Since COVID-19 hit the world, classroom-based training has come to a grinding halt. Gone are the days – at least for the time being – of trainers travelling up and down the country to deliver face-to-face training to organisations and businesses. So what now?
In mid-March 2020 I (and I know I’m not alone in this) had never heard of Zoom – had no idea what it was. Now, as a business we have premium user accounts and train over it every day. It’s being used for virtual training classrooms, meetings, one to ones, training OUR trainers and the occasional quiz! We used to use Skype as a virtual meetings tool, but I can now safely say that I haven’t logged into our Skype account for months (which is good because I don’t think we ever got through one meeting without being cut off).
So what is Zoom? It’s a ‘videotelephony and online chat service through a cloud-based peer-to-peer software platform and its used for teleconferencing, telecommunicating, distance education and social relations’ Essentially, it’s an online meeting platform with some nifty tools that you can use to make your meeting much more interactive as if you were all in the same room. Is it any good? In a word, yes. As I mentioned it’s got some great tools that make the world of a virtual classroom very life-like. For example, the breakout room function allows you to move delegates into virtual rooms where they can discuss and brainstorm ideas. The ‘host’ can move virtually between these rooms and input on delegates’ discussions. The ‘polling’ function allows anonymous polling results to be fed back to the host instantaneously – something you can’t do in an actual classroom! It’s simple and easy to use.
It does have its downsides. Many businesses, including a lot of Talking Life’s customers, have security and privacy issues with it. Zoom say they have resolved this, however a lot of IT Departments are still not allowing its use within their organisations due to this issue.
Which leads us into the other preferred online training tool, part of the Microsoft Empire – MS Teams.
Finding positives regarding MS Teams is hard. Here are some – it’s a simple yet effective tool and is relatively straight forward to operate. It doesn’t require long repeated training sessions on how to use it, because it is quite simple. Also, a lot of organisations use it on a day to day basis, so from a training point of view, most delegates understand how it works. However, its simplicity is also its downfall. It has many of the same functions as Zoom such as sharing screen, mute, chat, hide video and participants list (and actually has a ‘download participants function – something that Zoom doesn’t have!) However, you can only ever see 8 other videos at the same time and you can’t pick which ones you can see. There is no gallery and speaker view as in Zoom, which is again one of the neat features about Zoom. There are no breakout rooms – though you can do a manual workaround and actually this does work well if set up correctly. Additionally, MS teams has been set up to work as part of peoples’ own organisations and it doesn’t like to mix them. This makes it difficult when setting up training across different organisations – but again, there are some (albeit long winded) fixes that we as an organisation have figured out to make sure that if we have to use MS teams when training, we do it right and it works. MS Teams has a handy app which is easy to use and can be employed when out of the (home) office. Word from Microsoft is that more video screens and breakout rooms are coming soon so watch this (cyber) space…
In summary, the review is simple. Zoom has been built to run training and MS Teams to run meetings. At present we are delivering our training equally off Zoom and MS Teams and in fact, we have not found that using different platforms has impacted the quality of our training. The great thing is it works, They both work, our feedback is excellent and our customers are really enjoying the learning experience. Will we ever get back to the classroom? We are starting to do so, on a small scale, but in the meantime, whilst classroom based learning is out of favour, this substitute is just as good.