‘F’ shaped webinars!

Companies are switching over to the web to deliver many of their training programs. This is due to the current economic climate coupled with our growing concern for the environment. A training delivered online is cheaper,  and leaves a smaller carbon footprint than a face to face meeting with people driving (and sometimes flying) in to attend. It makes a great deal of sense to run meetings and trainings online, unfortunately the quality of such trainings often leaves a lot to be desired.
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Talking to educators and trainers involved in such courses I get the impression that everyone accepts the fact that these trainings are as dull as dishwater. They, the trainers, know that many of the remotely based ‘attendees’ are continuing to work, surf the net, check their email and make phone calls etc, during the course of the training. The trainers are given limited resources (that are being pruned back more and more in many cases) yet they are expected to churn out training programs to hundreds of employees. Managements do not want to provide additional resources to help the trainers do their job, they just want to know the training has been delivered. A recipe for depressed trainers delivering mediocre and bland training programs to say the least!
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Having sat in on a few web based seminars myself I have been wondering just why they are so difficult and dull? I began surfing the net (sometimes during webinars) to see what the real scoop on these particular training applications might be. I soon found plenty of glowing adverts for webinar platforms  scattered across the web,  but little is available that actually analyzes just how effective webinars are for delivering trainings.
A typical webinar screen window
A typical webinar screen window
I decided instead that it is possible to speculate on how we really look at a webinar site based on a study conducted by Jakob Nielsen PhD.  Nielsen, a former Sun Microsystems Engineer, has become world renowned as a (if not the) web usability expert and web user advocate. In 2006 he carried out a study where he observed the eye-tracking movements of 232 individuals when they were looking at websites. This eye-tracking study found that individuals tend to hover over particular areas of a web page regardless of the information on that particular page. He called these areas ‘hot spots’ and showed that we have a tendency to view web pages according to a specific pattern that shows an ‘F’ shape. (Nielsen, J. 2006).
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Nielsen’s eye scanning study has been the focus of considerable attention from website designers. Naturally they aim to place the most important information at the point on the page where the viewer’s eye is likely to linger most frequently. (However, it appears that webinar site designers have not sat down and taken a look at how our eyes look at 2D web pages.)
Image above taken directly from Neilsen's 'Reading pattern eye tracking' study
Image above taken directly from Nielsen's 'Reading pattern eye tracking' study

The image above shows the eye tracking hotspots on three different web pages. Please see Jakob Nielsen’s website useit.com for more information.

I have taken my diagram of a typical webinar page and superimposed the Nielsen ‘F-shaped’ viewing hotspots to see where webinar viewers are most likely to be looking when participating in a webinar. (See below).

A typical webinar window with superimposed Jakob Neilsen eye scanning hotspots.
A typical webinar window with superimposed Jakob Nielsen eye scanning hotspots.

My conclusion is that people wander off to other activities because of the low degree of visual stimulation provided by a webinar site!

Reference
Nielsen, J. (2006, April 17). F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content:. Retrieved April 12, 2009, from useit.com: Jakob Nielsen’s Web site: http://www.useit.com/‌alertbox/‌reading_pattern.html

3 thoughts on “‘F’ shaped webinars!

  1. 🙂

    How interesting. Who knows what next? Students having their brains in an MRI scanner to check what they are thinking about in a lesson?

    San

  2. I would rather see the trainers and educators in your MRI scanner. Check on what they think they are thinking about!

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