Not so long ago, we embraced the idea of eLearning asynchronous training projects and hoped to realize the promise of promoting self-driven, independent learning. We created hundreds of thousands of eLearning courses using a variety of authoring tools. We get excited about the latest feature in the authoring program. However, many if not most eLearning courses are boring and irrelevant for our learners.
When we think of remote training, our design is driven by tools like ZOOM, Adobe Connect, WebEx, and others. We use the many features including breakouts, polling, chat, annotation, and other features in our design in an attempt to create interest for our learners.
We complain, however, that learners are burned-out with virtual instructor-led training and many have become “Zoombies.”
One key reason for the complaints in virtual training (and eLearning) is we use mental frameworks based on the tools, rather than building relationships with our learners.
Of course, you might say, our purpose is about “providing training for our participants.” I agree. However, don’t you think that our relationships, intention, care, and respect for the learners is why we provide training?
The pandemic brought about a rapid shift in how we deliver live training. Virtual instructor-led training overtook live, face-to-face training in almost every industry across the globe.
As learning & development professionals, we had to rethink our designs and delivery approaches. And at the same time, this new “virtual learning” world created new opportunities to connect with our remote learners.
To demonstrate this shift, look at the Relationship Framework in Virtual Training Illustration below. It is a holistic view of remote training.
The Relationship Framework in Virtual Training captures and simplifies what drives our relationships with learners. Consider adding these ideas to your thought processes on how you design and deliver remote learning experiences.
7 Key Takeaways and Practical Tips from the Relationship Framework
#1 Relationships versus transactions
The intent of relationships is to sustain more trusting and supportive relationships between designers/facilitators and learners. Transactions are characteristics of one-time, superficial touchpoints.
Practical Tip: Do you feel your approach is relational or transactional? What are the impacts?
#2 The canvas for design
The purpose of the framework is to keep our minds on building relationships with our learners as we design, deliver, and select technologies. It is the canvas that we draw and paint our intentions in learning. It is a playing field where we apply our training expertise. Frequently, designers tell me their hands are tied in terms of introducing changes in the PowerPoints handed down by SMEs. We forfeited our canvas and playing field.
Practical Tip: Though challenging, find ways to reclaim your playing field or canvas.
#3 Sentiments in low relationships
Low relationships between learners and designers/facilitators create boredom, mistrust, and a passive attitude. Our poorly designed programs create these sentiments and feelings amongst our participants.
Practical Tip: Often, it is a popular discussion on what tools to use in virtual training. The question ought to be, does the tool allow us to grow good relationships with the learners? Does the tool help build meaningful experiences and create positive sentiments for our learners?
#4 From passion to mistrust
The sentiments from experiencing passive, irrelevant, superficial, and mistrusts are born inherently in our failure to understand the learner. We take the learners for granted and it shows in our design and delivery. Perhaps this is the case because many of us have lost or have misplaced our passion in what we do. John Hage III speaks of the need to recognize and use our passions. When our work does not have passion, our learners feel and sense that lack.
Practical Tip: Dig deep down. Your passion needs to shine and permeate in your learners’ experience.
#5 Tools are agnostic
Tools have their function, but they are agnostic. How we apply those tools is what matters. You can still deliver a lecture and at the same time build relationships. When you focus on must-learn, events, and stories, you are putting in the effort to bring your content to the learners’ point of view. The presentation becomes relevant to them. They develop trust in you.
Practical Tip: Select and use your tools to be trusted and relevant in your learning.
#6 When high relationships work
Tools and methods are valuable in training, but they don’t control most outcomes. Outcomes are determined by focus, solving problems, context-specific to the learner, and intentional support by designers/facilitators.
One way is to think of your learner’s needs as in a funnel. Some need instant answers – the narrow part of the funnel. While others need deep learning – the wider part of the funnel. Others may need to take charge of their learning, while others need much more personalized support.
In our practice, we often provide an abundance of videos, blogs, readings, demos, and examples to help learners go follow their interest areas. We add exercises and templates to allow more deep learning. We also provide small group coaching and mentoring so for those who need personalized help.
Practical Tip: Find ways to use MS Teams, Slack, Miro, eLearning, FAQs, portals, webinar tools, and websites to create a total experience for the learner.
#7 Building trust and personalization
All effective training is personal. It means you allow learners to own, take part, and lead the learning. It does not mean you spoon-feed or control learning. The tools and methods may vary, or you may blend them all, but the key is how you build trust with the learner. Trust is the foundation of effective virtual learning.
Practical Tip: Keep reminding yourself that you can build good relationships in your learning experiences.
Q&A: How to Fight the ‘Zoombies’ and Minimize Screen Fatigue
John Hagel III
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Ray Jimenez, PhD
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”
Vignettes Learning Workshops
1. The New Learning Architect
2. Developing Critical Thinking for Modern Learners
3. Microlearning for Disruptive Results
4. Instructional and Experience Design for Workflow Learning
5. The Masterful Virtual Trainer Online Workshop
6. Hyper Story-Based eLearning Design Workshop
7. Training Frontline Leaders as Learning Accelerators
8. HYBRID Remote and Hands-on Training
9. Advanced Skills in Webinars