Spinning Ball of Death: An Online Training Horror Story

Spinning Ball of Death: An Online Training Horror Story

by Jennie Ruby, COTP

Michelle is a colleague I met in one of my online courses. She happened to mention an online training nightmare that she had just experienced the day before our class. Here is her story.

For some reason, my computer had been having a lot of difficulty running certain software. This was happening a lot with WebEx—and I am part of a WebEx team we created in my division! When someone in our organization is planning a webinar, they fill out a WuFoo form (like Survey Monkey), and that email is sent to the WebEx team, giving us the information we need to create an event or meeting for them. Once all is set, I am usually assigned as the Host, the person leading the webinar is the Moderator, and we have a technical support person who we add on as a Panelist.

Here’s what happened yesterday. I was in the middle of hosting an informational webinar, and I was sharing an 8-slide PowerPoint. The speakers were remotely calling in, and everything was going fine, but when I tried to answer a chat message, my computer decided to freeze. My computer freezes way too often! And then it started doing the Spinning Ball of Death (as I call it). 

It was lucky that we had our technical back-up person as a Panelist, because I couldn’t do anything, and my computer completely kicked me off the WebEx session. This automatically switched the Panelist over as a Host [thanks to some important WebEx fail-safe settings], but I couldn’t see that. I only found out because we do many times have a third back-up. I ran over to the desk of the new Host, and our third back-up ran to get our IT team. Basically, nothing could be done. My computer had to be restarted. Sadly, I wasn’t able to save the chat, which that is what we usually do. 

The positive thing was that the attendees and outside panelists had no idea that anything had happened, because we had set up these back-ups.


Many of the online training platforms have fail-safe settings that can help save a class in case of computer failure. Make sure to know what they are for the platform you are using. For example, in Michelle’s story, WebEx makes a Panelist the Host, if something happens that knocks the Host out of the meeting. GoToTraining has a similar feature, offering a dialog box where you can make one of the Participants the Host if your computer tries to log you out.

Back-ups, fail-safes, and just plain help are all in a day’s work for the online trainer.

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