We Didn’t Like Online Training Until We Learned This Lesson

In the current environment, holding training courses is obviously a lot more difficult than it used to be. Some businesses are looking to switch to online delivery of training as an alternative to face-to-face, but many are understandably nervous about how effective it is.

At Bluefield, we’ve also had to make this transition as part of “Embracing the New Normal” (read how we’ve built our technology here). We talked with our partner Kepner-Tregoe (KT) to learn about their online delivery experience . They’ve shared some of their insights below:

Online Training is not Simply Face-to-Face Training Delivered by Zoom

Many businesses are under the impression that online training is delivered in exactly the same way as face-to-face, but with a video conferencing platform. We all know how our attention wavers when we’re not in the same room as the person talking. So, any attempt to go down this path with training is likely doomed to fail.

For KT, adapting their method for online delivery is even more important. Their workshops are highly interactive, involving a lot of breakout group work, including a hands-on activity as the capstone.

You would think it would be difficult to achieve the same outcomes online, however most video conferencing platforms these days allow you to create “virtual breakout rooms”, and enable collaboration via online whiteboards. KT has also been able to create an online simulator to take the place of the hands-on activity in some of their courses. The overall course outcomes can still be achieved, but in a way that takes advantage of the new technology.

One other thing that Bluefield has learned, which most other businesses have probably encountered as well, is what’s colloquially known as “Zoom Fatigue”. (Read about it here). Setting up a meeting or workshop properly is critical, including capping the length of a session to around 90 minutes max to allow for the fact that video conferencing is extremely taxing on the human brain due to the lack of non-verbal cues that we’re used to working with in a face-to-face environment (but surprisingly we can ignore on a phone call).

Technology isn’t that big of a deal

One thing that frightens most people about online training is the prospect of the technology failing or being too complicated to use. KT’s experience has been different. Taking the time to test your technology properly before you deploy is vital (Bluefield actually participated in KT’s testing process), and assigning the role of a “producer” to work alongside a facilitator to handle any technical issues during the course makes the overall experience much smoother and results in less pressure for the participants and the facilitators.

In a recent online course, 72% of the attendees reported that they’d never used the video conferencing app before. Yet only two people reported significant problems using the technology (which were quickly resolved), and only one person reported issues with audio or videos that negatively impacted their experience. Several attendees reported their surprise at how well things worked, especially the use of the interactive online whiteboard. Some comments:

  • “Virtual delivery worked very well with no major issues”
  • “Interactivity between group members was very good”
  • “Virtual workshop was surprisingly very good”
  • “Whiteboard worked very well”
  • “The online platform works better than I expected”
  • “Was great to work on a real case as a team”.

The online experience is just as rewarding

Most importantly, learners can get just as much out of an online training program as they do face-to-face. In a recent course, 78% of attendees rated the course 9 or 10 (out of 10), with only one score below 8. 100% of participants also stated they would advocate that others take the workshop.

Interestingly, KT also tracked participants’ daily ratings and feedback, and they improved each day as the course progressed. This tells us that once participants get used to the online delivery process, they start to increase their engagement and get more out of the experience.

Although we’re mostly social creatures, and enjoy the experience of learning face-to-face and working in teams, our inability to gather in a group right now shouldn’t mean stopping the investment in our people’s development. Partnering with KT to facilitate the Kepner-Tregoe Project Management suite of training, we at Bluefield have learned that there is no need to be afraid of online training – it’s much more enjoyable and more effective than you might think.