January/February 2019

The Digital Toolkit

Online Learning for Clients and Peers

Tom Mighell

My old law firm was terrific in providing regular learning opportunities for both attorneys and our clients. One of my favorite times of year was a two-day conference offered to our insurance clients, where we updated them on the current state of the law and provided tips and strategies for successful insurance defense. These conferences were mutually beneficial; our clients learned a lot of great information, and we got more work from them in return.

Fast-forward 20 years and the opportunities for learning have expanded considerably. Online learning has exploded, and it’s easier than ever to find an online educational course on just about any topic you can imagine. It’s also much easier for regular folks like you and me to create and market our own educational content, and lawyers are starting to offer their own online content to both clients and peers. In this iteration of “The Digital Toolkit,” I’ll discuss some of the tools and practices you can start using today to create and host your own educational content.

Using an Online Course Platform

The best online course platforms aim to make it dead simple for you to upload, design and start marketing your content in no time at all. With most of these tools, the steps are pretty straightforward:

  • Create your online course. Decide what you want to teach about—it could be about the latest case developments in your area of practice, best practices for submitting intellectual property applications or teaching users how to successfully appear before a judge in traffic court.
  • Upload your content. Most platforms allow you to upload videos, audio and images. You can upload a PowerPoint file as part of your presentation. The complexity of your course is limited only by your imagination and creativity.
  • Market your practice. You’ll want to brand the content with your firm logo or other marketing content so it’s clear the content comes from you.
  • Market your course. Once it’s launched, you’ll want to let people know it’s out there so users can start learning.

It can really be that simple. Of course, you may want to spend some time thinking about and designing the specific content you want to offer, but the point is that the technology no longer gets in your way of providing an enriching online experience for clients and others who want to see your content.

From my research, some of the best and easiest-to-use content creation/hosting platforms include Thinkific, Teachable, Podia, Udemy, LearnWorlds and Pathwright. If you are looking for a more full-featured learning management system (LMS) environment, you may want to check out LearnDash, LifterLMS, TalentLMS, LearningCart and Kajabi.

When looking at an online platform, here are some of the factors you should consider:

  • Ease of use. Make sure the tool doesn’t have a huge learning curve. Look for platforms that allow you to quickly upload and organize your content.
  • Mix it up. Does the platform allow you to show video? Provide surveys or quizzes? Allow users to download additional content? Your online course should provide variety to keep things interesting to users.
  • Customizable. The platform should allow you to brand your content with your firm or other marketing materials. Good platforms also allow for multiple instructors, so you can teach an online course with colleagues.
  • Free or pay? The platform should allow you to provide both free and paid content and offer e-commerce capabilities, so you do not have to handle the accounting.
  • Keep it secure. Only use platforms that provide secure hosting, not only to make sure your content is safe but also to ensure your users that you have their security in mind as well.
  • Build a community. Some of the better platforms recognize that learning builds shared interests and help you organize a community around your content. If collaboration and continued interaction with clients or others is important to you, this is a feature you should consider.

Providing Live Content With Webinars

Maybe you don’t want to take the time to create all of that online content and just want to present your content once, like a speech. Maybe you prefer live interaction with your audience rather than the passive interaction that comes with online learning platforms. If so, you might look at some of the great webinar platforms available for providing live content, including WebinarJam, ClickMeeting, Livestream and AnyMeeting. I have used GoToWebinar frequently, and it’s a good, if somewhat outdated, tool for hosting webinars.

If you’re looking for something a little less complicated, you might want to check out tools like Zoom. I love using Zoom as a videoconferencing tool, but it also offers webinar options that allow you to broadcast a presentation to up to 100 people. And for a really simple experience, try YouTube live streaming—it’s fairly easy to use, and it’s free.

Features a great webinar platform should offer include:

  • Presenting multiple types of content. You should have the flexibility to present by video or tools like PowerPoint, Keynote or even PDF.
  • Streaming to multiple platforms. In addition to its own platform, does it also offer streaming to Facebook Live, YouTube Live or other live-streaming platforms?
  • Collaboration features. In addition to seeing you or your presentation on-screen, viewers may also want to be able to interact with you via whiteboarding, polls or live chat.
  • Recording availability. Although you prefer webinars because you like the live experience, you can generate continuing interest by recording your presentations and making them available to others who come across your content.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, here are some tips to make your online learning experiences rewarding, no matter whether you provide your content live or via an online course platform:

  • Know your goals. What do you hope to get out of providing online content? More clients? Better visibility in your area of practice? Understanding your motives for creating online content will help you to tailor the right content to the right audience.
  • Test your ideas, and don’t be afraid to fail. It may be that your first idea for an online course doesn’t generate a lot of interest. Don’t be discouraged. Learn from your experiences and try new ideas.
  • Short and sweet is best. Unless you are providing an online certification course for an incredibly complex topic, don’t make your content long. People can easily consume content in 20-minute chunks. If you have more to say on a subject, break it down into easily digestible modules to make it easier on your audience.
  • Don’t forget to market! Online learning is not an “if you build it, they will come” kind of activity. You’ll need to let your clients and peers know that you are providing this content through your usual marketing channels, namely, your website, social media and even word-of-mouth.

So what do you think? Do you already offer online courses for clients and peers? Do you see drawbacks to online learning as a marketing tool? Let’s continue the conversation online. Send me a tweet @TomMighell or an email at tmighell+dt@gmail.com. I’ll compile all your comments and post them on the Law Technology Today blog (lawtechnologytoday.org).

Tom Mighell

Tom Mighell is vice president of Delivery Services at Contoural and has served as chair of both the ABA Law Practice Division and ABA TECHSHOW. Email him.