Webinars Are Valuable Learning Tools

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By Judy L. Harmon, CEM, Training & EM Professional, Montalba, Texas

Whether it is an actual class or an opportunity to learn from a real-world incident, a webinar is an effective way to benefit from information shared via the Internet. FEMA’s website, Ready.gov, states: “A webinar is a web-based informational or training seminar (a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar) that is transmitted over the Internet.” Webcasts and teleconferences are similar. As an emergency management professional, you have the opportunity to learn through a variety of webinars and, when properly documented, also receive credit toward
AEM or CEM certification or recertification.

Finding out about a webinar is the first step. Look for reputable providers to ensure the greatest likelihood of the webinar, webcast, or teleconference being truly worth your time and being accepted as part of your CEM® documentation. In many cases, you can subscribe to email lists that will notify you when webinars are offered. Organizations may include IAEM, FEMA, DHS, the National Emergency Management Association, and any number of other professional organizations or specialized educational groups.

Registration is usually required and usually free – just be sure to check first. You typically will be given a link and a password to use the day of the webinar. Often some system requirements will be provided, and it is worth the time prior to the webinar to check to be sure your computer meets the requirements. Also, find out if there will be a recording and whether or not handouts will be available for download prior to the webinar or will be sent after it is over. More webinars are beginning to offer a certificate of completion via email following the session. You may need to select an option during registration to request that record.

Documenting Your Participation

Open a Word document to enter basic information that you can later transfer to the AEM or CEM online application. Make note of the following details, usually provided through the registration process:

  1. List the name of the webinar, date, and local time.
  2. Include the webinar source.
  3. Provide a session description and information about the presenter.
  4. Download any handouts that may be available. Plan to enter the webinar at least five minutes before it begins. When possible, a headset will provide the best audio. Some webinars allow you to ask direct questions so you may want a headset with a microphone. Most webinars use a chat log for entering questions or comments. (Be careful not to get distracted by the chat log activity!) All webinars ask you to mute your phone or computer to minimize distracting background noise. For documentation, plan to:
  5. Sign into the webinar with your first and last name.
  6. Provide some input through the online chat log within the first and last 10 minutes of the session if at all possible. That may be a short introduction, a question, answers to questions, comments to a chat discussion, or a “thank you” at the session’s end.
  7. Take some notes in the Word document about key points you learned. Some polls or on-screen information may be “snipped” or captured through a “print screen” option and copied into your notes. Remember, the main reason for joining the webinar is to learn! As the webinar wraps up, be sure to:
  8. Save your webinar notes to review later or share with others. Then select the entire chat log, and copy it into a second Word document.
  9. Consolidate items 1, 2, and 3 along with key elements of the webinar into a summary one-page document. Then search and find your name in the chat log, and cut-and-paste some portion of your activity into the summary Word document as proof of your “attendance.” 1
  10. Convert the summary document into a PDF and save it in your electronic file. Then add the summary PDF as part of your CEM® online application for certification or recertification in the appropriate category.


Webinars are incredible tools for sharing new training, discussing leading edge initiatives, and facilitating dialogues about key aspects of real-world events to large groups. Most are one to two hours long, and when they are well organized by a reputable provider, they are well worth your time. Documenting information about the session and what you learned will validate your time to IAEM, your own organization, and other learning management systems. Be on the lookout today for a good webinar to “attend” – and then get credit for it!

1 Note: The CEM requirement for documentation is that it be independently produced, so a screen shot of the webinar depicting your name in attendance, in the Chat Room, or some other location would be acceptable, as would an email from the webinar sponsor or even a training completion certificate with your name on it, the name of the webinar, and its date. – Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, MEP, CEM Commission lead trainer.

IAEM Bulletin, February 2016

AEM® and CEM® are registered trademarks of the International Association of Emergency Managers.

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