I am an avid consumer of online educational materials, and one of the common delivery methods is a webinar. This (my last) term in my graduate program, we are learning about how to design and facilitate live online events, and about what makes certain webinars great, while others fall short. I decided to perform my review of a webinar that was presented by a well-known eLearning professional, whom I very much respect and admire.

The theme of this webinar was the creation of infographics. Here are the major topics that were to be addressed:

  • How visual perception should influence the type of information graphic you choose
  • How to match the graphic type with the learning goal
  • A design process for creating information graphics
  • Where to find resources for designing information graphics

One of the downfalls of a webinar, is that it is difficult to get the audience’s attention. Often people will be checking their email, speaking with their coworkers, grabbing a cup of coffee, etc. Their are a few common methods for engaging the audience throughout the presentation: using polls, knowledge checks, breakout rooms, pre- and post-tests, encouraging chat functions, etc. This webinar included the following active learning strategies:

  • Active chat participation and hand raising encouraged, agree/disagree
  • Polls were used twice (which I have not yet found to be of value in webinars)
  • Encouraged once to respond to a question in chat
  • Encouraged once to take notes on similarities between 3 historical infographics

Your audience’s time is a precious thing, and so your presentation should be of value to their personal or professional development. In addition to including handouts at the end of your presentation, the webinar should include actionable methods. In this case, the speaker gave the following advice on designing infographics:

  • Use a curved arrow to show motion/action.
  • Use reading order, apply consistent style/shape/color/weight
  • Show magnified parts in a circle or square next to the main illustration
  • Use photos to chunk/break down/deconstruct each move (as in gymnastics) to display the steps
  • Color code the information, add a wheel graphic around to point out the main image (example was effects of smoking on the body with callouts on a wheel around an anatomical illustration)
  • Show structure (org chart) as in a family tree
  • Show flow: Yes, No, follow the path as in a flowchart
  • Start with sketching, paper and pencil

Since a webinar is an audio/visual presentation, it’s important to apply solid graphic design methods (such as CARP), as well as having clear audio. Here are my notes on the audio/visual layout:

  • The mic was way too close to the mouse. Lots of taps and squeaks. The speaker should have used a mouse pad to soften the sound of its movements.
  • This is the first webinar that I’ve had to lower the volume, so that tells me the levels were really good/loud enough for people like me.
  • They started off with a template for the PowerPoint, but then abandoned it.
  • The font treatment seemed to be within one sans serif font, but changed quite a bit in weight (all the way from thin to extra bold, and italics)
  • There didn’t seem to be a consistency in the graphic treatment (which is kinda ironic, since it’s about infographics). There could have been a color scheme at the very least, or a grid layout so that elements are organized similarly in each slide.
  • The info was easy to read, most of the issues I noticed were CARP related

Here are the aspects that I felt worked well, and would like to employ in my own webinar design and facilitation:

  • The speaker had an enthusiastic tone of voice, and was familiar with the slides.
  • They kept tabs on the chat topics and reached out several times to address comments made there.
  • I liked that there was 15 minutes of intro music and slides for early arrivals (such as myself). They also started off with a chat, asking people to share where they were from. 
  • A facilitator assisted the presenter. I wonder what their planning process is to ensure that it goes smoothly.

Here are my thoughts on what could have been improved:

  • I feel as though the description for the presentation wasn’t very accurate. I ended up critiquing the webinar, since I wasn’t learning anything new. If I’m going to plan to take an hour of my workday to attend an event, I want it to be valuable for my professional growth. I think that in this case, it was a victim of marketing. They likely wanted as many people as possible to attend, and so built up a good deal of hype about it. I longed for more actionable lessons on building infographics, rather than a very general overview of what an infographic is.
  • Some of the intro slides had a huge amount of material on them, and were only on the screen for 4 seconds. They did cycle through them though, so you had the chance to review them again. It seemed a little tacky that the only ones that were up on the screen for a readable amount of time were promotional in nature. Whereas the technical advice on how to participate and check your internet speed cycled through very quickly.
  • There were many slides that were not 508/WC3 Accessible for learners with disabilities, and they wouldn’t address any of the many comments on that. The presenter had lots of suggestions for use of color specific treatments (bad for color blind), blinking/flashing graphics (bad for seizures), and no support for the non-sighted such as descriptive text, or how to translate infographics for those with disabilities.
  • The last several webinars I’ve attended have been a bit on the boring side (especially the one on creating learning engagement), and have seemed like self-promotion rather than educational. As much as I love attending webinars, it seems as though solid education is the exception, rather than the rule.