With the rise of Covid-19 many organizations and people are rushing to conduct as much business as possible online rather than face to face. This includes moving training events from a traditional classroom to an online forum. Many people will tell you that this is a sub-optimal arrangement, but our experience has been that it is possible to design a learning experience that is in many ways better than the classroom.
The learning experience will of course be very different from what many people are used to, but we believe it is actually a mistake to try to replicate the traditional classroom too closely. The online environment has a different set of strengths and weaknesses than the classroom and as designers it is up to you to leverage these strengths and work-around the weaknesses.
We have been designing and delivering online learning events since 2010 and they have ranged from one to one coaching up to globe-spanning knowledge sharing events reaching more than 20 countries and 150 people at a time. The success of an online training session depends on four basic elements – The Design, The Facilitator, The Participants, and The Forum.
It takes a bit more time to prepare an impactful online learning experience. One of the main reasons for this is that the facilitator has a decreased influence over the audience’ experience. A good classroom facilitator can often take poor content and still create a decent learning experience through the sheer dynamism of their delivery, and various on-the-spot interventions. However, in an online forum, the training content is very much front and center, while the facilitator may just be a voice in a participant’s headset. So poor content will be obvious to everyone.
Designing for engagement can enrich and revitalize dry course material. If you must create an e-course for something basic and possibly boring, such as corporate on-boarding or compliance, adding engagement reinforces learning and reduces boredom.
Facilitators need to work a lot harder to maintain engagement and achieve learning objectives in the virtual classroom. It is too easy for participants to become distracted by Facebook or Twitter or some other attention vampire, especially if they know they are not being watched by management or HR. And most tech-savvy participants have a low tolerance for boredom or inept delivery. This means that the facilitator needs to be very knowledgeable, very competent with the technology, and very responsive to the engagement level of the participants.
Luckily, many people are quickly becoming familiar with video-conferencing and other online collaboration tools these days. This makes it easier for people to quickly adapt to the online learning environment.
As I mentioned before, we believe that if the course is designed well, the facilitator is experienced, the participants are well-prepared, and the forum is appropriate, your learning experience can be just as good or better than a traditional classroom. We just have to use our imagination and leverage all of the available technology.
Please feel free to contact us if you would like to talk about moving your training or other events online, we would be happy to help.