Over the past several weeks, the world has changed as we know it. Many people, unfortunately have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or worse, are sick and unable to work. Then, there are the lucky ones—the ones who can work from home.
We just completed our sixth week from home and let me tell you, it has been quite an adjustment. I am very fortunate that my work involves helping people work and communicate online, and happy that my biggest change so far was delivering training remotely opposed to in person.
Which brings me to the subject of this blog – online training or in person?
Honestly, they both have their pros and cons.
Transitioning from Classroom to Online
If you are making the change from a traditional classroom/lab setting to delivering training online, there are some things to think about.
For instance, you will need to consider:
- Does the format need to change to fit the platform
- Have we got the right platform to deliver online training
- Is the course duration appropriate
- What are the learning objectives, and
- How many trainees should we allow in a session?
All these factors will play a role in the outcome of your online training success.
Some training platforms are specifically built for online learning and give the trainer the capability to check students’ exercises and screens, whilst others are purely for online meetings and/or live events.
What will work for your purposes?
Microsoft Teams is a great platform to deliver virtual training and give users exercises to do during the session. You will not be able to check their progress in real time, but you can ask attendees to share their screen to show their completed exercises.
You can also take advantage of another O365 tool and use MS Forms to create an online quiz or multiple quizzes which can be distributed to the attendees to do throughout the course. The responses can be immediately viewed and fed back to the attendees.
So, it may not be the normal format of a classroom session where you demonstrate some things and then have the students do exercises, but you can adapt to ensure students are still able to actively participate.
If the training is a full-day course, you may want to break it up into two half days or shorter sessions over multiple days, as a full day in a virtual training setting can be quite intense staring at a screen.
If it is a two-hour workshop, then online is not so bad! Just be aware that your duration may be impacted by any changes to the format and method spoken about previously.
Number of Attendees:
And what about the number of attendees?
How will this be affected by delivering online versus on site?
Speaking with my colleague, a certified trainer as well, we both thought that a larger number of people is possible in a virtual setting, especially when they are all in different locations.
When you have a large number of course attendees on a course that requires activities, a large group of students can be difficult to manage in person. That is not always the case, things such as motivation and workload can also impact an attendees’ engagement.
In my opinion, smaller groups in classroom settings are easier to train and manage. Larger groups can be distracting and sometimes even disruptive.
However, in a virtual setting, it is easier to manage (you can mute all mics! ?) larger numbers.
Now, if they are sitting in a board room together, that is different as they can still distract and disrupt each other. But, if they are all in separate locations, then most likely, they will want to get on with it and not be distracted by others.
One of the most important things to consider is—are the learning objectives being met in both scenarios?
If the learning objectives are not being met when transitioning from one method of course delivery to another, this can be solved in two ways:
- Adapt the sessions to ensure learning objectives are being met, or
- Adapt the learning objectives to fit the new training method.
It may be that nothing needs to be changed as both methods work perfectly for meeting objectives.
However, delivering a course where the learning objectives can be met, is what should influence all the other decisions; platform, method, number of attendees…
This is a time for being creative and ensuring your training products are still useful – no matter what format or method they are delivered.
Take the time you need to adapt, alter, and/or completely change the courses if needed – this can actually offer an opportunity to refresh your training programme and improve it!
Pros and Cons:
Let us conclude with some pros and cons for both methods. You will notice, they are pretty even!
- Remote – convenient
- Fast – can be more lecture style with fewer or no exercises
- Can be delivered anywhere and anytime (did three sessions for people in Singapore from my sofa!)
- Easy to do if you know how to use the platform chosen
- Attendees are more attentive and focused (this is subjective, but I noticed that attendees were more engaged during remote online sessions—less checking of emails, mobiles, chatting)
- May have no or little hands-on exercises
- Less interactive (fewer questions throughout)
- Potential technical issues
- Lack of ability to personally check end user’s comprehension
In classroom/lab setting Pros:
- Exercises are easy to check and help with
- More interactive – people talking to each other and interacting with the system and others
- More questions throughout the workshop
- Personal environment – instructor is there to help immediately
- Greater ability for impromptu subjects being covered
In classroom/lab setting Cons:
- Potential technical issues
- More distractions with other trainees (chatting, checking emails and mobiles)
- The greater interaction can eat into the class time and subject material can be rushed
- More room for subject-creep and going over time.
As you can read, both have pros and cons, but for now, in the current environment—I will stick with training online!