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By Michael C. Dennis, M.B.A., C.B.F

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The Wave of the Present

Education everywhere is going online. Course materials, lectures, classroom discussions, and examinations all can be delivered to your computer through the Internet. As tighter corporate budgets limit time and travel necessary to attend educational forums, online delivery of education programs has become a popular alternative to the traditional classroom format. Online education programs themselves come in a variety of formats. Duke University's prestigious Fuqua Business School offers a fully-accredited MBA degree that can be earned without ever setting foot in a physical classroom. While you may not be ready to log on for a full-blown college or graduate degree online, you could benefit from an ongoing series of continuing education programs geared toward working professionals. Seminars have been the traditional format for providing this type of programming, and now Web-based technology is available to offer seminars online in a format dubbed "Webinars".

What exactly is a Webinar? Actually, it is nothing more than an audio teleconference session (with which most business professionals are very familiar) and a separate Web conference session that is conducted simultaneously along with the teleconference. Audience members hear the instructor's live voice over the phone then access the instructor's visual presentation on a computer monitor. The two technologies combine to produce a live, fully-interactive audio and visual presentation that closely resembles the dynamic of a presentation given to a face-to-face audience.

Web conferencing technology is still fairly new and may require additional clarification. Here is what you can expect when you sections - a view screen and a chat window. The view screen is where the presenter will "push" material to audience members, most often using a slide format (like Microsoft PowerPoint) or a Web site tour. In this way, the moderator maintains total control over what the audience sees and hears in real time. When the moderator mutes large audiences to avoid distracting background noise and interruption, the chat window can be used by participants to communicate with the moderator and with other audience members. The instant messaging function satisfies an important requirement for any educational program - interactivity. participate in a Webinar. The Webinar presenter, called a moderator, supplies you with a Web site address to go to and a Conference ID to log in. Once logged in, the Web conferencing system takes over your screen then joins you and the other participants in a private virtual meeting room controlled by the moderator (see picture). Typically, the screen is divided into two

CMA officially launched its Educational Webinar Program in March 2002 with the help of credit manager and author Michael C. Dennis, MBA, CBF (see profile on Michael Dennis). To date, Mr. Dennis has presented Webinars on Collection Techniques, Bankruptcy, Deduction Management, Effective Credit Management, and Credit Scoring. Many of Mr. Dennis's program topics are presented in a series of four Webinars, each commencing once a week. Many participants have noted the ease of access to the Webinar format, as well as the advantages of attending without leaving the office.

CMA and its members have only begun to realize the potential benefits of Web conferencing for education. While CMA Education Director Deborah Pio is planning to expand the Webinar series with added presenters and topics, she is also planning to offer online certification courses, Webcasts of live engagements for the benefit of those people who are unable to travel to the physical event location, and recordings of all online education programs that can be downloaded or accessed on CD-ROM. Although we have tapped only a fraction of the potential that this technology could provide, the fact that credit managers all over the nation are using this technology right now means that Webinars are no longer a vision of a distant future - they are the wave of the present. For a complete schedule of CMA Webinars, visit

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