Webinar Platforms for Adult Learning in Russia
If you had asked me 5 years ago to predict what the education landscape was going to be like in Russia in 2017, I would have been wide off the mark and would not have been able to guess that the internet would play such an important role. So many changes have occurred over the past 5 years, it’s worth taking a quick look at what has happened and try to see what is going to happen next.
In 2006, long before I even started to think of working in education, Sir Ken Robinson in his inspirational talk at ‘TED’ (a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan ‘ideas worth spreading’ www.ted.com) expressed doubt that the present education system could any longer help our children fit into a new emerging 21st century world.
This is a video of his speech https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity/transcript
Since then, hundreds of authors have speculated about the fact that the information that we receive in high schools and universities leaves graduates completely unprepared for life beyond the classroom.
It all started here in 2001 when the Russian government decided to introduce a unified state exam. This was supposed to be something like SAT in the USA. Previous experimental tests became obligatory in 2008 for all Russian high school students. There were a lot of opponents of this system at that time and still are.
My personal opinion is that the Russian state educational system desperately lacks flexibility and can no longer satisfy the needs of universities, business, students, parents. And this is actually one of the reasons why extra curriculum education has been thriving in the country for the last few years. What I see happening now, is that people have decided to fill the gaps themselves.
This additional education takes many different forms: courses for secondary school pupils, for high school students, courses for parents, fitness courses, thousands of courses about personal growth and self-development, language courses for children and adults, courses on business, leadership development, psychological help.
I will dedicate a future article about extra curriculum school education in Russia, and in this article concentrate on professional education for adults.
Today, learning in Russia is something that people do. If we take additional professional education for adults, there are offline programs and online programs with online becoming even more popular.
When I started my online language school, one decision that I was a hundred percent sure about was to make it online. If 5 years ago it was quite unusual to come and participate in an online webinar, right now people find it completely normal.
Now the technology allows us to watch webinars on your phone and even participate in face-to-face online classes. All you need is a good Internet connection.
Webinars are one of the most commonly used educational tools here. A lot of experiments with webinars have taken place over the last few years. I have witnessed how webinars in Russia have started as one-way lecturing formats and switched to a two-way format when the moderator can turn on students’ microphones and even cameras.
Let’s see what types of learning formats are popular and widespread nowadays in online education in Russia:
First of all: one way webinars. This is when a lecturer gives content to students, they can see and hear the lecturer, see the presentation and participate by writing in a chat in an online room. This is a very popular format to sell courses, to hold online summits and conferences, to give content in a form of lecture.
Secondly, there are ready-made video lessons – students watch video content that the tutor has prepared in advance and do follow-up tasks. Usually in this case, tutors have to use learning management systems (LMS) where they post all of their videos and tasks, and students watch them as the materials open up for them during the course.
Two-way webinars. This is the format that I like most of all. I think this is a very powerful tool for encouraging student engagement. A lecturer can turn on participants’ microphones and cameras and basically make a big video conference call. This format is perfect when a lecturer needs feedback or wants students to participate more actively.
Finally, an email course. Usually these are anytime start (or self-paced) courses when a student is sent daily emails with video or written content and does tasks on his own.
There is a market of providers who let you organize webinars and there are other providers that help you host your content. In this article, we will speak about the first. So, which providers are popular among Russian webinar organisers?
Well, we should, of course, start with YouTube broadcasting. Google hangouts is the easiest toll-free way to do a webinar without any restrictions in the number of participants. If you don’t want non-registered participants to watch your content, you can embed the video code into your website page (that one can be created within 10-15 minutes as well).
Pruffme.com is great for closed webinars when you want to be sure that no outsider will be able to drop in. You can set a password at the entrance and even ask people to leave their emails. This way you will know which students came.
The platform has various subscription plans for one day, one month, 3 months, half a year and a year for different number of attendees starting from 50 up to 1,000 people. The payment fee is 450 roubles per day or 1,000 roubles per month for the minimum 50 attendees which is quite normal. When you already need a closed online room for more people, let say 300 or 500, it becomes more costly, up to 4,800 roubles per month.
After your webinar is over, pruffme will provide you with a recording of the lecture that you can later distribute among your students. This is another interesting point – people like online because there is a recording! They won’t miss anything if they cannot come. Enter FOMO syndrome (fear of missing out) of the 21st century!
Webinarbox.ru is a platform that is more suitable for webinars that sell. This platform provides you with a page with lots of selling modules. You can show and hide buttons, banners, play promotional videos. The system gives you detailed statistics about your participants, where they are from, their age, their interests, who clicks on what links, etc. It costs 1,970 roubles per month or 18,000 per year. This is quite a fair price for a what is on offer. The platform works on google hangouts and you should remember that these webinars are meant to be all open.
This is not all. About a year ago I had a real shock. People stopped coming to webinars. In order to broadcast information about your online courses, the easiest way was to invite one or two hundred potential clients to an open webinar, teach them something that they needed and sell the course when they were excited. Well, this model stopped working about a year ago. Russian audiences are no longer satisfied with one-way lectures. People want engagement, communication in a group, edutainment I would say.
Last year when I was taking part in a start-up acceleration program I happened to meet Pavel Slesarev. Pasha is doing something unbelievable for the Russian market. His platform is called dreamstudy.ru and it allows you to have your own online school on your website.
His service can organize open and closed webinars for you, turn on and off attendees’ microphones and cameras, split a big groups of students into small groups and assign them to different virtual rooms to accomplish some task, for example. It can live broadcast to Russian social networks such as Vkontakte, for example. It is much bigger than Facebook in that it works on all types of devices and systems. This is a veritable dream for an online teacher, no less. The basic subscription plan is 1,000 roubles per month and 3,000 roubles if you want to use all modules. Quite worth it.
I have only covered the tip of the iceberg here. If you want to know more or you’ve got any questions, feel free to ask.