In the last few years, Corndel has designed and delivered hundreds of launch events and workshops for learners on our leadership and digital skills training courses. Often the culmination of many months’ hard work tailoring the programme and diligently enrolling learners, launch day is a positive, forward-looking occasion.
Whether run face-to-face as part of a blended learning model, or delivered remotely, the launch enables the new cohort of learners to get to know one another as well as meeting their Professional Development Expert (PDE) coach. Our learners are generally full of anticipation about the programme and how it will unlock their personal development and career aspirations.
Covid-19 – and the start of when business became anything but usual.
Clients who had opted for face-to-face launches and workshops suddenly needed them to be delivered remotely so the learners could start their programmes.
For example, a cohort of employees from a leading insurance firm were embarking on an 18-month Data Analytics Diploma programme, delivered by Corndel. A week before the launch, businesses across the UK were starting to make preparations for the now inevitable disruption of the coronavirus pandemic. Our client was no different, trialing homeworking and testing technology to enable work to continue uninterrupted.
Over the coming days, we worked in close partnership with our client to move the pre-planned in-person launch event and workshop to an online platform, where all participants, including Corndel Coaches and Facilitators, were home-based. We set about creating a virtual learner experience that, although different, was no less valuable than a face-to-face event.
A similar situation was unfolding at a major Swiss bank, where the majority of staff were asked to work from home following government advice. To maintain continuity, we worked quickly with our client to switch the arranged face-to-face workshops to interactive online sessions and enable their learners to get started on their data analytics learning journey as planned.
Moving a training event online – tips and reflections from our expert facilitators and coaches
- Availability. As employees adjust to working from home, often juggling shared workspace and childcare, it’s important to be mindful of making your training events easily accessible. It’s suddenly trickier for participants to slot into rigid schedules during a period when everyone is having to make last minute adjustments to their usual working patterns.
Tip: Consider running the same session multiple times on different days and at different times.
- Timing. This is a critical element to think through. Try to run sessions in slots of 45 minutes, each followed by a 15-minute break. For example, if you are running a 3-hour workshop, adapt the content so it can be covered in three 45-minute sessions. In our experience, this structure keeps energy levels high and maximises engagement.
Tip: Keep the webinar running during breaks so participants don’t need to rejoin each time they return to the session.
- Responsiveness. Where possible, it is helpful to have someone to keep an eye on the chat function so the facilitator can respond to the learners immediately. This is important when trying to replicate a face-to-face experience. When someone asks a question, it makes them feel more engaged if the response is instant, effectively bringing people ‘into the room’, in the moment.
Tip: Use the notepad (Microsoft Teams) or an equivalent tool to ‘park’ questions during the session, in the same way you would use a flip chart in a training room.
- Interactivity. There are a number of highly effective tools out there that enable you to engage your participants. It’s worth shopping around for the tool that best suits your needs. For example, live polls and break-out rooms work brilliantly for a larger group. You might also need to consider shaping your content a little to suit the new online format. What discussions were you planning to have? How can you best encourage everyone to participate? Can you break your content into bite sized chunks followed by interactive elements? By using all the functionality available, even those who wouldn’t ordinarily like to speak up in the room are comfortable to ask questions and actively participate.
Tip: Look for a platform where you can have a private chat with participants – this is useful for individual queries and questions.
- Visibility is important. First, we make sure everyone has their camera on for the introductions. Seeing one another at the start makes a big difference in building rapport in a virtual space. As facilitators, we keep our cameras on for the whole session, but the important bit is breaking the ice at the start and seeing who else is taking part. When people are working from home, observing their ‘new office’ surroundings often proves to be a light-hearted topic of conversation and builds rapport. Secondly, we update the slides for breaks and lunch as the session progresses. If we say we are going to take a ten-minute break, we update the slide to state the time to come back so it remained visible for everyone. The same applies for the practical elements of the workshop. Where we ask for learners to work independently and give a timeframe of say 10-15 minutes, we either display a timer or play some music during this window so learners know the session is still running/hasn’t timed out.
Tip: Encourage interaction early on in the session. Research shows that those who speak in the early stages of a meeting are more likely to contribute throughout.
Over the last few weeks, we have seen first-hand how hard people are willing to work to re-work logistics so their employees can still benefit from highly valuable pre-planned learning and development. If you would like to discuss any issues related to working at home and remote meetings, or more broadly around wellbeing and managing a dispersed team, we are here to share our experiences and offer advice.
“Thank you guys for adapting this session for us – it worked really well.” Learner, Insurance firm
“Just wanted to say a huge thanks for a really great first workshop session, the SQL that was covered with us today is something I can already apply within my day to day activity.” Learner, Swiss bank
“This is a really important initiative for Hogarth. It’s important that we carry on with the programme during these times. The course content is strong, the programme is valuable and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact it has. Thank you to Corndel for turning this around and enabling us to launch this virtually.” Richard Glasson, CEO, Hogarth