Friday, 5 June 2020

7 tips to win with Online Instructor-Led Training

Virtual classroom illustration

Authorby Dr Richard Diston

Training is changing. Being in a classroom understandably isn't top of many people's list of things to do right now. Online Instructor-Led training is a viable alternative if you follow these seven tips.

Due to the pandemic, many businesses have had to change the ways that they operate. The training industry is especially affected. Training is a people business, and the best training providers build strong relationships with their customers through positive learning experiences. Great environments, great trainers, great content.

Now might not feel like the right time to be staying in a hotel or sitting close up to a bunch of strangers every day for a week. But remember that your career goals don’t care about COVID. Our society, economy and businesses are going to recover, and we all need to prepare for the opportunities that this will bring us.

Given the understandably reduced appetite for classroom training right now, online instructor-led training needs to be considered as a viable option. E-learning is a great tool, but the ability to actually engage with the instructor during the delivery makes a huge difference. 

So what can you do the make sure that this is the right option for you? How can you make sure that you get the same positive experience that you would get in the classroom? Here’s 7 things you can do.

1. Commit

If you’ve decided on an online instructor-led training course, you need to commit. Don’t perceive it as less effective than classroom delivery. It absolutely isn’t, and you want the same end result. If you put in less effort than you would in a classroom, you are less likely to get what you need out of it.

2. Prepare your learning space. 

I recommend that you clear your desk of all distractions. Having a tidy place to learn can really make a difference. Make sure that you find somewhere comfortable and quiet to take your course. Let the people around you know that you are not home for the hours that the course is running, and that you shouldn’t be disturbed. 

If you need to juggle your course with looking after your kids or walking your dog, you’re short-changing yourself. You are important enough to put yourself first during your course. You deserve the best learning experience you can get, and you’ll get the one you deserve. 

I recommend noise-cancelling headphones, they make all the difference. I have 2 very shouty and demanding cats, so I know what I’m talking about.

3. Prepare your technology

Shut down any services that might affect your connection. Test that you can access the platform and that your mic and camera are working. Remember that your instructor will really appreciate being able to see you. 

I’ve been able to pick up on non-verbal cues in online sessions that tell me that someone didn’t understand something I said, and then repeat and re-explain it without them feeling the need to ask. It’s important. And hey, if you tidied up, being on camera isn’t such a big deal is it? Even with quarantine hair.

4. Prepare yourself

Get up early, have a good breakfast. Get some exercise. Use the bathroom. Be in your learning space with everything you need at least 15 minutes before the course start time. 

Online instructor-led training takes a lot more energy, from you as well as your instructor. Shut down your work email. Put your 'out of office' on. Block youtube and all social media. You wouldn’t use it in the classroom, don’t do it in an online classroom. 

Remember that your mind is the most important part of you in the room. I’d rather have your mind in my room than your body, even without the current circumstances.

5. You need to engage

Your instructor will be putting in a lot more effort to make it engaging. This really isn’t a matter of them just ‘phoning in’ the delivery. It’s tough talking to a computer all day, and despite the popular rumour, even I get sick of my own voice. Get involved in any polls that the trainer puts out there. 

Use whatever platform that the training company is using to really become a presence in the digital room. You’ll feel more a part of the proceedings if you do. Remember that not being in a classroom gives you the chance to be fearless. You can ask the questions that you might be embarrassed to ask in a room full of strangers. It’s just you and the instructor, right? 

It’s my experience that for every person who asks what they think is an embarrassing question, there are usually around 3 others who also wanted to ask it and didn’t. Online instructor-led training allows you to avoid any embarrassment. You came to the course for answers. Don’t leave without them.

6. Be on time 

Whether we are talking about the start of the day or returning from breaks. You’ll have more breaks with this style of learning, so being 5 minutes late back each time will soon add up. 

While being on time is a courtesy to your instructor and fellow students, I’d look at it as a sign of self-respect. You’re putting yourself and your development before anything else.

7. Use your instructor

When I was teaching classroom courses, I made a point of making myself available for anyone with questions or concerns. Whether it’s going for a coffee, over breakfast or dinner or before the start of the day, one of the best things about teaching was the relationships I built with the people I taught. 

It’s about making it more than a simple transfer of information. You can get that from reading a book, or from other e-learning. It’s about the experience, the interaction. I ensure that I am the last person on the webinar calls to leave so that if anyone wanted to talk to me, they could hang around and catch me, just the same as in the classroom environment.

Final thoughts

As we come out of this pandemic, we’re going to need to change the ways we think about a lot of things, and training is one of them. Just because you can’t make it into a classroom, that doesn’t need to be a limitation on you achieving your career goals. 

If you choose the right training partner and you follow these seven pointers, your career progress and exam success can continue. Your limitations are your limitations and they don’t have to exist. This blog post isn’t sponsored and thanks for reading.

Dr Richard Diston, DSyRM MSc ACIIS, is Director of Information Security at The Security Doctor and also teaches cybersecurity courses at Firebrand Training.