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Web Conferencing – a New Mean of Training

Among many influential tools that could be used in an online learning or training is Web Conferencing. Web conferencing offers online training participants easier and convenient access also known as e-learning or TeleEducation.  In addition, it is much more cost-effective, faster and better. Web conferencing is becoming a popular means of providing training, the benefits are astounding, and here are some of the reasons why.

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Photo by Steve Garfield

  1. Convenient

    If you are an employee, attending seminars or trainings can be quite a daunting task. But with web conferencing you have the chance to learn from your own workplace, home or even on the road at your won flexible time. No matter where you are web conferencing can function for you.  Another scenario, if one participant got sick, there is no need for the training program to be cancel or delay. With web conferencing you can still be able to reach one other (trainees and trainer) and proceed with the program.

  2. Fast and Easy

    Sharing knowledge can be done with just a few mouse clicks and maybe a registration. But other than that, no need for any other complex steps. In addition, web conferencing allow any number of trainees to learn all in one time.

  3. Fun

    Lectures are enhanced. Forget about the wide screen projectors. There are various VoIP provider, desktop applications and internet tools that made interaction much more interesting. One can make revision and commentaries on every file types that flash on screen. Trainees or trainer can edit and draw on a document visible in their computer screens through the use of annotation tools. Desktop sharing applications can also be used to share resources that are pulled from the worldwide web. You can learn from other video presentations (if video conferencing functions are included), downloadable files, and the like to stimulate the discussion further.

  4. Friendly and Easy to use

    Just open your computer and connect to internet, participants are up and you can start learning. Survey also says that people can communicate more through web conferences than personally. Mainly because other people are shy to talk in person but in web conferences they can show their true self.

  5. Affordable

    According to a survey, it is 93% cheaper than instructor-led courses. Of course it is. Online training doesn’t cost a classroom, it doesn’t cost electricity, you can learn/teach at the comfort of your own houses.

Regardless of how gifted an individual is, he or she should still need to undergone generous amount of training so as to fit for a certain occupation. Specialized fields such as information technology and healthcare are vital in today’s living, and they require a standard of performance to sustain their proficiency. Aside from that, training empowers the workers to work in agreement to the mission and the vision that the company takes after. Without unified objectives, the company will have no clear heading to pursue and thus no end of the line to arrive at. With Web conferencing all these can be done without the worry about the location, budget and availability of an individual.

How to become a Videoconferencing Expert

I will start this article by answering what exactly is an expert – to me it’s a person who is really really good at something. Simple as that. This post is only about my thoughts on what it takes for a person to become such, not how he uses his expertise.

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There is more to becoming an expert than this.

I agree with the assumption that all humans are born as “tabula rasa” (lat. blank state), meaning all their knowledge comes from learning, experience and perception, but with genetics playing significant role in the process. Unfortunately, not all people take advantage of the amazing opportunities that lie ahead of them in becoming really good in something they love doing, often due to fear of failure. But failure is not something to be feared of, on the contrary, as Thomas Edison said:

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Every person can be good at anything, good in so many things at the same time. But becoming really good at anything isn’t just a walk in the park. It takes discipline, focus and more importantly a strong will to make it happen.

So how does one become expert at anything? Well, I believe the formula is pretty much the same for any skill you choose. Since this is a Unified Communications blog and it happens to be the field that I’m currently working in, I’m going to point out what I consider to be important in becoming a Videoconferencing Expert.

Videoconferencing Education

I believe education is the first step in becoming good at something. Once you identify your objective and set your goals, you have to start preparing for reaching that goal, show genuine interest in learning all the bits and pieces that are related to what you really want to do, in this case Video Conferencing. I’m talking about harvesting knowledge you can use from every source you can get your hands on: specialized courses , forums, blogs, whitepapers, industry reports, product guides…

When it comes to official training, major industry leaders like Cisco and Polycom are already offering specialized training programs for anyone interested in becoming engineering or sales expert in Videoconferencing / Unified Communications and these certifications are usually valid for 2-3 years in order to keep up with the latest trends in the industry.

Cisco recently added two new programs to their certification portfolio focusing on Video, which already included the Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist and Cisco Rich Media Communications Specialist:

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CCNA Logo by Cisco

  • CCNA Video establishes an individual’s ability to deploy video endpoints, set up new users, and operate networked voice and video solutions for job duties that include configuring voice and video single-screen endpoint devices, supporting telephony and video applications, and troubleshooting. The certification also validates a candidate’s knowledge of the architecture, components, functionalities and features of Cisco Unified Communications Manager solutions.
  • Cisco Video Network Specialist establishes and enhances key skills including the ability to configure video single-screen endpoints, set up new user accounts, support video applications and troubleshoot networked video solutions.
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Polycom Logo

Polycom is offering the Polycom Certified Videoconferencing Engineer – a program that confirms the successful candidate has the necessary knowledge to perform implementation, configuration and troubleshooting operations for small to medium-sized environments on the Polycom RealPresence Platform including. In addition, the PCVE exam will validate the individual’s knowledge of networking models, standards and protocols relevant to videoconferencing.

Plenty of free training material is also available on the Internet. Personally, I liked the old Tandberg Certified Expert Partner (TCPE) program, simple and straight to the point, it’s perfect to gain the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to Video Communication.

Forums such as the VTCtalk and the Cisco Support Community are a great place for promoting and  sharing knowledge and engage other experts in constructive conversations about topics of the Videoconferencing / Unified Communications industry. There are also great groups on videoconferencing business and technology available on LinkedIn for anyone to join and listen or contribute.

Working Experience

It has been said many times before – no amount of theoretical knowledge compares to a real world experience, no matter what field are you part of. If you’re just starting in the industry, try an entry-level position and work your way from the bottom up. There are also companies who first offer training to their personnel for couple of months, and then make hiring decision, this is another good way of getting practical work experience.

And once you get there, try to learn as much as possible, try to learn everything you can about the topic, focus on becoming better and better until you become “so good they can’t ignore you”.

The constant hunger for knowledge is what separates experts from…well, everyone else. The beauty when working with technology is that it changes constantly, there is always something new to digest. Personally, I don’t understand how some people are pretty content with doing the same thing day by day. There is much more you can do, if you want to. The internet is there, the books are written and there are heaps of people to talk to, who are more than happy to engage in discussions – so jump right into it and become an expert!

I am going to end this post with two quotes from people who were really good at something and accomplished a lot:

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Good Collaboration through Knowledge Management

The other side of the coin of organisational growth and how to fight it with Knowledge Management.

In order to work well with each other and collaborate, it is not only important to utilise appropriate collaboration technology. A good starting point is to understand each other and knowing what others are doing as well as what one can expect from their services.

In rapidly growing organisations, it can happen that people who previously worked very close with each other are more and more separated over time. Maybe not even in a physical way, but people are getting more and more skilled in their particularly focused task and might be even joining different teams permanently.

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Markus Mattern, holding a presentation around high-level video conference bridging.

This is a natural side-effect of organisational growth and there are a few things that can be done to prevent this from becoming a negative influence to the service quality. One thing that could be done is to increase the focus on Knowledge Management. Turning tacit knowledge into “common sense” can make a huge different when working with clients, other companies or even within the same organisation.

As GMS is not excluded from such effects we have developed a way of sharing knowledge and providing insight into each team’s work. That is why Markus Mattern, in his capacity as one of our Senior VIP Video Conference Bridge Operators, has taken great effort into preparing a presentation around technological and operational details around his and the team’s work.

Initially this was planned as a single workshop for the few of the company who might be interested in learning a bit more about other teams. However we received so much positive feedback about people who wanted to join that we actually had to make several workshops and even include the weekends.

The Workshop

The content of the presentation was prepared in a very appealing and visual way, so everyone in the audience could understand both the operational procedures and requirements of the video bridging service as well as the technical introduction on the video conferencing infrastructure no matter what their background was.

In this workshop we used Cisco TelePresence infrastructure devices as examples and described the function of a Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) and all it can do as well, as all the things even a good video conference bridge operator cannot do. We do this because we believe that even within the same company it is absolutely key to have clear expectations of what can be done and to know the things that cannot be done.

Markus explained what the Video Communication Servers (VCS) are there for and how they are utilised to traversal through corporate firewalls in an audit complaint way. This is very important for enterprises with a very tight network policy on the traversal between intranet and internet. But it shows that if the firewall traversal is well planned, configured and managed a lot of costs on ISDN (or all in best case) can be saved.

After all sessions have finished we received quite good feedback from everyone and are looking forward to the next workshop maybe from a different department then.

Thank you, Markus!