Webinar Vs. Online Course: How To Choose The Right One For You

As soon as you have distinguished yourself as an online teacher, questions will come up about your digital occupation. Many people don’t know what the difference is between webinars and online courses, which often makes it difficult to choose the format that is right for them. In this article we will examine the main differences between a webinar and an online course. It is then up to you to implement the best online teaching practices.

Webinars

Webinars are web-based seminars. They usually last between 30-60 min. Although a webinar offers free content, it often aims to promote certain products or services.

Webinars are hosted on a platform and require registration by the user. Different platforms require different ways to join the platform – automatically or via logging in.

Webinars can be prerecorded, although they usually deliver live content. There are some demonstration webinars where you only hear the lecturer while watching slides, videos, etc. In other cases, there is a live video and audio connection where the participants can actively participate – they can send comments or there can be a live discussion panel, voting, Q&A, etc. Another common practice is to send the registered user a recorded replay of the webinar that can be viewed for several days.

Tips for choosing a webinar format

Make sure you know what you will need for the webinar because different webinar formats offer different opportunities.

A webinar can be a powerful tool for your online teaching needs, although it is not suitable for every kind of training. But before exploring all of its benefits, you should be aware of both your goal and your audience. Therefore, first make sure you have the answers to the following questions:

  • Who are you talking to?
  • What’s the subject?
  • How you will cover the topic?
  • What resources will you need – time, technology, and content?
  • What’s the value for the audience?

Webinar structure

You should prepare a solid structure for your webinar due to their fixed start and end times. It is helpful to explain the purpose of the webinar at the very beginning. This way the participant will know what to expect and will be able to more easily grasp the main point. The webinar should be closed after the Q&A section.

Webinars have 3 main parts:

  • Opening
    The moderator explains the topic and can also briefly present the content and the different parts. Additionally, the moderator needs to make a clear statement about the length and the format – demo, interview, or other.
  • Body
    This is the heart of the webinar. Depending on the topic and the audience, you can vary the visuals, tone of voice, formats, etc. Select the tools that you will need. These may be PowerPoint, Google slides, video, images, or even live drawing.
  • Closing
    Here comes the time to summarize the main topics and to include the audience. Leave enough time for questions and answers. Furthermore, encourage feedback. Many webinars include giving the audience some type of offer in this section. This is the time to advertise yourself, your product, or your service and to make sales conversions.

Webinars are either live or recorded. Whichever you choose, here are the main formats:

  • Single speaker
    This is the most popular format and is the perfect choice for your first webinar in terms of resources and preparation. In this situation there is only one speaker who is responsible for the entire presentation and they are also in charge of answering the audience’s questions.
  • Interview/conversation
    As the name suggests, this format is appropriate when you want to introduce an expert or an interesting point of view. This kind of webinar is also good for sharing know-how or when introducing someone. The key is to have a clear structure and predefined questions.
  • Group discussion
    As in the interview format, this structure incorporates several people that give different perspectives on the discussed topic. There is also usually a moderator that guides the conversation.
  • Interactive audience
    This is a kind of facilitated conversation between the presenter and the audience in which the audience actively participates in the webinar. Using this format will help you deliver a better understanding and first-hand experience through engagement.
  • Hybrid approach
    This approach usually combines several formats depending on the topic and the audience. It can also incorporate live and recorded segments.

Online courses

If your focus is on offering higher levels of participation and real-life experience, the online course is always the right choice. Moreover, the online course is the next step after the webinar. It delivers more in-depth knowledge and can vary in duration. Although there are some free online courses, the majority of the content is usually paid. Online courses are a common tool to use to monetize your knowledge.

The online course is also known as a digital course, e-course, e-learning module, and an online training program. It can include several lessons and is accessible through any desktop or mobile device.

Online Course Structure

Similar to any course or training, the online course requires a solid structure and some research in advance. Despite the chosen formats in the course (video, slides, audio, guest teachers, or other), there is a structure that you should follow. You can deliver the following parts in different lessons or include all of them in a single online session:

  • Problem
    This represents the goal of the course. The more intriguing the problem, the more challenging finding a solution will be.
  • Context
    Put the above-stated problem into some sort of context. The more engaged your online students are with the details, the more facts they will remember. Try to choose a topic that is important to them and to use their everyday experiences as part of the context.
  • Solution
    The solution should be simple and clear. You should avoid the use of distracting details. Try to summarize it in as few words as possible, which makes it easier to restate.
  • Alternatives
    After your students have come up with a solution, ask them to question it. Give them extra alternatives and unexpected points of view. Challenge their critical thinking by presenting them with a variety of approaches.
  • Resources
    Once you have piqued their curiosity, let your students dig deeper into the issue on their own time. Give them interesting resources to use or assign them a specific task.

Free or paid

Some online courses are free, while others are kind of promotional. The free options are like mini-courses that aim to present the basics of an entire paid course.

The prices for online courses vary quite a bit. So if you want to sell your knowledge, you need to research your local market and price your business accordingly.

There is also something called a mega course, which covers almost everything you need to know about a subject.

Choosing between a free or a paid option is your personal decision. But before you decide, consider the potential of your service, the needs of the audience, as well as the competitors.

Whatever you choose, make it clear for the users. Don’t mislead them or give false expectations. On the contrary, add even more value and unexpected gifts – for example, provide them with another free lesson, free research, videos, or whatever your students are interested in.

How to make the most of your choice

The following is a list of some ideas that may help you build an excellent webinar or online course:

Tanya Ilieva has strong experience in journalism, advertising, creative copywriting and digital marketing. She has a PhD in Graphic design from Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication in Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. Some of her creative works in advertising has been rewarded both in Bulgaria and abroad. Her fields of interest include: philosophy of language, semiotics, visual metaphors, linguistic.
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