At the beginning of lockdown, moving all of our training online felt like a mammoth task. Over the past few months, we’ve learned how to deliver high quality and effective training online. Olivia, Solace’s training coordinator, shares more about what we’ve been doing.
What have we learned?
At the beginning we were unsure how it would be possible to translate such sensitive content and deliver it in a meaningful and interactive way, however with many hours of research, watching tutorials and a lot of trial and error we have managed to find a process that works for us.
There was a lot of practice sessions with the rest of the team at the beginning, poking at buttons and trying out different functions to learn how we could make use of things like breakout rooms and polls to deliver an interactive and engaging training experience. Once we got to grips with that, it all became a bit more possible.
What have been some of the challenges?
Figuring out the timings has been one challenge – face to face, we would bring people together for a whole day, but online that would simply be too exhausting. Sessions of about 2 hours seem to work well, as well as running longer sessions broken up by a lunch break in the middle, to give people time to relax and restore before coming back to learn.
Our approach to learning is very experiential and interactive, and we wanted to bring this to our online learning environment. Being online is different, people need to keep themselves muted to reduce background noise, so it’s harder to generate that flow of dialogue and interactivity. We’ve been able to make good use of breakout rooms, where people can get together in small groups to discuss a topic; the chat function enables people to share comments and thoughts in writing, and polling means our participants can share their thoughts in other ways.
And of course, where there are computers, there are tech issues. We’ve become pretty adept at troubleshooting some of the most common problems people have with sound and video; and we’ve figured out work arounds for when people are having major issues. We have also been very concerned about the security of using online platforms, and spent a lot of time diving into security settings and figuring out ways of making our trainings as secure as possible.
What about accessibility and inclusivity?
Making sure our training is accessible and inclusive is always at the heart of what we do. We’ve taken some time to review our learning agreement that we do at the beginning of the session, to help people feel comfortable to participate in an online space, and to review some of the platform functions, to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the technology and etiquette for the group.
We discuss with our attendees at the start the sensitive nature of the content and that we don’t know experiences they bring into the room, we say that it is ok to take breaks if they are finding the session difficult, and we also make them aware of the private chat function if they need to raise anything.
We have adapted our materials to make them easy to follow on a screen, including taking away large chunks of writing and replacing it with more visuals and transitions. Additionally, we provide materials and resources after so attendees can consolidate their knowledge.
Across all of our training we make space to discuss the diverse experiences of survivors - we believe that we could do more to strengthen our own knowledge around the nuances of race, the particular experience of black survivors, and build this in to our training.
We operate a policy of 'challenge the statement, not the person' to allow us to call out harmful language and behaviour, such as racism or microaggressions, so that participants feel comfortable to attend our training and know that we will speak up and challenge behaviour when we need to.
What’s next for the training team?
Over the past few months, we have learned a lot of new and important transferable skills that have enabled us to expand the scope and reach of our training. It has allowed us to be totally flexible in what material we produce and has taught us that there are many ways in which we can deliver it – webinars, Q&As, interactive training. Additionally, anyone can join from anywhere in the country which is really exciting for our department, we are hoping to do more across the country.
Like for many of us, 2020 isn’t looking quite like we expected it to. We’re putting together plans for new training packages for new audiences, alongside reviewing and updating our content across the board. We hope that one day we’ll get back to face to face training, but we’ll be bringing our tech knowledge with us and exploring opportunities for blended learning too.