We all know that ‘social’ and ‘e-something’ makes the world turn these days, but for some of us it can lead us to being in a bit of a tizz. We might know it’s here, and there’s more of it coming, but not necessarily how to overcome fears, knowledge or skills gap. I’ve been on this journey and I’d like to share some experiences and ideas so that you might have an easier journey.

But I don’t want to!

The very first thing, and perhaps the elephant in the room, has to be attitude. If you’re dead against anything new or technical, don’t have an open mindset and don’t know why things can’t be the same as always, then there’s no point reading on: you aren’t ready and that’s a whole other thing to tackle.

If you feel you have an open mind and you’re a little inquisitive to know about new stuff, even though you might feel out of your depth or just downright scared, reflect on what you feel and why. For instance, I was resistant to looking into live online delivery, sometimes known as virtual classrooms, as I felt it would be taking me away from the face to face learning interventions I loved so much. In short, I didn’t see how a computer could allow me to do the same thing as being in a room with people.

Exactly, I want to focus on the people!

The thing I eventually realised was that the online classroom is still about people. That felt quite a breakthrough when I thought about it, but might seem somewhat obvious as you read this. True, with live online training delivery I can’t see the people in front of me, I can’t read their body language throughout a session and it can feel like I’m speaking to no-one when I’ve got my headset on whilst looking at the computer. However, there are people at the other end of the computer. They are listening and responding. So everything I do, from design to delivery, is still about actual, real people. Once I had this in my head, and I had experienced effective and creative, excellent quality live online training, I was hooked.

What is excellent quality though?

In a nutshell, quality online classroom sessions are the same as any face to face learning interventions: it’s being focused on the performance needs of the organisation, the behaviour change and knowledge gap of the attendees; it’s ensuring that the session is tightly focused to these goals, is interesting, lively, interactive and centred on each learner as an individual, without lecturing to them. This is all stuff you do every day for every session. When it comes to the online element, it’s just layering on new knowledge and skills to do the same thing.

But therein lies the problem…

Online classroom technology is just another thing to learn, like PowerPoint instead of transparencies and overhead projectors. If you’ve never attended webinars before go and sign up for a few of these with different organisations (such as the Corporate eLearning Consortium, the Learning Performance Institute (LPI) and the Learning Skills Group for a start). You will see some good, bad and downright ugly. You’ll see a variety of software being used and you’ll get used to the different features as a delegate and what you like or dislike in terms of delivery technique.

One small step…

After that, it’s about what you want to do as a next step and what your organisation needs. If you know that your organisation is going down the route of delivering live online training – as it can have such a huge impact on cost and time savings – then you need to start looking at how you can embrace that. One way is obviously to get training in online facilitation or design, with somewhere such as the LPI. I deliver both of these qualifications and really enjoy supporting people who attend with worries of not knowing if online delivery can ever possibly emulate their face to face sessions – especially when they leave enthused for this way forward.

Other ways are to look up blogs with hints and tips on how to develop your technical and online facilitation and design skills. There are also a number of books you can purchase that will give you excellent overviews of how to start working in an online environment.

If there are people in your organisation or network (be that the Corporate or Charity Learning Consortium, LinkedIn, Twitter or something else) that know a bit more than you, or have complimentary experiences, try to buddy up with them for some support, training or coaching.

And lastly, it’s about having lots of fun practicing, because that is what will make these knowledge pieces and skills permanent for you and give you confidence.

Jo Cook

Jo Cook is a freelance L&D professional with nearly 20 years experience in the industry. Currently Jo is a Facilitator for the Learning and Performance Institute, delivering their Certified Online Learning Facilitator (COLF) and Certificate in Designing Online Learning (CDOL) qualifications – all delivered online! With a background in Further and Higher Education, small business, the charity sector as well as large multi-nationals, Jo draws upon a broad experience to connect the L&D dots.