Every Monday lunchtime, for the last 4 weeks, IP Draughts has been giving an hour’s webinar training in intellectual property licence agreements for the European Patent Office’s Patent Academy. Course details here. Here are some observations about the experience.
55 people registered on the course from 27 countries, including places as far apart as Egypt, Colombia, New Zealand and India. A majority of participants were from Europe. Participants logged into a website where they could see IP Draughts sitting at his desk in Oxfordshire, England, as well as his Powerpoint slides. Sometimes he switched from slides to a specimen agreement. Participants had the opportunity to type questions and comments via a “chat” function, and to agree or disagree with questions that IP Draughts raised by clicking on a green tick or a red cross. Everyone could see everyone else’s responses. They could also indicate their state of interest, understanding, boredom, etc by clicking on a selection of emoticons.
Although I missed the last webcam training session I will be able to catch up now. I liked the style of the webinars and did not feel I was being ‘lectured at’ by some superior lawyer type being. I enjoyed the series very much, especially having the ability to see reactions from people in different countries and perspectives. Thank you for permission to use the materials, I will take full advantage of that. Should you need any endorsement or comment on the web series and my experiences please do not hesitate to ask I will gladly provide them.
This is the first time that IP Draughts has given webinar training, and it took him some time to adjust to the demands and limitations of the medium. An obvious difference is that there are no other people in the room with you, which means you don’t get any visual clues as to whether people are listening, understanding, and liking what they hear, nor is there anyone to focus on when giving the talk. In theory, participants can link up by camera and voice, but in this course the only other person who chose to do so was one of the course organisers. IP Draughts was a little self-conscious at first, as the only face he could see on screen, and the only voice he could hear, for most of the time was his own.
IP Draughts likes to make his training interactive by asking questions and inviting comments as he goes along. At first, he received very little instant feedback during these sessions. This may have been partly because many of the participants’ first language was not English, and partly because most people were as unfamiliar with the medium as IP Draughts was. Gradually people started to ask and answer questions via the chat function, but this was not as interactive or immediate as people speaking face-to-face.
It became obvious that a different approach was required. IP Draughts resorted to asking more questions on a yes/no basis, asking people to respond using the tick and cross symbols. This enabled people to react quickly, and was a simple, but effective, way of getting people engaged with the talk.
IP Draughts’ previous experience of virtual classrooms is limited to some scenes from the Skippy the Bush Kangaroo TV series during his childhood – one of the central characters was a boy who attended the Australian School of the Air by two-way radio in several episodes. This provided only limited insights!
In summary, it was a simple way of communicating information to people all over the World. It provided opportunities for participants to interact and engage with the speaker – not as good as a face-to-face meeting but still useful. It was worthwhile and IP Draughts would be happy to do it again.