How To Make Online Training Really Tricky

I love helping virtual teams to work better together, and to develop their skills.

It turns out that the ability to ask good questions, and listen well, are fundamental building blocks of great remote collaboration – and since that’s essentially what I’ve been teaching for years under the heading of “Clean Language”, I’ve slotted right in.

In setting up the online learning environment, I use what I know about how bodies, as well as brains, think. And so when I take on a job, I tend to get quite specific about what needs to be in place.

Face-to-face learning is easier when students have natural light, space to move about, fresh-air breaks etc – but trainers don’t get those things without asking for them. By default, in my experience, you get a dingy overcrowded space with no windows, a noisy kitchen next door, dodgy central heating… and unhappy students.

So a call from a fellow trainer was interesting. “I did my first training online with this group and it was really difficult. A mutual friend says you know how to do this stuff well. I’m on again in two hours. What tips can you give me?”

Turned out, he’d been given a really difficult training environment – and hadn’t thought to challenge the set-up.

He was expected to train two groups of students in different locations. Three in one place, nine in another. And in each location, the students were all in one room, with one shared, fixed-location microphone and one video screen.

The result was that he couldn’t see or hear most of his students properly, even when they were sitting “classroom style”. He was a Big Brother-style persona on a big video screen, looking down on the class. When they broke up to do exercises, he hadn’t a clue what was going on. No wonder it wasn’t going well for him.

I gave him a few ideas about how he could help himself on his next call. But what seemed to make him happiest was the realisation that he was probably doing OK, given a really tricky situation.

My advice for the future? Pay at least as much attention to the online learning environment as you would face-to-face. Set up nice, clear comms, so everyone can see and hear each other clearly. Everyone needs their own desk, a decent internet connection, and their own computer, webcam and headset… just for starters.

  • Feel free to share your experiences of online training nightmares in the comments field below!

3 thoughts on “How To Make Online Training Really Tricky”

  1. Some observations:

    You need to be a master of the technology or have one working with you. Practice.

    Training about computer based applications requires a standardised and simplified vocabulary.

    Many of your visual clues and cues may not visible to your trainee. Even if they are, they don’t have the same visual awareness as a face to face encounter.

    If the trainee is working family kitchen. Tell them to call back later.

  2. I have worked online for many years. And love the experience, even if it can turn stressful.
    I’ve realized that some of the most common problems are:
    – a lousy internet connection (so ask attendees, if possible, to connect to the router with a cable)
    – many attendees are not aware of the “oops” of internet, and do not take the time to make sure they understand that there are things that the facilitator cannot work on (eg: the attendee’s connection)
    – many attendees do not read the instructions and attempt to have a great experience without going through the prerequisites

    I always recommend:
    Make sure you are comfortable, there is good light, you have water, tea, coffee, or any snack you may need.
    Having a 15min break at the middle of a 3 hour session
    Sessions should not be over 3 hours. People get tired with longer sessions. You can divide a day into two blocks of 3 hours, and give people at least 2 to disconnect.
    Make sure you are in a silent space without interruptions
    And of course… Start on time!!!! And end on time!!!!

  3. Alison Broder

    When working online, all the above important but what really makes a great experience for both myself and the client is avoiding resting witch face (when I am concentrating on the screen rather than the person on the screen), and ensuring that my body language and facial expression are positive at all times.

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