online course review the learning experience

Online Course Review: The Shaw Academy – The learning experience.

There are so many online courses, how do you find which one is good for you? We continue our review the largest live webinar online course provider, The Shaw Academyand tell you all about it.

Articles in this Clever Online Course Review series:

The Shaw Academy claims to be the largest live webinar Online Course provider on the planet and we enrolled on to one of their courses so that we could give you our Clever Experts view of what it is like to be a student on one of their courses.

Webinars start at 7 pm and last for about an hour. It’s a convenient time as it gives a chance to get home from work, eat and settle down before ‘attending’ the session. I made sure that I was ready and settled before 7 pm for my first Diploma in Social Media Marketing webinar.

There were a number of email reminders saying that there was 1 hour to the start of my first webinar and a final one telling me that my webinar was starting now.

I clicked on the ‘go to webinar’ link in the email and was taken to the website and my course page. There was a button which said ‘Join Webinar’ which I duly clicked. This took me to a page which was blank except for some words in the top left saying error.

I went back a page and tried again but to no avail. I logged off and logged on again and received the same message. I tried a few more times but it did not work – this was not a promising start! Even more important to me was the nagging concern of how I would be able to write articles telling you what the course was like if I could not even log on to the first webinar?

I finally sent an email to the support contact provided to tell them that I could not log on, and feeling rather disappointed, I gave up for the evening.

The next morning I received an email from the support team. This was great news to me as most times I send off requests for help or information to websites I do not receive a reply. With the Shaw Academy’s claims of having so many students I was not holding up much hope for a reply from them either but there it was, waiting for me in my inbox.

The reply apologized for the fact that I could not log on to the webinar. It explained that it was due to a new system they were using and that some people had experience log on problems. Clearly, I was one of those people – lucky me!

The great news was, that the problems should now be fixed and because some people had problems they were going to rerun the live webinar again this evening at 7 p.m.

Ok, we all have problems sometimes, especially with new technology. The important part is how you overcome these difficulties. An apology, explanation and a rerun the very next day was about all that could be expected and was all done without hesitation – well done!

After this faltering start, I was beginning to feel that this company cared about making sure their students got what they came for. Marketing lesson number one: look after your customers and even bad things can be good for you.

That evening I sat down at 7 pm with a glass of wine (can’t do that at college), clicked the links and the webinar began!

Our ‘host’ first checked that everyone could hear him. Clearly, there were still some issues as some changes were made for those that could not hear him, and then we started.

With a webinar, we miss the visual communication clues which we rely on so much during a normal conversation. Without this, voice, intonation, and pitch is much more important than normal for conveying meaning, importance, energy, and enthusiasm, so I was interested to see how this was dealt with via a live webinar.

We immediately started with a lively welcome and description of our host along with another quick apology for yesterday’s hesitant start. We were introduced to their background and experience and also some of the background to The Shaw Academy.

It was an engaging start with energy and excitement clearly being conveyed by our host through the headphones and I was eager to get into the subject and to apply my experience as a classroom observer and assessor to the webinar environment for the first time – This is where I put on my teaching and learning assessor’s hat…

Lesson (Webinar) Observation Report

The course, course structure, expectations (to attend the live webinars rather than listen to the recorded ones), additional work and other ‘housekeeping’ items were all covered at the beginning and then we went on to the introduction of the subject.

The level was appropriate for this course (introductory level) and the information was presented clearly with good graphics and good explanations. Related links were used to associate the subject with the ‘real world’ and current examples were used to link the subject to live websites.

The general pace was pretty quick but not too quick to lose you and gave an important sense of urgency to cover all of the subjects in good detail in the time allotted.

Important points were highlighted and stressed so that we did not miss them and the information flowed in a clear and logical order. Supporting images used on the screen were clear and easy to follow.

Interaction with the attendees was good and we were asked to answer questions and give our opinions by typing our responses into the chat box at various points during the course.

As I was on a 30-day trial rather than full membership a note popped up in my chat box to tell me that ‘premium members’ would have their questions answered first which was fine by me.

The session ended with a recap of what had been covered and what we should now know. This was followed with an explanation of what the next session was going to be about.

We were also encouraged to write out our own customers’ persona via Facebook (part of todays subject) and to look at other members personas which would be discussed during the next session. This allowed us to show what we could do and also enabled some class interaction.

The session ended with 10 minutes of Q&A.

This was clearly a well-prepared session.

If this was an observed lesson in a classroom I would have given it a 9/10 which is as good as you can get from me as I am a pretty harsh marker and never give 10/10 as I always think that there is some room for improvement somewhere. It was a very positive start!

I logged off with the distinct impression that this was the future of education. After spending more than 30 years in education, I found this to be so simple and straightforward to use and was so happy to be able to sit back with my headphones on and really concentrate on the information being given out. I was comfortable, I was warm and I was sipping a glass of wine while taking the occasional notes – perfect!

In addition, if I could not attend the live session I could listen to the replay. The course slides were made available the next day and there was no traveling, no hard plastic seats, no annoying noises from other members of the class and the tutor was not constantly being stopped by latecomers or disruptive students. It was as though I was having a personal tutorial.

So far so good!

 Next: Online course review: The Shaw Academy – The course overall

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