Before I start describing the individual webinar solutions I have used, I am sharing a few reflections I have observed throughout the time.
I find it interesting to follow how video-conference systems adjust their functions to webinar systems and vice versa. Their primary functions are picture transmission, facilities for recording (capturing) and sharing screens, etc. In these aspects, the systems adapt mutually.
In our company, we are involved in implementations of e-learning systems. Therefore, I must mention the interesting advantages of webinar systems’ integration to LMS systems. Here also we can observe development and it makes sense. After all, it means connecting two teaching methods – usually asynchronous tuition in LMS system and online webinar tuition. This is an aspect I would recommend considering in case of a webinar system selection.
In my opinion, the main advantage of webinar systems is in their complex application to the whole company, including connecting to company accounts, calendars or in transparent access rights granting within an organisational structure. These are the most important parameters when selecting a system. All the other mentioned elements are a standard part of the above-mentioned systems.
Other observations of webinar systems:
BigBlueButton (further BBB) is a completely free solution (open source), which works with no problems. I appreciate the simplicity of a room access and the reliable transmission. It is difficult to describe, but I never experienced a technical problem with the BBB regarding a room access or listening to the tutor voice. Among the disadvantages of the BBB solution belongs a complicated screen sharing and an uncomfortable function for recording and sharing records. For an implementation of regular webinars the BBB is definitely sufficient. If you are using one of the systems such as LMS Moodle, Wordpress, Drupal etc., I recommend their integration with BBB, see also http://bigbluebutton.org/open-source-integrations/(link is external).
Adobe Connect is paid and a fully professional solution. Among its cloud benefits belongs an automatic update and thanks to that also continuous addition of new functions. The disadvantage of the cloud solution is the absence of Czech language (and other languages, translator’s comment), which can be a drawback for some clients and an occasionally difficult setting of audio transmission. Even during broadcasting, it does happen occasionally, that the sound transmission is delayed, but you only notice that in a meeting with multiple participants. The price for purchasing the cloud solution is relatively favourable (the price differs for different countries, translator’s comment). The disadvantage of the purchase of a complex solution of Adobe Connect directly to company servers is the price, which is higher than the cloud solution many fold. Contact an authorised Adobe solution provider and they will find a suitable solution for your company.
WebEx is a webinar system from Cisco and I know it from the side of regular meeting participant or trainer. I think it is a very good quality solution which is projected to its price. Interesting and at the same time technically advanced is the option of connecting to a meeting with telephone, which is a great thing.
I also had the chance to test Skype for Business from Microsoft. Again, this solution I only know from the side of a regular meeting participant. I think Skype for Business uses different technology than the previously described options. However, it is fully functional, and its main advantage is an easy integration to Microsoft systems.
The last solution I will mention is Google Hangouts, which is used massively because of its connection to Google applications and its free access. I will deal with this solution in more detail in another article.
Every solution has its advantages and disadvantages. I have implemented numerous webinars and I have participated in many more. I must conclude, that even though I have tested using various technical and didactic functions of webinar systems, the overwhelming part of webinars is simple. Most often, a presentation is transmitted, the tutor transmits his/her voice and the participants use a chat.
My conclusion is therefore that unless there is a technical problem, for successful webinar implementation it does not matter which system you use. The most important is the tutor role – it is with him/her where the quality of your webinar lays. You can use whichever software solution your company purchases or which you have available.
Author: Miroslav Sklenář, lecturer PC HELP, a. s.
Resource: Practical Andragogy. Professional Quarterly for education and development of adults, Prague, AIVD ČR, 2016 - Andragogika v praxi. Odborný čtvrtetník pro vzdělávání a rozvoj dospělých 12/2016. Praha: AIVD ČR, 2016