Webcasts - Wave of the future?

In case you haven’t noticed, the Internet has brought us a new educational tool - the web-based seminar or presentation.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Internet has brought us a new educational tool - the web-based seminar or presentation. Often called a Webcast or Webinar, the events are designed to take the place of workshops and paper presentations found at a typical water conference.

Webcasts are interactive events that include a speaker talking live over the Internet while giving a PowerPoint presentation and accepting questions from the audience via e-mail or an active messaging interface.

Now, instead of traveling half way across the state or country to hear a presentation on say, flow monitoring, you can get the same amount and quality of information while sitting at your desk or even in your easy chair at home. There is no cost involved for travel and in many cases the Webcast itself is free.

Of course there is a drawback: It makes it much tougher to convince your boss that you really NEED that all expense paid trip to Las Vegas or Orlando to attend a conference.

Water associations and other groups that typically sponsor conferences have jumped on the Webcast band-wagon within the last year. The American Water Works Association, Water Environment Federation, Automatic Meter Reading Association and even the Environmental Protection Agency have all begun offering Webcasts.

While the associations typically charge for their Webcasts, in some cases they provide continuing education credits for attendees.

WaterWorld, working through our publishing company, PennWell Co., has also hosted several Webcasts. Our events are free and are typically sponsored by companies in the water industry. You only need to register to participate.

Our Webcasts are archived on our website, www.waterworld.com. If you miss the live event, you can still view the Webcast for up to a year. In most cases the messaging interface remains active and the sponsoring company will respond to any questions you might have.

Webcasts sponsored by Hach Co. and Marsh McBirney are currently archived on the site. You can find a list of events at http://ww.pennnet.com/webcast/list_webcasts.cfm. Topics include Breakthroughs in Real-time Monitoring of Water Quality in the Distribution System; Advances in Conductivity Measurements and New Digital Technology; and Discovering Flo-Dar - The Next Generation in Sewer Flow Monitoring, among others.

In September, we will offer a Webcast on Stormwater Monitoring. It will cover different types of monitoring schemes, including grab samples, flow-weighted composite samples and continuous monitoring. The speaker, Dr. Andrew Earles, a professional engineer with Wright Water Engineers, will also discuss parameters that should be monitored, plus provide Case Study examples of successful programs. Participation is free.

I can’t speak for the associations, but attendance at our Webcasts has been good, with 150 or more attendees registered per event so far. One speaker received more than 200 questions during an hour-long presentation. While he was not able to answer them all, the sponsoring company followed up with attendees to make sure all questions were answered.

Despite the interest in Webcasts, they will never take the place of the traditional seminar or conference. It’s nice to listen to an informative paper presentation without leaving town, but a single paper is only one tiny aspect of the conference experience. Most people I know primarily attend conferences for the chance to interact with their peers - something you don’t experience when you’re home alone on your computer.

And, you don’t get the chance to see Disneyland!

James Laughlin, Editor

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