Online training is a tough gig.
Ask anyone delivering training since March 2020 about their experiences and you’ll probably see them shiver. There are the haunting memories of the no-shows, the lost links, the dead air and the empty chats.
Gone are the days when you would come back to the office and offload, reflect with peers and de-personalise the situation. We press ‘End for all’ on the meeting and we are left to ruminate on everything that could have gone better.
That said, I’m a natural chatter, performer and creative person, with a decade of experience in inclusion and community. I quickly realised in 2020 this was a recipe for entertaining and engaging online training.
I sometimes thrive delivering online training sessions. I adore the buzz after stimulating online debate and learning and hearing how people have felt energized and informed.
Honing my online delivery style has taken time and a lot of work and reflection. It’s fair to say that I have had a lot of ‘flops’.
Here are my lessons on how not to deliver online learning:
1. Don’t keep the original lesson plan and just ‘do it remotely’.
Online training delivery is a Whole New Thing.
Your timings, activities and energisers need rethinking. Which I know is a lot of work.
Cut down your ‘live time’ by at least half and get creative about what learning outcomes can be done before or after the session.
Avoiding that 4pm-screen-fatigue is worth it.
A guide to remote facilitation and online meetings by Lesson Lab explains what remote facilitation is, why it’s an important skill, and guide you through the process of designing your sessions.
If you are looking for guidance on virtual workshops, I always check in with these best practises.
2. Don’t presume everyone has a home office.
As some who used to live in a one-bedroom-flat with no garden access and some challenging neighbours, I really struggled to engage as a participant in learning during the start of COVID. I literally did not have a safe space to be focused and engaged for a long time.
Everyone has different home circumstances. This cannot be stressed enough.
Allow people to approach you and share anything that you should be aware of as a trainer. Their engagement might be different than you planned, but honouring these experiences is really valuable.
3. Don’t send the link once.
People will lose your link, archive it, join a different session… just generally not be in the room when you need them to be.
Send the link at least three times, including in a calendar invite, and in bold – and try to have someone on hand to send it at the start of the session.
4. Don’t correlate cameras on with being engaged.
This is a hotly debated topic, worth many thought-pieces in itself.
I love seeing people’s faces – their laughter, their quiz answers and their facial responses.
This does not need to be the full experience.
Let people know in advance what sorts of things cameras will be needed for – but this may not be for the duration of your full time together. Videos, reflection activities, reading and self-directed work allow much-needed time away from the demands of live-screen-engagement.
5. Don’t feel the need to learn every online tool.
Learn the ones you like and are comfortable with and stick to them.
I’m guilty of being distracted by the newest and shiniest poll-ing/quizzing/collaboration tool. This often leaves me with many unused free trials that do not help me deliver on the learning outcomes I am meant to be focusing on.
If it works, it works.
(If you are looking for some top online tools, here is an overview of 34 free ones. )
The demands on online trainers have been mighty.
I know it’s a challenge, especially when you need to take care of yourself.
My heart sings when I’m teaching. I’d say most of us love to connect with others and share our knowledge and experience.
It’s rewarding when you get it… I’m not going to say ‘right’. I’ll say, ‘a wee bit better than exhausting’.
I’m still not there yet myself.
Let’s have a ‘training flop amnesty’.
Our learners, and all those involved in the learning community, need to work together to make sure we envision a more energized and engaged world of learning.
Lynn Pilkington is a Engagement and Inclusion Consultant at This is Milk and Neve. You can find her on Linkedin by clicking on her name.
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