2020 Reflections

At the end of last year I put in a budget bid to run some core training within my organisation. One of our big focuses would be Domestic Abuse and Violence Against Women and would consist of an online module and then a half a day follow up discussion and application for teams within a training room.

Like many I had no idea the 2020 would turn out like this.

My plans have gone out of the window as I’m sure a lot of yours have. As we enter the school Holidays and I sit here in quieter times, it’s given me time to reflect on what I have learned and what we’ve done differently as a result of this pandemic and lockdown. My thoughts are these:

1. We couldn’t have done it without the LMS. We have an accessible and well stocked learning management system. Along with modules that have been developed in house using subject matter experts there is a large amount of curated content; documents, YouTube, Ted talks, podcasts and other material which allow people to learn about specific subjects. Single sign on can seem expensive but it can be worth it when it removes barriers to accessing the site. All members of staff within my organisation have accessed the learning site during lockdown, including furloughed staff. Some of these have taken the opportunity to build up their knowledge using the system whilst away from the workplace ready to return.

2. People have understood that because learning isn’t face to face it doesn’t mean it’s any less relevant. There are still a large number of people in this world who believe you have to be in a training room with your coffee and, of course, a packet of biscuits. They believe there is no way you can be learning or the learning is somehow substandard. Yet from years of experience we have often seen face to face courses which result in no change to behaviours, no change to knowledge of a subject, and no effect on the issue the course was designed to address. My colleagues have understand that mentoring, shadowing, coaching, self discovery missions and even working as a subject matter expert to help curate content can be just as valid and just as relevant. Add into the mix reflective practise and suddenly the need and desire for face to face is cut back. Face to face training is still relevant for some topics and situations, but it is not everything.

3. Zoom is just a passing thing. Controversial comment!

Zoom, Teams GoTo webinar etc are being used a direct replacement where face to face training is needed, but this is not how virtual classrooms should be used. If you have a one day course on widget making then taking that course and putting it on Zoom won’t work. It is hard work just staring at a screen for a long amount of time. After a certain amount of time people will simply stop learning and the day will be wasted.

Virtual training using virtual classrooms can be good for underpinning messages and for having discussions about application or specific learning. For example recently I ran some training on infection control surrounding COVID-19 . These were targeted at specific teams and therefore each one was able to discuss how they would use what they have learned and put it into practice in their specific job roles. The whole session took no more than a couple of hours and the feedback has been very positive.

However, I also need to run Suicide First Aid training. This is a one day course delivered face to face. The trainers have said this course is not suited to delivery via a virtual classroom and therefore potentially this will be our first return to the training room.

As we are able to do more of this, in the majority of cases, Zoom will become forgotten.

4. This is not “the new normal” this is “the new now”. This is a phrase I heard on a webinar recently when somebody made the point, and quite rightly, just because we’re doing it this way right now doesn’t mean we’re going to do this forever. For so many people the cry of “oh look we can work at home, isn’t this amazing” has actually become quite stale. For some working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be. For some, who have a spare room where they can set up an office, it’s fine. For others, seeing the same four walls day in day out for both work and home is a prospect that fills them with dread. Therefore, we will be back in our offices because that is where many people want to be. As we’ve people have found they can learn using e-learning and curated content that will continue. Other methods of learning will grow as they are accepted for the value they offer and the need for face to face training may decrease or be more targeted.

If we do need face to face training, we may need to make some compromises. Social distancing will reduce the numbers of delegates who can attend courses, some rooms may be unusable due to space, delegates may have to bring their own refreshments and hand washing/sanitiser will be a must.

And anyone who predicts what will happen in 2021 will be braver than I.

Author, blogger and speaker, Bob is based in South Wales and has been working in learning and development for over 30 years. In that time he has developed learning solutions for a wide range of organisations including blue chip companies, training delivery companies and the third sector. Bob currently works for a Housing Association as a learning and development business partner. He specialises in online and blended learning solutions and regularly blogs on the subject. Contact information: https://about.me/bob.price