On-Line Training – Is this the future?

These have been crazy times in the training world. Anyone not able to deliver their classroom training remotely will have faced an uphill struggle at the start of lockdown. So is this the future? Will reluctant clients now be less enthusiastic about face to face training or more so?  At Talking Life, we realised that only a handful of courses cannot be delivered successfully on line and the evidence is mounting that many of our public sector clients are willing to move to remote training, confident that the outcomes are as good as with classroom training and with the enthusiastic backing of their staff who have given the ‘thumbs up’ from the comfort of their own homes.

This from an East Midlands Social Worker: “It worked really well on Zoom and I would happily attend more virtual courses like this.”

Starting with free, online wellbeing support sessions via Zoom and Skype for some of our client organisations, our online topics now cover a wide range, from Safeguarding Adults and Domestic Violence, to Resilience, Mental Health, Bereavement & Loss, and Working with Difficult to Engage Clients.

There have to be some adjustments for online training: smaller class sizes (the optimum turns out to be 10) allowing both trainer and attendees to get the best experience and course length: splitting one day courses into two sessions, sometimes days apart. (Two-day courses can be split into more sessions) as there is a recognition that spending longer than a few hours on a Zoom session can be intense for trainer and student alike. Handouts can be downloaded from our website and registrations and certification are managed electronically as well. And the technical aspects of this huge operation? Well they’ve been surprisingly trouble-free. We can offer training on most platforms, but the most popular are Zoom and Skype and, for some local authorities where they use it: Microsoft Teams. There have been virtually no freeze-outs in this new virtual training world, and associate trainers have had to manage the various platforms themselves, but overall, the experience has been good.

Our trainer Sean Liddell, who volunteered to deliver those original free wellbeing sessions and who has delivered many courses since,  reckons the ‘virtual’ experience has been well received but as a trainer and facilitator he has had to make some adjustments. He says:

“There are several factors that are different when conducting virtual training; the first obvious one is that the body language is less obvious to see – micro expressions can be missed,  especially if people are reluctant to turn on their video. For the trainer, there is more concentration required on watching people’s reactions on the ‘gallery view’ to pick up on what we would see easier with full body communication.

This also works the other way around and I, as the facilitator have to ensure my body language from the waist up conveys the feeling and energy I want it to at any given point. I have found that I expend the same amount of energy as I do when face to face training and usually end up quite tired at the end of a morning and afternoon session.”

“I have found that people prefer a slightly shorter session with regular breaks on the hour and this really helps the flow.   Also, keeping delegates unmuted is very effective as it mirrors the face to face and they are more likely to say something off the cuff rather than thinking about where the ‘raise your hand’ button,  is which is vital to get honest comments, reactions and feelings.”

“Having a breakout room facility is excellent and really helps the sessions, delegates still get a chance to talk in smaller groups which helps the personal connection as well as engaging in a smaller team exercise.”

According to Sean, people are very well mannered when it comes to questions:   “Mirroring the face to face training, I have encouraged questions throughout. If two people start to talk, one will always apologise and offer for the other person to talk first. I very rarely have to manage interruptions or overtalking and this would happen anyway in the live setting.”

Overall, Sean reports that delegates have responded really positively and that this bodes well for future ‘remote’ sessions: “the feedback I have got has been excellent, really positive and most people’s views are that they want to continue with a blend of virtual training and face to face as it saves so much time, expense and travelling.”

So Is on-line as good as classroom training? Well nothing can quite beat the classroom experience where trainer and learner can interact closely with each other but the feedback from the courses we have been running online in the past few months has been excellent with many delegates expressing surprise at the outstanding outcomes they’ve received from the training they’ve taken part in, beyond their expectations. So I predict there will be a lot more training undertaken this way, even when things do get back to normal, with previously reluctant clients now seeing the benefits of a less expensive, less time consuming training experience.

Let us have your comments about how you see the future for on-line v classroom training