Friday, June 01, 2018

The skillset of a blended trainer or facilitator: technology is overrated

This week I co-organized the #Trainingtrends2018 session in Utrecht (the Netherlands) with some 90 participants. It was fun. Amazing that we are already working on blended designs for 10 years and for some this a really new area. I think the change is relatively slow because it is shift in mindset.

The current mindset

Which of the following arguments for not investing in blended training do you recognize?
  • For learning, intimacy is needed which you can only achieve face-to-face
  • I feel completely energized when I am standing in front of a group
  • I am quite technophobe/ I have little interest in working with technology

Why would you invest in blended training?

Blended training and coaching is becoming the norm. This means that clients are increasingly asking for it. The problem with standalone training days is often the transfer to practice. Karin de Galan describes a nice research example in which a blended trajectory provides better practical results. Students learn osteopathy and practice the treatment of a shoulder complaint in the classroom. However, they do not feel equipped to apply these skills in practice. When the design is blended and the students receive two more online assignments with feedback, they have more self-confidence to apply what they learned.
Clive Shepherd heeft een mooi voorbeeld van een blended onboarding programma. Who has not experienced an introductory program which consist of your first day. You have a program of briefings by all departments which pour a lot of information on you. In this blended onboarding case Nicole is joining a new organization. She starts online, hence she is already well prepared when she enters the organization and conversations with colleagues are more interesting and relevant. She has mentors during the first six months. That way she can get up to speed. 
Another example which I experienced myself: I recently received an explanation from a barista how we could make delicious cappuccino. Unfortunately, I did not volunteer to do it and I have forgotten about it. If I would have some videos available about preparing the milk I would watch them right before preparing the cappuccino.
A blended program has more contact moments than face-to-face training sessions. This implies that your participants are more likely to engage with the topic (spaced practice). I am hence convinced a good blended program can therefore achieve more effect. But .... of course there are also bad blended programs!

We underestimate the required skills 

In order to design a strong blended program, you need new skills. On the one hand, this is sometimes underestimated. For example, a trainer starts working with a online platform from the idea that it can not be that difficult. After all, you also taught yourself how to LinkedIn isn't it? On the other hand, there are trainers who fear the technology part, get paralyzed and do not venture into blended learning. They think: "this is not for me". I believe the needed technology skills are overrated, but the other skills underestimated. 

The five most underrated skills of blended trainers 

  1. Being able to ask participants questions about experience with and interest in online tools. This is necessary to decide the toolset, the learning curve of participants in using these tools and support for onboarding participants online. Without this you risk the empty online platform and subsequently everybody saying: "it doesn't work, we need to get together".
  2. Being able to design a strong blend instead of a one-off event. This requires experience with online and blended trajectory. Spacing is new, online activities. Think from the participant perspective which combination of online and face-to-face learning activities will be powerful.
  3. Choosing the right online learning activities. It is my experience working with trainers and facilitators that they are great at this once they realize that you can also translate face-to-face training methods to online. I never understood why this is not logical for everyone. 
  4. Online facilitation. Here, too, trainers already have a lot to offer. However, there are new dimensions to learn: online you have to ensure that people find their way online. You must also be present in a different way. More often and shorter. Sometimes you need to be more directive.
  5. Last but not least: being able to choose a toolset from different platforms and online toolset. This is often a whole new area for trainers and coaches. It helps to realize that a good blended design can work in a variety of platforms. 

(image throug wikipedia)

What you see is that the latter skill, the technology, is overrated (and feared). However, the other four are equally important or even more important. The blended trainer is actually an amphibian. He / she can work on land (face-to-face) and in water (online).

Besides skills you have to believe in it

More important than skills is perhaps the mindset. You have to be convinced of the added value and the power of a well-blended design. Once you experience how you can have a huge effect on supporting the learning process of your participants you will definitely start to enjoy it.

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