need to achieve knowledge transfer to others. Both groups share similar needs: value, benefits, the ability to conduct training affordably, and the ability to achieve successful learner outcomes.
The ability to save travel costs is the top reason why people use webinars for training, with 79% citing this benefit. Second is the ability to reach people who otherwise could not attend (73%). Saving time from being away from job/home was cited by 58%. This group of the “top three reasons” can be described as universal benefits of webinars for training.
Making difficult to schedule sessions possible was cited by 49%. Bringing in subject matter experts and delivering well suited content, were both cited by 42%. The ability to record and replay classes was cited by 39%, and an even smaller number, 9%, use it to measure real-time progress.
Two questions arise in reviewing these responses: why are certain training-specific benefits lower on the chart, and how does this vary by company size?
Areas like including subject matter experts, delivering suitable content, and record and replay are lower because though they are a growing benefit, they are not common to everyone who trains. Some professional trainers simply do not need to record and replay classes; others do not see content delivery as a challenge.
A small business owner who uses a training session that includes a “sales demo” component to it simply may not need to store content for later delivery. In general, those in larger organizations are more concerned with the appropriateness of content for the web, bringing in subject matter experts, and the reusability of content.
The traits trainers seek from the suppliers who provide their platforms can be grouped in several “bands” of like traits2. Ease of use, reputation, customer support, and transparent download and installation all score between very important and extremely important (between 2.29 – 2.35). These can be viewed as the top criteria for selecting a webinar provider (and consistent with findings in WR WebMetrics surveys, they apply to all applications.)
The next band of traits can best be described as slightly more granular requirements that nonetheless are very important: provides both audio and web solutions, security, and flat pricing (between 2.01 – 2.06). This secondary grouping of traits is key to many trainers. Scalability (supporting large events) remains quite important, scoring 1.94. Being lowest priced and offering web-based account management and reporting are both fairly high in importance (1.87 and 1.84, respectively). Offering cross-platform support (e.g., Windows/Mac/Linux) remains between somewhat and very important, at 1.66. A choice in deployment options (premise-based or as a hosted software service) and LMS integration are also between somewhat and very important.
The fact that some of these traits are lower than others does not make them “not important” to trainers. This is because some traits have greater applicability to some trainers based on organization size, type of training content, and whether or not LMS are deployed (which are more typical to larger organizations). Flat pricing and offering the lowest price tends to be less important to large organizations, while large organizations tend to be more interested in security and scalability. Similarly, larger organizations are likely to have the resources to deploy in a variety of fashions, and they indicate a stronger preference for LMS than do smaller organizations. Smaller organizations, on the other hand, tend to be more interested in cross-platform support, because they are more often trying to train customers and partners who may not be standardized on one platform, but instead who may possess disparate platforms.
The trainers who indicated that webinars for training increased 14% while in-person training decreased 13% in 2006 – and the 70% of trainers who believe webinars are more than or just as effective as asynchronous tools – are a powerful testament to a fundamental paradigm shift underway in corporate training. Neil Rackman’s finding that 87% of learning is lost within 30 days if no follow-on learning activity takes place is a telling statement that points to the value trainers are finding in a truly blended training environment. The reality is that much creativity is being applied to mixing synchronous and asynchronous tools, and over the next few years, trainers will have an even greater array of options and capabilities from which to choose. While today almost 2/3 (63%) of those we surveyed use webinars to reach more learners, and 50% to replace in-person courses, it is likely that those numbers will be even higher by 2010. Similarly, while more than 2 out of 5 organizations use webinars to achieve new types of learning objectives, that ratio no doubt will be higher as webinars continue to find new adopters and new training applications.
About the Authors
Andy Nilssen is a Senior Analyst & Partner at Wainhouse Research, where he is a consultant to rich media conferencing vendors, network infrastructure vendors, end users, government agencies, end users, and venture capitalists. Andy is a co-author of WR’s annual three volume series Rich Media Conferencing, the firm’s thorough analysis of the conferencing industry. Earlier in his career, Andy managed the planning and launching of PictureTel’s Venue and Concorde group videoconferencing systems. Andy has over 25 years of experience in high-technology product marketing and market research, earned his MBA and BSEE degrees from the University of New Hampshire, and holds two ease-of-use related patents. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan Greenberg is a Senior Analyst & Partner at Wainhouse Research. Alan has worked in the telecommunications, videoconferencing, software and services, and multimedia arenas for more than 20 years, holding marketing positions with VTEL, Texas Instruments, and several Austin, Texas-based startups. He has conducted research into dozens of distance learning and e-Learning products and programs and covers managed services, 3G wireless conferencing, and management software for WR. He is co-lead analyst on the Wainhouse Research WebMetrics research program, and has authored many research notes on web conferencing and e-Learning vendors at www.wrplatinum.com. Alan holds an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. from Hampshire College. He can be reached at email@example.com.
About Wainhouse Research
Wainhouse Research, www.wainhouse.com, is an independent market research firm that focuses on critical issues in the Unified Communications and rich media conferencing fields. The company conducts multi-client and custom research studies, consults with end users on key implementation issues, publishes white papers and market statistics, and delivers public and private seminars as well as speaker presentations at industry group meetings. Wainhouse Research publishes a variety of reports that cover the all aspects of rich media conferencing, and the free newsletter, The Wainhouse Research Bulletin.