Over the last six months we have seen a significant increase in the number of requests for one off classroom events and online conferences. We have tons of material for technical leads, facilitators, event managers but little if no guidance for the learner other than the standard tool Quick Reference Guides.

This is a big change for some in how learning takes place, especially for the older generation who are more used to face to face contact for work, learning and socialising. Before I reinvent the wheel ... has anyone produced guidance, best practice, support documentation etc specifically for the learner, particulary around the areas of:
- developing a mindset of continuous learning where virtual learning is the norm (being open-minded, change agile, learning/sharing/innovating)
- online etiquette - behaviours expected of a virtual learner, ( including what's appropriate in a virtual classroom/conference as opposed to in social media)
- the benefits of virtual learning (flexibility, optimize technology, green, reduced travel, reduced non-billable time)
- getting the most from virtual learning (developing existing or new skills - active listening and engagement, participation etc)

Regards,
Caroline

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Hi Caroline
We're coming at it from the other angle - the facilitator. I'm sure you've already tackled this, but our approach currently is that we need to ensure our webinars are engaging, interactive and effective enough that people see the benefits and are 'pulled' into taking part. A huge part of the resistance (amongst young and old) is, I think, due to the fact that a lot of e-learning is more like e-lecturing - by dealing with that, our learners are better able to see the value, get involved, and opt in rather than opt out.
No specific guidance for e-learners here (we do have some for e-moderators), so sorry to not have directly answered your question, but I hope that helps.
Hi,

Thanks Andrew for your comments. We are overun with advice for Facilitators and as you say we invest a lot of time upfront with presenters trying to ensure they consider the session from the users perspective.

But for the learners we have found little information on how they can optimise the experience and get the most of out of a session.
In the past, I've not so much concentrated on preparing learners for virtual training from the holistic sense, but have focussed on providing good supporting resources for each individual webinar event.

So akin to the workbook that you might provide during a face-to-face classroom event, I've produced a webinar participants guide for each session.

Typically, this will include:

* The joining instructions - even though they will usually appear in the session invitation e-mail, as it's amazing how many people forget to look there and it's good to give people this again in a different format.

* An overview of the webinar tools that will be used.

* An overview of the session. This will not usually include the full slideshow if used, as (a) the preference has been to not share those beforehand and (b) actually, the most interactive of webinars doesn't need a lot of slides - it's more about the excercises you run.

* The session ground rules, which will also pick up on etiquette items.

* Step-by-step guides to any activities that will be undertaken, including use of the relevant webinar tools, as people can quickly become overwhelmed the first time they receive an activity briefing in a virtual setting.

* Space to write notes, complete reflective (offline) activities, jot down thoughts and action plan items

* Information about further resources for additional information.

Hope this helps.

One other tip I can share, is to start simple with specific groups of learners. I used to support a blended programme that comprised of two webinars and a mid-term face-to-face workshop. For most learners, the programme kick-off webinar was their first experience of these. So unsurprisingly these weren't always the smoothest of sessions. But for the second webinar, with just the experience they had from the previous one, things went much better. So now, I keep the format simple for new groups, gradually extending the session design to include more interactive components, as the group becomes more experienced.

Tim
Thanks Tim for this. Some really useful points here which I have been able to incorporate in the What to do before the session.
Hello - I've done this for a number of clients recently. I work in Learning Solutions, predominantly for managerial level. There's some great sources of information out there - but having delivered over 200 virtual classroom sessions and webinars, there's lots you can do. Contact me directly on braidy@hotmail.com to start a dialogue.
Caroline,

I haven't done many webinars, but I've facilitated other types of online learning going back to phone-only "teletraining." For learners unused to webinars (which I'm reading as live events), I see these questions:

(1) What's in it for me?
(2) How does this thing work?
(3) When do I start learning something?

What's in it for me?

My experience tells me that the average learner / participant / employee has virtually no interest in the underlying technology. The fact that it's a webinar is about as important as the brand name of the computer that the facilitator uses.

Thus a lot of talk about how to be in a webinar, no matter how well-intentioned, distracts from the idea that presumably I'm going to learn something I think is useful.

Consider the much-maligned in-person lecture. If you find the content sufficiently compelling ("how to negotiate a huge pay raise"), you'll gladly put up with a relatively dull presenter and out-of-the-template PowerPoint.

So my suggestion on this front would be to offer a brief, specific guide to how the webinar might work -- say via a show-and-tell demo like this one for Evernote.

How does this thing work?

During the webinar, of course, participants aren't going to recall everything they saw in such a demo. How do I raise my hand? Can I go back to some visual I saw earlier? Can I say something privately to the facilitator? To another participant?

This kind of procedural support needs to be available during the webinar in a form that the participant can use. One idea is to make a short online job aid based on questions from actual participants (bceause you do pilot this thing with typical learners, right?). Then, instead of a lot of blather about how the webinar software makes things easy, helps you learn, and prevents dental cavities, the participant has something like:
- How to change the size of the screen
- How to ask a question
- How to control the sound
- How to send a private message

When do I start learning something?

I think that many designers (like me) and many presenters (like me) have an almost irresistible urge to overexplain. We know a lot about the knowledge and skills in question, and we just love sharing what we know -- in part because we enjoy the knowing, and we figure that others will, too.

It's a natural error to make.

But just as learning is in the mind of the learner, so too is value. In the world of work, I believe that participants value things that look like they'll make a difference in how they do their jobs.

The sooner you get to where people are doing things that look like useful work, the better.

In a classroom-training exercise, I once had to walk newcomers through a startlingly complicated process to set their computers up so they could access a report-generation system on a company mainframe. The pilot test helped me understand not only the pitfalls of the process, but also the potential value of one particular report.

That allowed me, in the resulting segment, to frame it appropriately:

(1) Next I'm going to guide you through some complicate steps.
(2) It'll take about 25 minutes for this stuff.
(3) When we're done, you'll be able to print a management invoice.

(Previously, printing that invoice involved a telephone request to someone in another city. One participant literally jumped out of his seat and said, "God-DAMN! You've just saved me three hours a week!")
Hi Caroline -
I like your eLearning ethos.
We need to be more pro-active and less re-active.
So - if we have good new media induction design and feedback methodology in place then
the eLearning support system has a better chance.
We are doing some research in designs for interactive webcast interviews.
Please find some info about a JISC proposal we just submitted at
http://www.elearning.mdx.ac.uk/research/#Innovations_
We are always looking for R & D project partners for our Work Based Learning bids.
cheers
Dr. Anthony 'Skip' Basiel
There are situations in which I think reactive is the better way to go. For example, we have a tendency to try to second guess how things are going to pan out when we implement a change process. So we expend enormous amounts of resources on developing learning solutions to address this or that aspect. Then, when the change is implemented, we see people struggling with things we hadn't thought they would find problematic, and sailing through the things we thought they'd struggle with.

Sometimes, a bedding down period can shed light on where learning resources are actually needed. It might also leave the space for some user generated content, which too much pro-active provision might stifle.

However, this approach needs to be handled carefully so as not to leave users feeling abandoned. A transparent comms provision from the outset goes a long way towards helping here.
Hi Caroline

I think this is vital. I think being up front about it is essential. Mastering the technology is essential or it will be a barrier to learning. It doesn't need to be a major event - it could be short, fun, familiarisation sessions. I have just got an iphone. I downloaded a photography app this morning on the way to work and in 20 minutes I had created a stunning image. There was a 1 minute video showing me what to do. I have photoshop skills, so it was building on existing knowledge. I am still amazed at iphone technology, My reflection this morning was how quickly things are moving. I think there is a big "reassuring job" to be done where people are hesitant and fearful of the technology. If you get can convert some "oldies" as role models it would help.

Monica
Caroline

You are correct there are competencies (knowledge, skills, attitudes) that learners need to enable them to effectively engage with virtual learning and development activities. I recently become aware of these through my investigations into effective e-mentoring and coaching.

I am currently undertaking some preliminary research which I will write up and distribute shortly but if you are interested in engaging in my preliminary research please contact me on cpdservices@yahoo.co.uk or telephone me on 01279 725622.

I would also be interested in hearing from anyone else who is interested in engaging in my research.
Hi,

Please give me a call on +44 (0) 7841 563 259 as I would be happy to help if I can.

Kind Regards,
Caroline
Hi Caroline,
I have come to this a bit late but wanted to share what we are doing. We have recently started offering a number of our technical courses through a virtual classroom environment. The existing face-to-face classes have has their agendas adapted so that the classes are split over a greater number of days but fewer hours per day. In addition to this we run a "Welcome session" before the official class start date. This gives the students and trainer the opportunity to "meet" each other, get used to the alien environment and make sure that they have everything they need to get started with the learning on the first day.
We are experiencing some reluctance at the moment but it is early days. We are definitely learning as we go. A key benefit of virtual learning for my colleagues in the US has been the reduced travel cost. In Europe we are not finding this such a powerful driver therefore we are focusing on other benefits such as time away from home/office, incorporating training into the working day, more time to reflect on what has been learnt etc.
I would be interested to know what you finally come up with as it may help us to continuosuly improve what we are doing.

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