Web Conferencing Week
Once again, this occasional series has failed in its nominal attempt to appear on any kind of regular basis. Not so much a lack of enthusiasm as simply a lack of news.
I’ve been working with the team that is preparing to roll out the latest and greatest version of our software, IBM Lotus Sametime, testing, preparing the teaching curriculum, and generally filling the gaps in a very extensive task list. The effort has been lengthy, not least because of its magnitude, especially when measured against the minute size of the team. Really, there are just two people in the enterprise with full time responsibilities for the Sametime collaboration tools; thankfully the other is a tremendously gifted, spirited and hard-working technical architect who works out of his home office in Colorado.
Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel has resolved itself: it’s NOT an oncoming train, and we believe we’re mere weeks away from D-Day.
It’s been a time.
Meanwhile, I’ve suspended my classes in preparation for an entirely new approach to the educational process; after more than 650 of them in the past 5-1/2 years, for nearly 4,000 students, management has decided to turn over training responsibilities to our division’s Learning & Development group. I have mixed feelings about this, as I’ve grown rather fond of the process of teaching (NOT fond enough to follow the curriculum to that particular group!); 650 one-to-two-hour classes is probably more than enough for a while.
You may recall that this teaching is all conducted on-line, using Sametime web conference technology, together with a telephone conference call. Such remote teaching has its own challenges; there is much reduced feedback available, since there are no faces nor body language to read.
But, this has worked for me, since, as anyone can tell from the likeness published at the top of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, I’ve a great face for radio. So, a form of radio such teaching is. And, without a live audience (the great old radio series seem to have had live audiences), without that rich feedback, it’s quite hard work.
Not for everybody. Ask the person from aforesaid learning & development group who failed to master the material and the challenge two years running (the second year, she barely even tried).
So, I’ve suspended my classes, mainly because as we get so close to releasing the updated tools, I feel it’s unethical to be training people on the ones that are going away so soon.
But there are exceptions to all positions.
Which is how I found myself this afternoon, in a hotel conference room delivering a streamlined version of my introduction to web conferencing class to a live audience of twenty-five newly hired field specialists, undergoing several days of intense immersion into their new responsibilities. As field workers, such collaboration tools as those I champion are even more important than they are to we home office types.
And, although I always push back when asked to teach in person, these folks would all be using their newly issued corporate laptop PCs, and that mitigated my usual dislike of such live instruction. In my experience, for my class, standing in front of a room of people showing them a presentation is just a demonstration, not a training class. This promised to be a training class. And, the sponsor who invited me assured me that these new workers would get plenty of use of the tools in the next few weeks, making it more worthwhile for them, and for yr (justifiably) humble svt to teach them.
So, there I was, standing in front of a mostly interested audience (pointing out, as I expressed it to them, that I was the only thing standing between them and the golf course, or the nearby watering hole), working with them interactively on their PCs and mine.
I’m pretty good at this.
And it was refreshing to work with real people for a change, rather than the disembodied voices and occasional electronically raised hands and group chat queries that are my usual feedback.
Of course, it was just as grueling, if not more so, than the same course conducted remotely, just in different ways. My damaged ankle, yet to heal completely, hidden away under dress slacks rather than protected in hard plastic and velcro, complained, and still is complaining hours later, with some vigor at the indignity of its owner standing on it for two hours with only 20% of the support provided by said pneumatic boot. Not a slow transition out of the boot at all. Sorry, Achilles.
But, even in total wellness, teaching for a living is hard work. Thankfully, long since passed are any concerns about speaking in public. Don’t know when that actually happened, really, but it comes mainly from knowing the material cold. And my audience seemed to get it, and that’s the best feedback of all.
So, another interesting and new experience. Always good that, six-plus years in, there are interesting and new experiences still available in this roller-coaster ride called web conferencing.
It’s it for now. Thanks,