This last month has been a huge learning journey for me and I would like to share what I have learnt about online agile training and how it compares to in the classroom training.
Most people assume in the classroom training is a better experience than online. If I am honest, I also shared this belief before we ran hundreds of hours of online training. I expect in many cases, if the trainer tries to merely reproduce the classroom experience online, it might well be. However, with some tooling, some experience, and some tips and tricks, I will share how to make it even better online than in the class in some cases.
NETWORKING AND PERSONAL CONNECTIONS
It is harder to build those personal connections when the breaks are done by oneself, and the training only focuses on knowledge acquisition. However, connection is a huge part of learning and at AWA we have put this at the top of the priority list when redesigning our courses.
We use techniques such as Zoom breakout rooms and giving participants the ability to go into their own rooms at breaks and discuss topics of their choice. We open the rooms early and let people chat and connect before and after the sessions.
We also enable everyone on our Slack teams before the class to connect, share about themselves, and have group or private chats. Asking the right questions and sharing as a teacher can set the right space for good conversation.
Everyone who has ever been on any of our agile training courses is invited to a Slack team for the classes they have attended. Each class gets a private channel and they can speak to previous and future attendees. This creates not only a place to share experiences of applying the learning, but a place to connect before and after the classes.
We always use a ‘check in’ process at the beginning and end of the class to create a safe space and this allows learners to share what is happening for them and this also invites connection.
Our classes are given in a light and friendly tone with an emphasis on fun and experiential learning. Many of our classes have coaching elements in them which also aids a deep connection with others. Many of the learning modules involve students breaking into smaller groups where deep conversations can be held, and bonds of friendship formed.
Because of the range and way technology is used in our classes, and the way it is facilitated, it is possible for people to make strong and long-lasting connections online.
A SAFE SPACE WITH HONEST AND OPEN CONVERSATIONS
There are many elements that makes a person feel safe online. Luckily this is one of the topics we have researched prior to the corona lock-down, and at AWA we have used our knowledge of online coaching and facilitation in our training classes.
Safety starts with every interaction at AWA. Every person on our classes receives a friendly phone call from one of our team before the class starts. This may be part of the sales process or may be later if the sale was electronic on our website.
Before the online class starts, everyone is invited to a meet and greet and to make sure all the technology is working properly. It is a chance to meet others in a non-learning environment before the class to get to know some of the faces and future peers that will on the class.
Everyone is invited to share interesting things on Slack and get to know each other before the class. At AWA we put a huge emphasis on safety because this is a pre-requisite to learning.
At the beginning of every class, we create a class alliance on how we all want to behave with each other to get the best out of the time we will share. Everyone can contribute and we set up behavioural norms that create safety and look after everyone. Things might include speaking clearly if people have English as second language, not speaking over each other, and using the technology in a way the brings respect and openness.
We check in on the alliance every day and if needed adapt and change to suit everyone and make the whole training experience powerful and enjoyable.
CAN COACHING BE TAUGHT AND EXPERIENCED ONLINE?
As an Enterprise Coaching Organisation, much of the coaching AWA has conducted over the last decade has been online. Many teams are spread about the globe and coaching online has been as much a part of AWA’s work as in person coaching.
Human connection, listening without an agenda, and empathy are not bound by the limitations of time and space. The coaching processes and techniques we teach on our classes are just as effective online as they are in person.
Often, junior coaches are worried that they will not be able to pick up the body language of their coachee via a video screen, however, you will find that this is not only possible, but reasonably easy with practice.
The Agile Team Coach class we offer gives all attendees lots of practice and this provides learners with the ability to coach online for themselves in a way that might have been a barrier for them without guided online practice.
In today’s dispersed world, a coach who can operate via video, is a very powerful agent in any Agile change program.
WILL THERE BE A DEMAND FOR AGILE COACHES AND FACILITATORS IN THIS ONLINE WORLD?
Many people already worked online before being forced to by the restrictions in place to reduce the Coronavirus spread. Businesses are coping with the enforced restrictions and many are using this time of change as a catalyst to bring Agility faster, now seeing first-hand the real need to be adaptive.
Online facilitation and coaching are real skills. Both are skills in short supply, but the demand is very high. Online Agile Coaching and Facilitating are most likely going to be the most sought-after skills both during this period and after.
Many businesses will not return to the same model of working that they had before the lock-down. Many employees are finding a better work life balance at home and proving they are able to deliver. Online facilitation and coaching are needed to make this even better and to bring back a sense of culture and belonging whilst still being at home and being successful.
As organisations get over the initial shock of remote working, they will increasingly look for help in navigating, surviving, and thriving in this new world. There is likely to be an increase in demand in these skills.
ARE THE LEARNING OBJECTIVES MET TO THE SAME EFFECTIVENESS ONLINE?
Luckily for AWA and our learners, we have many years’ experience in coaching, facilitating, and training online. We have adapted our training courses, not by swapping for the same thing online, but by rethinking every single module and learning objective to be enhanced by clever tooling to create the kind of transformational experience you would expect from an AWA class.
In some cases, the modules have been enhanced to create experiences that simply would not be possible in the classroom. Where we had a volunteer writing shout-outs, we can now have multiple authors at once. Where we had a few ideas from volunteers, we can now get ideas from everyone in word clouds, or polls.
The virtual whiteboard sessions allow higher levels of interaction than a wall and with more different expressive elements. This allows for more creativity for some exercises and opens up other possibilities that were not used in the classroom.
We have adapted our constellations work to be done online and the same powerful experiences are generated for attendees. Constellations have been done online for years and we are leveraging that knowledge in or classes and giving attendees a change to experience it and it is very easy to translate back to in-person facilitation, so everyone gets double learning.
All of the learning objectives have been met to a very high bar of quality and this has been verified for some of our classes by ICAgile to their highest level of assessment. Very shortly this will be the case for all classes.
Please see this page for more information about our online training services or visit the main training homepage for details on all our agile training courses.
Simon Powers is the CEO and founder of Adventures with Agile. He has over 20 years’ experience helping very large organisations to thrive in the market and to be better places to work. His approach led him to create our transformative ICAgile Certified Enterprise Agile Coaching training courses, which run worldwide and online. Simon is one of the first ICE-EC experts in the world.