When the Covid pandemic broke out in 2020, I soon realised that shifting from the classroom to the Zoomroom would require revisiting my training design and delivery practices. I chose to train into Accelerated Learning with The Learning Gym, Ltd. Melanie Martinelli and Shilpa Subramaniam and their team were worldclass adult learning specialists. They also had, 10 years virtual training under their belt, which none of their European competitor had back then.
Accelerated Learning has helped my training and coaching activity thrive throughout the pandemic. Since then, in person as well as virtually, I keep using the AL learner-centered principles to respond to my clients' development needs.
In this article, I'm sharing how AL still helps me address these conflicting challenges.
Less than half of the learning process happens in the session, with the trainer. For learning to stick, content discovery needs to be done prior to the session, asynchronously. Application of the learnings happens on the job, after the session. The training session focuses on integrating the learnings through group interactions.Shilpa Subramaniam, co-founder of The Learning Gym Ltd
Most traditional training sessions and meetings comprise instructor-led didactic presentations.
On the other hand, AL dramatically reduces the amount of time a facilitator spends ‘teaching’. Instead, the focus is on participants discovering the content through a variety of paced and playful activities before, during, and after each session. Once participants have discovered the content, it’s time to practice by solving practical cases, helping each other on real challenges, and so on.
If you need to prioritise between Presentation and Practice, always choose Practice. And the less slides you make, the better! It’s almost impossible to read and listen at the same time. You don’t want to compete with your slides for your participants’ attention! Even when you write instructions for breakout activities, you need to be as concise and precise as possible. I always advise my participants to take a picture of the instructions with their phone before going into breakout rooms.Melanie Martinelli, co-founder of The Learning Gym Ltd
It is true for both the facilitator and the participants, but for different reasons.
Design represents 80% of the facilitator’s job. For the participants, the Preparation phase is meant to arouse their interest and address their psychological or technical learning fears. You also need to keep in mind that they have little time to invest in this prep and that not all of them will do their homework.
Accelerated Learning was initially designed for face-to-face training. But in fact, most AL activities work brilliantly online!
There are more than 200 AL activities, with which you can cover the 4 steps of the learning cycle on any topic, with any audience. All of them are transferable online, I tried them all! Most of the time they require little tech. With breakout rooms, a whiteboard and the chat, you can offer your participants amazing experiences.Melanie Martinelli
Addressing these fears is necessary to enable everyone to be fully present at the session, whether they are familiar with videoconferencing tools or not.
A dedicated tech producer helps the facilitator and the participants feel comfortable. Even with a few years’ experience in virtual training, s*** happens : the network, the bandwidth, the server - anything can go wrong. Besides, you never know if everyone has the latest version of the tools you're using. My secret is to debunk the learners' fears throughout the Preparation phase. I send them a connection tutorial, I'm online and available for tech support 20 minutes before the session begins, I have great check-in games to help them become familiar with the platform's features. All of this softly makes the fears go away.Honey Raza, tech producer at The Learning Gym Ltd
There are plenty of online facilitation tools such as Mentimeter for polls, Padlet/Jamboard for collaborative visuals, and Kahoot to create fun quizzes. These tools are awesome, provided you use them with discretion as they can increase the risk of technical mishaps and attention loss.
I focus on the learners' experience in the design phase. What do they come to learn? I start by designing a low-tech version. I only add a tool if I'm convinced it's the best way to reach a learning goal. I never forget a tool requires handling, time, and might turn the learner experience into a nightmare. Attention is not tech dependent. It's a question of learning design. As far as tools are concerned, my motto is "less is more"!Melanie
Whether face-to-face or virtual, check-ins are essential for a successful learning program. Probably more so online, where sessions are shorter and do not have informal moments or spaces. It's important to give the learners time to get acquainted with each other via an icebreaker, or to schedule time in breakout rooms for rapport building, and to use breakout activities extensively. It creates relationships that last longer than the sessions.
If Shilpa and I named our company « The Learning Gym », it's because we believe that learning happens through the body. It can happen online, look at all the Yoga or Pilates classes that are offered online since Covid.
There are very simple things a facilitator can do to get the learners to move, such as "Get up, walk around the room and bring back an object that represents what you want to learn this morning"Melanie
The Accelerated Learning cycle is not only relevant for training. It works for strategy meetings, group coaching, action plan building, and many other purposes.
By the way, Melanie and I designed and delivered an AL based group coaching program called "Managez votre énergie, pas votre temps". (English translation to come soon)
If you enjoyed this learning journey, I also invite you to read a piece I wrote after embarking on a "High Performance Learning Journey" with Shilpa from the Learning Gym : Development programmes: keeping the best from both worlds.
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