Overcoming the challenges of online training
At Talis we’re used to working remotely, but that doesn’t mean that Covid-19 hasn’t thrown up new challenges for us. One particular issue we’ve faced in recent months has been training new users of Talis Aspire and Talis Elevate. Typically during a Talis Aspire implementation, a member of the Services team will spend two days onsite with a library team, demonstrating all aspects of the system and giving the participants a chance to have some hands on experience in creating bookmarks and building lists. How can that experience be replicated online?
It’s interesting to learn how many aspects of the traditional setup are missing when you’re delivering training via a computer screen. Usually as the speaker, you’re able to glance around the room and pick up visual cues: Who looks unsure? Who wants to ask a question? Do I need to explain that part a little better? And there’s no opportunity for someone to approach you during the coffee break to make a point that didn’t necessarily fit easily into the narrative of the session.
We’ve also had to review the content that’s delivered during the sessions. Activities that might have been done via groupwork have been replaced by collaboration on shared documents, and short videos that work well in a training suite don’t necessarily lend themselves well to an environment where the experience you have may vary depending on your setup.
For me, one of the hardest parts is ensuring that participants have an opportunity to ask their questions. Without visual cues I need to remind myself to stop regularly, check the chat box for questions, or give the audience a chance to speak and make their point. And if there’s silence at this point, you may need to ask again in case someone has forgotten to unmute themselves!
Some advice I would give to others delivering training online, based on what I’ve learnt so far:
- Participants in the training generally find the experience as unusual as I do, so it’s important to be as welcoming online as it is in person
- There’s often more of a focus on staying to time, as people have other calls to get to
- That means that “I’ll follow that up with you afterwards” is sometimes the best response, if if a session is in danger of getting sidetracked
- Rehearse your demos well in advance, to ensure that everything works as expected on the day
- One advantage of training online is that you can keep your notes just out of shot, so you can refer to them easily if required
The feedback we’ve had so far suggests our online training has been well received, users are generally appreciative of the challenges we face. But we will continue to review our content and methods of delivery and act on suggestions for improvements, so for now online delivery remains a work in progress.