Dateline January, 2020: The U.S. has its first confirmed case of 2019-nCOV. Slowly at first, then helter-skelter, the nation began to close down, go dark, and take our work lives online.
Two years later, many nonprofit staff members are staying behind the computer and avoiding the office. Some things lend themselves to virtual meetings but what about training? Is it possible to connect with people and teach them important skills and techniques over the web?
Here are a few things to consider for online training:
What’s the screen time limit? Human beings aren’t built for long computer sessions. Unless it’s a highly produced movie or TV production, screens stop being enjoyable and productive for most people after about an hour. Watch how twitchy people get in meetings at the hour mark, even when in-person.
Our bodies, built for action, need to get up and move. As long as computer time is mixed with breaks and off-screen work, then virtual training can be great. If not, maybe not so great.
Does the technology connect people? A single, disembodied talking head is a sure cure for insomnia and no way to learn. With virtual, it’s the same as in person. Engaging the audience means they learn more and like it more. Break-out sessions, Q&A, exercises, a mixture of visuals, and a lively, engaged trainer who truly cares about the participants helps make a vivid and authentic learning experience. The best training shows faces, creates dialog, uses smaller groups for more intimate discussions, engaging people so they don’t slip through the cracks.
A truly experienced trainer “reads” the classroom, even when it’s digital. Of course, this doesn’t work if cameras are turned off. But as long as the trainer can see participants (and this means the class must be limited to a reasonable number of faces that fit onto a standard monitor), then expressions and body language can be “read,” questions answered, moods sensed and communication flows.
“With any type of learning, a proactive student always gets the best results — when the student doesn’t expect the trainer to be clairvoyant but instead asks questions, contributes ideas and seeks clarity if something doesn’t make sense,” said Thomas Boyd, chief editorial consultant to The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles. That’s what leads to “aha!” moments — the gems of education — and produces comments like: “That class changed my life!,” according to Boyd.
Be a savvy consumer. The best online as well as in-person learning requires a carefully-crafted curriculum and a talented trainer. Read reviews, check with colleagues, and ask questions before you sign up. Don’t spend your precious money or time for training that hasn’t proven it hits the mark.
January, 2022: The U.S. averaged 123,000 new Covid cases every day. Nobody is rushing back to the office and in many industries and many parts of the country, working remotely is the new normal. This means that to deliver and benefit from critical training and information, we all have to be a little more plugged in. © Copyright 2022 The Grantsmanship Center