“I’m a real digital fan now, and this is coming from someone who loves face-to-face,” says Tina Harris, learning specialist at Stellar Labs.
The migration to digital technologies has been accelerated by the pandemic. Some learning professionals, like Tina, have taken to the transition. But some people are still floundering and could do with a steer from those who have made a success of the switch.
Which is why I’ve come to Tina to get the inside story. She has successfully changed her ways of working and knows exactly what it takes to design, facilitate and participate online. So what helped Tina to embrace digital?
“Understanding that, however you deliver it, the science of learning is the same. The principles are the same. You just have different challenges and advantages in each modality,” she says.
As lead designer and facilitator within Stellar Labs for Train Smarter, our train-the-trainer programme, Tina not only teaches people how to be a better trainer, but shows how exhilarating truly effective training can be.
From a digital perspective, utilising the platform it to its full extent has been a gamechanger for Tina. “It’s about getting learners engaged in using the platform themselves, rather than it just being a place where the trainer shares information.”
First step, says Tina, is to set the scene. “I’ll introduce myself on video and encourage the learners to use the platform to debate with each other. This immediately sparks off conversations and makes it their space. It becomes a social place to have a discussion within a specific field on a particular topic. Some will take to it quicker than others, of course, but the more people use it within the group, the more popular it becomes.”
As a facilitator, Tina is a big fan of the chat window where participants can type their questions and comments during a session. “People can throw questions at me the whole time without actually interrupting. I can pull their input from chat at my own pace. I choose how and when I answer, and what happens next.”
Making the most of the chat function also helps with connection. “Initially, I was concerned whether you could get that connection with people online,” says Tina. But she soon discovered that, in some ways, digital actually has the edge over face-to-face.
“People who don’t always engage vocally really engage via chat,” says Tina. If you encourage participants to type their contributions you’ll gain access to those who may not have spoken up in a physical classroom. Of course those who are happier to make their contributions verbally are also catered for and can, quite literally, have their say when unmuted on the mic.
The key to getting the most from online learning is to ensure your learners feel comfortable with the technology early on, Tina advises. As well as typing in chat and contributing via audio, learners can also use tools to annotate slides, vote in a poll, and much more. “I introduce the tools as part of an exercise and get them to ‘click this and do that’. It’s about starting early, providing options and being consistent. And responding well to whatever interactivity you get.”
So what are Tina’s other tips to increase engagement when delivering live online?
“It’s the presence of the facilitators. It’s all the stuff we know from face-to-face but sometimes stop applying because we’ve gone on to a digital framework and think it doesn’t apply in that situation – but it does.
“I always stand. From an energy perspective, that makes a difference. I definitely notice that people sit up a little bit more when I do that. I use their names. And I put them in breakout rooms to talk about a subject, then ask them to feedback their discussions in the chat window. It’s about mixing it up,” says Tina.
“As a facilitator, I find digital equally rewarding as face-to-face. I’m definitely engaged and I’m still learning, like everyone else. That’s the thing with digital. It continues to evolve; it continues to change.”
Which is why it’s important to develop your own learning agility and embark on training programmes that allow you to stay on track in Industry 4.0. You’ll find a comprehensive range of courses at Stellar Labs. Take a look and let us help you thrive.