How Webinars are Reshaping Continuing Education

According to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, 92 million adults in the United States are enrolled in some type of educational program and nearly two-thirds of them are taking a work-related course.  As so many things are in today’s society, many of these courses are available online, which means attending lessons and meeting the demands of your career without leaving the comfort of your home.

And that is a good thing — continuing education is a requirement and a necessity for professional development as well as to remain at the top of the field.

As an Early Learning Multimedia Manager for the Southwestern Child Development Commission Inc., I’m tasked with facilitating high-quality learning experiences in a variety of formats to the men and women who aspire to teach and renew credits. Thanks to webinars, the majority of our courses alleviate the need to be in a specific place at a set time and date.

Utilization of webinars in our continuing education program has removed many of the traditional barriers seen in the past, such as challenging work schedules, traffic and difficulty traveling, family obligations and other commitments. Webinars also may be more economical for some learners because they do not incur any travel, meal, babysitting or other expenses on the day of the class. They also help us offset the travel costs for our instructors, such as mileage and any overnight accommodations, if necessary, as well as providing copies and other materials used during face-to-face learning events.

We strive to keep our webinars engaging for our customers as we would a face-to-face event through a variety of different activities embedded into the event and utilization of adult learning techniques.  We strongly believe customers should be active participants in the learning process. We aim to create events that fully engage all types of learning styles through the use of audio, visual, kinesthetic, and social interactions.

For distance learning, we follow a particular process. Each distance learning event is peer-reviewed and offers continuing education credit.  We complete a series of forms and each has a syllabus and outline that is kept on file.  We also document the relevance of each topic for the field through a needs assessment — this is based on request — survey results, end of course evaluations, or through local/state/federal requirements.  All of our learning events are designed to meet best practices, impart practical, useful knowledge which can be applied immediately.

If your organization uses webinars for continuing education, or even internal training, it helps to follow a proven formula. To that end, here is a brief checklist to keep in mind when establishing and maintaining a continuing education curriculum:

  • Specify an overarching goal for your lessons (e.g., earned credits or certificates) and break down what professionals will need to know to earn that goal
  • Draft each of your lessons
  • Send your lessons for peer-review (this can be a peer or superior from your company or a consultant)
  • Refine based on feedback and publish your series
  • Within your series, incorporate polls and surveys on topic relevancy
  • Include an end-of-course evaluation
  • Assess feedback and incorporate for your next course iteration