Pros and cons of online training
In the first lockdown my training work, (usually face-to-face, usually in London) completely dried up. It seems that everybody was just waiting for COVID to go away. Well, we know how that went!
During the latter part of the year, I began to see my training moving online. I started off using the new technology a bit nervously, like everybody else, but gradually discovered advantages as well as disadvantages when comparing online training with face-to-face courses. Some of the differences are both!
- To avoid “Zoom fatigue”, I can deliver training in short modules lasting an hour or so. This would not be practical if I had to travel to the client, but it’s easy from my home office!
- I can switch between views, so I might be talking face-to-face onscreen, or sharing a PowerPoint presentation or an Excel workbook. This lets me mix things up nicely and helps with varying the pace. In a meeting room, the distinction between general discussion, focused exposition, demonstration and student participation is much less clear.
- When screen-sharing, each attendee has my screen on their own computer, so I know they can all see clearly. No-one is sitting “at the back of the room”! Equally, I use a headset for talking, so it’s easier on the voice and external noise is minimised.
- Both Zoom and Teams have breakout rooms, so if I want participants to discuss something in smaller groups, I can send them into different “rooms” and visit each room to see how they are getting on.
- The commute is easy – and cheap!
- “Zoom fatigue” is real. When you’re juggling the meeting platform, with participants, chat, a shared screen, running PowerPoint and working on an Excel workbook, it can be pretty full-on! I make sure we take regular breaks and advise participants to get away from the computer and move around. I also advocate the use of shorter training sessions of between one and three hours.
- It can be harder to keep people engaged. On these platforms, users may mute themselves or turn off their video cameras. If they do both, they are effectively invisible, and I have no way of knowing if they are still there, apart from asking a direct question verbally or in chat.
- If I’m doing a full day’s training, my headset is pretty hard on my ears. Two days on the trot – ouch!
On the whole, then, I’m enjoying the move to online training and, as I do more, feel it will only get better. To take advantage of the different ways of working, I have been taking all my training files and getting them into a better form for presenting in this way. Today I just finished re-structuring an Advanced Excel course, which I will be presenting in a couple of days.
Watch this space – I’ll let you know how it goes!