Understandably, we have likely all done much more online learning recently and I have been pleased to help many groups move their training from classroom into online contexts. But there are some surprising advantages in space and time with online learning that can make it quite a personal adventure for us!
These can come throughout the training: Before, During and After. So what should we look for in online learning to make it a greater adventure for us? Or what should we look to include if we are learning providers?
1. What to Look for Before: Negotiating ‘Troublesome Knowledge’
How can online learning help us wrestle better with deeply held beliefs?
Sometimes, ideas are hard for us to grasp in training on the day. This may be due to pre-existing beliefs we are not even aware of, such as in diversity awareness training in my case. Online learning can help us wrestle with and negotiate any ‘troublesome knowledge’ we might encounter, things likely to challenge our beliefs. In my own role, I was able to develop learning for groups working with faiths and cultures to do online before they met the faith hosts. This helped them become aware of their own way of interpreting the world, how that shaped their own behaviour, and to use that to better see why other people also do things differently! This was all done in stages online using concepts as non-controversial as why people in the UK queue!
This need not just be in contentious areas like the role of faiths and cultures in our society. I have worked too on other ‘wrestling’ areas such as why non-financial managers should bother with financial management or why to adopt a teaching approach that means you won’t have time to teach most of your existing materials! Online learning gives us both ‘stretched’ time beforehand in which to wrestle and safe space to work things through before interacting with others. (I was even interviewed for a podcast on this fascinating psychology topic which you can listen to here!)
2. What to Look for During: Catching the Habit
How can online learning help us better adopt new approaches?
I have often received training on some better way of doing things and have often fully meant to follow it up afterwards. Yet also often, I don’t. Instead, it sits forever on my to-do list! But online learning can also help us to ‘catch the habit’. One group I worked with recently had given live training over intensive weekends on new ways of working, which I helped them move online. Instead of using the old format though, they restructured each weekend into 4 separate smaller events spread over several weeks, with online activities introducing the new way in stages in between. This lets us ‘catch the habit’ over time, assisted too by being accountable about our progress at each smaller event, and receiving help and encouragement there as needed.
In their case, it was about different ways of ‘doing church’ but it works elsewhere too. Others I have worked on include communication skills and using strengths of personality types in teams. The common thread is that all are skills that take time to develop and without this online approach, it is tempting to just go back to (or stay with) the way it was before! Online learning lets us build habit in new ways slowly over time rather than all at once, and this all occurring in both our ‘home’ space where we can often try it out right away and in a community space online that helps us on our journey.
3. What to Look for (Almost) After: An Eye on the ‘After’ Life
How can online learning help us better prepare for life after training?
In the well-known ‘flipped classroom’ learning approach we receive online content before class and then learn how to use it during. This can be done too with an eye on the ‘After’ life, when our formal learning is finished. I recently worked with university educators to put their courses online and while all had fantastic content, we discussed that the ultimate aim was not for folks to know the content, but rather to be able to use it in their working lives later.
There was one big issue though: educators would not be around then to help unless they were super dedicated! So, I asked them: Why not let students try it out now in class while you are still there to assist? This meant us reworking the course, creating online content for students before classes and designing activities such as case studies to let them then try it out during. This was sometimes a big role shift for educators, from content-deliverer to facilitator towards becoming observer (hard for some!) The aim was to arrive at the latter, with students then ready to use the learning in their later working lives … unaided!
This approach of preparing students for the ‘After’ life applies not just in universities but in any form of learning. I have used it to design training in areas as diverse as software skills, orientation training, leadership skills and prayer! Online learning helps us ‘do the donkey work’, letting us interact with and assimilate content beforehand, but giving time to do so at our own pace and convenience, and providing space for multiple media approaches that will work for our own preferences.
Advantages of Space and Time in Online Learning
An online approach then gives time for wrestling, for habit forming and for working as you wish, and gives space for feeling safe, for trying things out and for using multimedia! I think having all or some of these in your learning experience counts as an adventure in space and time. I hope you find them there!
Alternatively, if you provide training, please do get in touch on how I can help you or give pointers to also launch adventures in space and time for your own learners!