“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King (1925-2015, American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and record producer).
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented teleworking, including banks that used to disallow this for security reasons. In-person staff development training programme came to a halt for a while, then picked up virtually.
Staff development training is still arguably necessary in today’s world because competitiveness and changes are our society’s norms. Therefore, employers should continue providing this even during a lockdown or when their employees work from home. Governments in developed nations subsidise and consider such expense tax-deductible, which is an additional enticement. Though online training may not be cheaper as companies expect and more manageable as learners or participants like it to be, it is worthwhile.
Online training requires at least as much effort and time, and sometimes even more. Trainers need to buy or update their equipment, adjust their practices and style, and deal with disturbances from students’ family situations and technological hiccups. I have heard stories of participants cooking, texting, and feeding cats while on language training. It’s not the moment to multitask! I must admit that I cut my nails and did aerobics during boring webinars that did not allow participants to ask questions (guilty as charged!).
Virtual training can mirror only some face-to-face interactions (i.e. trainers going around the classroom and having water cooler conversation during breaks are impossible to reproduce).
How can teleworkers make the most of their online staff development training? My answer is WALPAH:
W – Working technology – A (hu) “man is only as good as his tools” is especially true when you are training online: high-speed internet connection, a computer or modern laptop, camera, microphone headset, mouse, etc. (Do you say “I’ve two mouses or two mice? I.T. specialists seem to prefer the former, but the latter is correct, even if this sounds like you’ve pets instead of handheld devices on a flat surface in front of your computer).
A – Avoid absences and late attendance (However, better late than never).
L – Learning space should be quiet and tidy.
P – Participate – ask questions and make comments to the trainer and other participants.
A – Adapt your learning style – take notes, listen to everyone, read shared messages, and discuss personal views.
H – Have fun – smile, share appropriate jokes and anecdotes.
How about trainers’ best practice? (I couldn’t come up with an acronym; perhaps you can help me with this).
1. Know and prepare your technology – Ensure a stable Internet connection, clean monitor, working camera and microphone, and mobile and laptop ready on the side in case the main computer fails.
2. Conduct the training in a quiet, disturbance-free and professional-looking environment.
3. Choose a platform that allows for interactivity – Use whiteboard annotations, chat and breakout groups (dividing learners into small groups of two or three).
4. Start the training by welcoming the participants, then providing them with a clear understanding of the session’s scope and content.
5. Meaningful experience – Call participants by their names. When the training is finished, encourage them to share contact information and continue improving their knowledge and skills.
Involve everyone throughout the training by prompting them to ask questions and share anecdotes and knowledge related to the activity.
6. Stick to the schedule – Your participants are professionals who have work and family commitments; therefore, start and end the session on time.
“For the best return on your money, pour your purse into your head.” – Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790, stateman – helped draft the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution)