After the initial shock of lockdown earlier this year and getting used to working from home via Zoom and other assorted technologies, the College quickly started responding to online delivery of courses – both face to face and e-learning.

Top tips for online training

We already delivered some of our courses online and quite a few of the team has used blended learning – a combination of in-person teaching, online delivery and providing resources for individual learners to engage with in their own time as a way to ‘set up’ activities for subsequent face to face sessions. Here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way that help us to make sure our online workshops are engaging – not ENRAGING!

  • Don’t use tech that you yourself are unfamiliar with, or that your learners may struggle to engage with. Think about your group and adapt to their abilities. In particular, no one wants to see you faffing about trying to get to grips with some convoluted software and risking confusing the entire group – the focus should be on making the activity interactive and appealing. If this can be done in a simple way, just stick with that! You don’t want the group’s lasting memory of the training to be your battles with the IT. Here at the College we regularly use tools such as mentimeter and padlet boards.
  • When delivering training online, don’t hide behind a slide show! There’s always a temptation to put up slides as a visual prompt or as a way to avoid being on camera. However, it’s best to use slides sparingly, and make sure to stick to the rule of talking for no longer than 5 minutes before engaging the group in another activity or interaction – ‘Death by Powerpoint’ isn’t just limited to face-to-face presentations – your learners have signed up for an online workshop, not a webinar!
  • Try not to confuse your participants with complicated instructions for activities – break it down into chunks or steps and even demonstrate what you’d like them to do by sharing your screen. For example, don’t send people off into a ‘breakout’ room before they know why they’re there, how long they have got or what they’re supposed to be doing. The danger is they’ll just go off-topic and have a (justifiable) moan about how they don’t know what’s expected of them.
  • Provide space for participants to learn from each other and share their own experiences, just as you would in a face-to-face workshop. Learners will have lots of experience and knowledge they can bring to the session and will be much less likely to doze off or get distracted if there’s plenty of opportunity to get involved.
  • Check in with your participants regularly to make sure they’re happy with pace and content - you can do this through discreet ‘knowledge checks’ and asking questions about the subjects and activities covered so far.
  • Make sure you’re in a room where there are no interruptions or distractions with both a suitable background and lighting. There’s nothing more disruptive than background noise or poor quality video - it makes it hard for people to engage if they can’t see or hear you properly. Whilst the odd unintended comedy interruption from a free-range child or pet might be amusing in a meeting with colleagues, it’s probably not a good look when delivering training externally! Here's a great blog that we really liked on setting up your own perfect home workspace too.
  • Online teaching has different implications for people’s privacy. Avoid making personal comments about people’s homes that you may be able to see in the background – not everyone is open to decorating tips or a critique of their style choices. This also extends to taking screenshots of your group for social media or recording the sessions. Explain what the recording or pictures will be used for (for monitoring or publicity etc) and make sure that you have permission – always give people the choice to opt out, particularly in light of GDPR!

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