Rework Online Training Part 6: My Guidelines

fractalI'm pretty sure that online training isn't going to go away even when some people return to the office. I have already evolved my workshops to several possibilities of “training”:

  • Short-form webinar (20-60 minutes of me delivering content, minimum interaction)
  • Longer-form offering where people (typically) learn at their own pace
  • Self-study with some feedback from me
  • Longer, interactive workshop over days or weeks

There might be other forms. I will choose what to offer in which form.

I suggested we think about what training really is, and how we might define it.

Next, I suggested we think about outcomes as a way to decide which form we want to offer.

Next, I suggested we actually design a webinar experience. Does it make sense to move people to breakout rooms and back again? Do people have their cameras turned on? Should they? My concerns are:

  • How to maintain everyone's concentration.
  • How to create interaction, especially if we're going to be on longer than 45 minutes.

Next, I explored the roles people might have: attendee, student, participant. To me, each role might require a different level of participation in real-time and asynchronously.

Then, if we want a workshop, how might we design for online interaction?

At this time, I do not know how to design a long-form webinar and create reasonable interaction to check on how people learn. I am sure other people can. I don't know how. If you do know, please comment.

My Overall Guidelines for Online Training

Let me gather all of these pieces of information into the guidelines I use.

Meeting Etiquette

I wrote about managing the meeting itself in Respectful Remote Meetings:

  • Allow enough time for people to get on the call and sort out their audio and video.
  • Consider a check-in for all the participants in a smaller workshop. Maybe even introductions.
  • Consider a chat check-in for all the participants on a webinar.

If you want to mute people in a workshop, explain why and the conditions. For example, if you plan for a 2- or 3-person role-play or other small group interaction, you might want to ask everyone else to mute themselves. I've done this especially when someone practices a feedback challenge. We don't need to hear your dog, bird, or child when they're trying so hard.

About those dogs, birds, and children? They are a fact of life when people work from home and they don't have offices. We need to expect them. However, I do expect you will mute yourself except when you want to talk.

You might have different working agreements with your team or workshop. As part of a workshop, you might want to create working agreements. Especially if you expect to use several sessions to explore the content.

My Timing Guidelines:

  • Watch how long you ask people to sit in front of a screen. I was on a webinar this morning scheduled for 90 minutes. I left after close to 2 hours. I had other work and needed a bio break.
  • Rework the material. A colleague was on that webinar and he liked how the presenter used the questions to pivot into the “rest” of the webinar. I didn't. You can't win :-). However, you can choose how you rework your material to fit or extend the time.
  • If you create interactions, allow more time. Everything takes longer online.

I much prefer shorter webinars. If you have two hours of material, consider how you break it into shorter chunks.

If you have more than two hours of material, please, please, use multiple sessions. And, offer me a recording of each so I can catch up. Please.

As for real workshops, I limit my workshops to 45-60 minute chunks and offer multiple sessions. If I need to deliver fewer overall sessions, I create 90-minute chunks and offer a 5-minute break at the 45-minute mark. That's barely enough time for a break, but it seems to work.

My Content Guidelines:

  • How much of your content do you want to deliver in real-time?
  • How much content should be asynchronous: pre- or post-delivery?
  • What form of content do you want to leave people with? (slide pdf, recording, transcript, or more?)
  • Create interactions that make sense. Online interactions take longer and must differ from in-person interactions.

I have too much to say about simulations for this series. I realized I need to write some of that down, and write down a bunch about ways to debrief simulations, especially online. I'm not yet willing to do that!

My Tools Guidelines:

Your video must be on. If you want to run a workshop, ask people to turn on their videos, too.

  • Make sure, as the leader, your video is great. I recommend an external camera that's at the right height so your face fills most of the screen.
  • Don't forget to make your audio as perfect as you can. I use a wired headset with a directional mic. I have heard very few Bluetooth headsets that don't have skipping audio.
  • Familiarize yourself with all the aspects of the tool you'll use: chat, Q&A, breakout rooms, how to share your screen. All of it. Practice. Encourage your participants to practice, too.

Interactions require video. If people don't have a camera, don't do an interaction. That will change your design.

My Number of Participant Guidelines

Some people advertise “workshops” to several hundred people. They offer a little content and then put us into breakout rooms. We're supposed to learn from each other, with no facilitator. Then, we return to the main room and “debrief” our discussion.

We didn't conclude anything. We didn't resolve any of the problems for any of us.  I acted as the facilitator because too few people realize how short 5 minutes in a breakout room really is.

I've been in a couple of these “workshops” and I didn't learn anything from my peers. This could be my problem. But, I don't think I'm that unique.

I have the same problem with many “participants” as I do for longer-than-60 minutes at a time. I don't know how to integrate enough interactions to maintain everyone's interest.

I don't have a problem delivering a webinar or participating on a panel with hundreds or thousands of people. I like that. But, let's not kid ourselves. That's not a real workshop.

Series Summary

If you're asked to participate in online training, ask questions. Ask about the number of people, the outcomes, the duration of each session, and more.

Turn on your video. Verify your audio works well. Ask the leader to enhance his or her video and audio, if necessary. Ask for pre-work and homework.

And, ask for breaks. You don't have to fidget in your seat, waiting to eliminate your morning coffee or tea just because the instructor didn't think about bio breaks.

You have a right to create a situation that helps you learn, as well as helps the instructor teach. Regardless of the training mode.

The series:

Question: Would you like me to collect these, add the online simulation and debrief material I have, and create a little book? I'm not sure, based on my stats that this material is interesting to anyone but me. I do have more books in the pipeline… Thanks in advance for letting me know.

4 Replies to “Rework Online Training Part 6: My Guidelines”

  1. This series have been very useful and given me a lot of things to reflect upon. So many good tips about what to consider when moving into the online mode for workshops and training sessions. I will share with my network, I think more people will benefit from this. So, if you go ahead with a book, put me on the pre-order list straight away! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Kathy, congratulations on your upcoming class! So glad you found this helpful. I will put experiential/interactive activities on my writing list. Thanks.

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