In 2020 the learning landscape looks completely different.  Training is now predominantly online, and facilitators have had to adapt, and adapt quickly to ensure that they can still deliver their training effectively.

In my experience it isn’t quite as simple as choosing the right platform and technology.  The greater challenges lie in figuring out how to motivate and engage learners online.

I have always relished a training room situation where you can actively engage with students.  You can observe body language, and non-verbal cues and adapt on the go to ensure that the message is being delivered and understood.

Challenges to be faced

How do you get your energy across in the online world?  Will my training be as effective?  How will I engage and motivate the learners?  What if they are not engaged?    These are some of the questions I was asked during a course on how to facilitate learning online.

One of the biggest challenges is that of building rapport with students and finding ways to develop an online community, recognising the value of peer to peer learning.   In a face-to-face situation, it is easy to pick up learners’ physiology and cues when they need a break, whether they understand the information being shared or not.  In the online arena is it more difficult to identify participants that maybe struggling.   It is a fact that the meaning of the communication is the response that you get.  In the online world it is more challenging to pick up those signs, and energies, the vibe and the response that you get.

I have facilitated my own online courses to businesses and universities, co-facilitated courses with a colleague to assist other trainers to facilitate effectively on-line and I have completed a PG Diploma in Executive Management in AIT. My experience also comes from being an online learner myself.

In my experience the big benefit as a learner is the convenience through which we can access courses in the comfort of our own home without having to fight the traffic after a busy day in the office or in the training room in my case.

Learning online allows us to access courses from anywhere in the world and in turn we, as business owners can sell our wares to customers worldwide.  My first experience of online learning was in 2008 when I took a year-long mentoring programme with Bob Proctor training as a life success consultant.  This followed a week-long live in person training starting at 6am with Yoga on the beach in West Palm Beach in south Florida – an amazing experience.  In this case the physical interaction and connection had already taken place and this made the online experience easier. The was definitely a combination that worked for me.

The move to online and blended learning was happening organically but has been accelerated as a result of the current climate.  If done correctly it could be the new normal.

Many facilitators, lecturers and trainers are now embracing online as the way forward, however many are struggling to engage, motivate and communicate effectively with their learners which means the students are left wanting.

The Technology Issue

For many trainers, the biggest concern and priority in this emergency are which platforms to use and more importantly how to manage the variety of functions during the session.  Instead of standing in front of a training room or lecture hall, the trainer is now juggling  presenting, engaging, managing a chat box, slides, and the inevitable tech failures.

There are so many choices when it comes to online platforms and making that decision can be challenging.  The natural instinct is to look at the platforms and their features first, however I advise a different approach.  Start with what you want to achieve; the training plan, the objectives, the audience, their motivation and what they want to get from the training, bearing in mind some of the guiding principles of good facilitation; engaging the learner, motivation and communication and from there select the platform.

Online is less forgiving

Many don’t realise that delivering online training requires more from the facilitator than in a live session.  Online is less forgiving in many ways.

In my experience as a learner, some of the big issues are lecturers ‘telling’ and ‘lecturing’, which is often ineffective in terms of learning.  The training needs to be learner centred to be effective.    Consistency among lecturers and facilitators in larger organisations can reduce unnecessary stress and workload for learners who are also grappling with new technology and ways of engaging.

What is different about online versus face-to-face learning?  As a facilitator it can be daunting when you are presenting to what can feel like a blank screen, it can feel like your energy and effort is going into the ether.  In addition, online delivery is less forgiving than face-to-face as many lectures are recorded and the lack of preparation by a facilitator is more obvious.

From the learners’ perspective having good broadband and tools is essential.  It is well worth sending out a list of requirements including broadband speeds, headphones and computers.

Finding ways to get to know your students is vitally important to online facilitation.  Help learners feel important, through listening and providing a platform through which people can communicative can make the difference in an online space just like it can in a face to face training room.  

Currently delivering online courses there is more prestart work which includes links to tutorials on the platform, links to live sessions, providing and overview of the content, the time commitment and how it will evolve.  This method of drip-feeding information will help to engage learners.

Too much ‘lecturing’ disengages learners, in other words leaners needs to be part of the process just as they are in a face-to-face environment.  

With online facilitation there is a big increase in the amount of time involved in the pre-start and if this is done correctly, it will make all the difference in the learner’s experience.   Breakout rooms are a fantastic way to engage learners on-line just like group exercises in a face-to-face learning environment.  Recognising the different learner’s styles and incorporating it into the learning plan can add great value to the outcomes. 

Top Tips for online facilitation

  1. Communicate the content and time commitment in the prestart communication
  2. Carry out a training needs analysis/pre start survey to get to know the participants in advance
  3. Ensure the learners are familiar with the technology, send you a tutorial on the platform in advance
  4. Build an online community among the learners
  5. Engage with participants through activities and discussion
  6. If using an online training platform ensure there is order and structure to the lessons and notes
  7. Capture feedback on an ongoing basis

Online delivery is less forgiving, do what you say you are going to do!

If you are interested in transitioning to online learning please feel free to get in touch. email;