Webinars - The ‘New Normal’. Let’s Hope Not

Posted on May 07, 2020. by NTI

When did you receive your first email? Remember getting excited hands on your first smartphone? Your first iPad, the first time you chatted with your family on Zoom and tried to explain to people that they shouldn’t all talk at once, but your words got lost because everyone was talking at once.

With new technology and 21st Century communications we have a groundswell of opportunity … and no rules. Do you start emails “Dear Amanda”, or whizz straight in with an emoji of a smiley person and a sponge? Where is the guidance on what to do if you agree with a statement in a person’s email? Do you write an email back? Ignore it? Look for the symbols of a thumb and an aubergine? Who knows? No rules.

At NTI we are reinventing the live lecture-room webinar. We are doing so with our usual gusto, but it feels a bit like we are technicians building an Aston Martin before having to fit a performance limiter on it. It’s not that it rankles … it just doesn’t feel completely right. We get it; there’s a pandemic and students and delegates cannot attend lectures. Life goes on. Technology really is a wonderful thing. I spent my morning live-webinarring my Joint Board students in Manchester. They were great. They tried really hard to engage, type questions onto the screen, one person even unmuted and asked me a question. Champagne corks popped in my brain as I made the most of my answer.

It felt like matching the first three numbers on the live Euromillions draw, before reality kicks in and no other numbers go your way and you end up winning £2.50. The silence of earnest listening filled the air for the remaining one and half hours of the session. The question is not how do insolvency students cope with courses that are all or almost all webcasts, but why should they? The technology of ‘distance learning’ will never replace the ability to see a human being in the flesh, ask them a question, get your question assessed in the second after it is asked (using all the skills of a species who has evolved around sensing those around us) and answered properly.

At NTI we are dyed-in-the-wool professional trainers. Our natural environment is the lecture room, reading non-verbal signs, answering questions on the spot and checking who is engaging, who looks confused, who is playing with their Samsung under the desk. No amount of technology will replace the feel, the smell, the excitement of a live face-to-face presentation, with real students working to build an environment in which they can, if they choose, excel.

From the beginning of 2020 we added more than 200 webcasts to the NTI app, enabling JIEB students to receive lectures, understand technical and practical issues and set up their learning experience in exactly the way they want it. For both CPI and CII we lecture everything virtually before (and this is crucial) holding proper lectures in proper lecture rooms led by people who believe, as we all do at NTI, that only face-to-face works for the big stuff. Students love the app. It grants them control over their studies. It enables them to listen to lectures on-the-go and let’s them pause, think, rewind and check the Study Support Programme.

But at the moment all of them are asking us ‘when we will be back?’. When will we start to run courses as they are supposed to be run? In great rooms, with words zinging off the walls, amid laughter and learning. The answer is, as soon as we can.

There aren’t any rules for how to use the technology that tries to replace real human contact. But there is one rule for us at NTI. The app is the app. Webinars are webinars. But teaching exam technique and the real stuff … that’s what face-to-face is all about.

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