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Is a webinar ... a real training?

What role does a webinar play in today's training landscape? Is the webinar more of a seminar or a lecture over the web? It is difficult to find two trainers who understand different forms of training in the same way. We need to be clear about the concept and meaning of different forms of training, including webinars.

This blogpost was originally published in Estonian by Kaido Vestberg


What role does a webinar play in today's training landscape? Is the webinar more of a seminar or a lecture over the web? It is difficult to find two trainers who understand different forms of training in the same way. We need to be clear about the concept and meaning of different forms of training, including webinars.

Web conferencing as a new norm.

Training for children and adults across the web is becoming a new reality today. With the end of the emergency, there is still a risk of infection, and probably for a long time to come. But even if there were no more risks, we have a new habit and an opportunity. As it is not possible to communicate face-to-face with your loved ones, a normal phone call is being replaced by a video call. Long air travel and hotel bills are being replaced by online meetings. The same trend is noticeable in adult education and counseling.

Online training has come to stay.

The early years of my experience as trainer reach back for more than 30 years. At that time, many trainings lasted 3-5 days, in hotels with nice conversations in the evenings. The first setback came during the Russian crisis in 1998. Then the lengths of trainings were reduced and costs were saved at the expense of hotels. During the 2009 economic crisis, many trainers changed their business model towards the so-called Shamrock organization, where services were outsourced and trainers-consultants insured if necessary. The current pandemic and its aftermath, together with the economic crisis, will certainly affect us. And one clear direction is online training. Face-to-face meetings are not going away, but they are becoming much more elitist than before the pandemic.

Everything that happens on the web is not yet a webinar.

How to translate English word "webinar"? On the EKI website we can read "It is web seminar (not (Estonian words) "vebinar " or " veebinar ")". At the same time, many remote-working platforms differentiate between meetings (some of which are also training) and webinars. As a rule, webinars are intended for a larger audience than meetings and trainings.

Different learning objectives in the lecture and seminar.

When I was still in college, a distinction was made between lectures and seminars. In particular, the lecture was listened to and written, and some questions could be asked at the end or at the appointed time. The seminar was a more active form of work that needed to be prepared for and everyone took part in the discussions. The lectures also took place in a circular auditorium, where there were many listeners and the number of participants in the seminars was limited so that everyone could still speak. The aim of the lecture was primarily to convey information. As the synopsis of the lecture began to be reproduced, the number of participants in the lectures also decreased. The aim of the seminar was primarily to consolidate what has been learned, to better understand it, to put it in context, etc. This would not have been possible without interactive communication. This goal is not replaced by the lecture notes or even today the video lecture.

There are various forms of training, including over the web.

There are many different forms of learning and teaching, from one-way communication (eg reading a text, listening to a lecture) to active interactive forms of work (eg training, workshop). As it is in the classroom, so must it be over-the-web that a distinction must be made between more and less interactive methods. Online training requires knowledge about the online platform, but the need for trainer's basic skills and the basic truths about teaching do not disappear. As human beings, we have not fundamentally changed in the last several hundred years. The basics of learning and teaching are still the same. The use of trend words (eg webinar) does not free us from using the skills of a professional trainer.

Let's talk about distance learning and the webinar.

We are used to the word remote job. Today Remote training reminds us of the term distance learning, which can be confusing. Therefore, perhaps it would be more appropriate to talk about virtual training instead of distance learning, which includes very different forms of distance learning. Among other things, we use one form of distance learning called a webinar, which by its nature is aimed at a larger audience and is replayable.

Let's make the terms clear.

Personally, I am in favor of using the correct language, but then we also need to understand the meaning behind the words. With my experience as a business trainer and consultant, I have used many different forms of training such as lectures, web lectures, group work, training, workshop, practice, business game, simulation, supervision, coaching, mentoring, mindfulness, moderating, facilitating, Interactive Virtual Facilitating…  It is probably difficult to find two trainers who would understand the above-mentioned forms of training in the same way. Nor is there anything left to do then we try to communicate.


Kaido Vestberg is a member of the board of the Estonian Association of Training and Consulting Companies, has 7 adult education level professions, and is the leading partner of Mercuri International's Estonian office in the training and consulting company.

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