I have long harboured a desire to become virtual and I don’t mean become an avatar (I did that at the BT TalkZone in the Millenium Dome at the turn of the century and I ended up looking like ET). What interests me is the ability to do training, coaching, focus groups and the like, conveniently, cheaply and virtually. Three years ago we did some tests to find out whether group training could be delivered live on line. After several attempts, with a number of providers, we had to conclude it couldn’t.
That was then, this is now. Technology has moved on. No longer does the internet connection disintegrate or suffer from interminable delay; software providers have been busy developing technologies that cater for a blend of media and accommodate group interactivity. All this means the time is right to deliver great sessions live and online.
This isn’t e- learning, which has its place but limited application and effectiveness. With live, online training we have a trainer, facilitator, presenter or coach working live with groups. Interactivity has improved so we can have discussion, experiential activity and breakout sessions. We can challenge, stimulate, collaborate and create. People can at last be successfully be engaged.
However, as with most new ideas there are problems; some early providers are switching people off to the possibilities. Death by PowerPoint is as prevalent in the virtual world as the actual one and zero interaction (apart from the obligatory poll) is the norm. Poor practice by some trainers is leaving learners confused and alienated. This new world requires a new approach and, as an experience trainer of many years, I can tell you it does need a new set of skills to complement the existing ones.
There is evidence that people are engaged by this form of training and find it less stressful than live sessions and it certainly has proved more effective than e-learning – but of course, only when it is done well. It takes skill, imagination and a passion for engaging learners in the session. And there is nothing new or virtual about those things!