Tip #817: To Go Virtual or Not

“You are doomed to make choices. This is life’s greatest paradox.”  Wayne Dyer

Like so many of us, I am now confronted with the need to go virtual, to go silent, or to wait and hope that, once it comes, our healthy new normal allows group meetings.

My dilemma concerns a 6-day train the trainer program for both new and experienced trainers. The goal of this program is to both teach and model how to design, deliver and facilitate face-to-face interactive classroom learning experiences.

So the question is, can an accelerated learning program go online? Will the synchronous features of WebEx support a rich learning environment?

I want the participants to know how to set up a warm and welcoming learning environment. How do I duplicate the experience of entering a room decorated with kites, a colorful agenda map, and peripherals on the walls as music plays? How do I let the participants know how it feels to sit in pods with candy bowls and multiple kinesthetic tools on the tabletops?

Let’s consider some of the activities. During the first minutes of the program, participants are asked to self-select as either new or seasoned trainers. The activity has them stand, move to the assigned space in the room and then form new groups of seasoned and new trainers. Once there, the new trainers can ask their questions and the seasoned trainers can answer the questions and share their wisdom.

The activity has multiple goals: to create new groups, to validate the knowledge of (and coopt) the seasoned trainers, and to get the participants up and moving.

Another introductory activity is to have the participants do a gallery walk, looking at the different learning objectives for the six days of training and putting stickers next to the objectives that most resonate with them. Again, the activity has multiple goals: to get the participants up and moving, to have them select the learning objectives that most interest them, and in so doing, create some intrinsic motivation to participate in the training. The additional goals are to demonstrate how to make flip charts visually appealing, reinforce the idea that flip charts are an excellent training tool and introduce the gallery walk technique.

Could I replicate these activities online? To a certain extent, yes, I could. For the first activity, I could have the participants indicate in the chat whether they were new or seasoned trainers. I could then place mixed groups of them into breakout rooms for their conversations. They wouldn’t have a choice about who was in their groups, but this would accomplish two of the three goals for the activity.

For the second activity, I could possibly use an extensive poll. This would accomplish two of my six goals.

You can see my problem with going virtual. The program is designed to model an enormous variety of different interactive learning activities that engage most if not all of the senses. How do I replicate the feeling of standing around a flip chart to brainstorm ideas and writing them down using fragrant colored marking pens? How do I replicate the energy and excitement of a relay race? Even more important, how do I give the participants the opportunity to practice facilitating an interactive learning activity that they have never facilitated before? That is the end goal of the entire program.

Setting aside the idea of a gallery walk or a relay race, what about a scavenger hunt, a snowball toss, rotating flip charts, a debate, an art project, a drawing project, a physical game?- the list can go on and on. How do I replicate the energy of the room, give the participant the opportunity to facilitate the activity and interact with the participants in the activity?

Look, I don’t want to cancel the program, I really don’t. But to put the program online would eviscerate it. The participants would not be able to demonstrate in a classroom what they learned about setting up, facilitating and managing a face to face accelerated learning program. It wouldn’t be fair to them. They didn’t sign up to learn how to do online training.

So, with regrets, I’m going to need to postpone the class until the fall and hope that, once the summer is over, everyone will be healthy and able to attend.

Thanks for listening.

May your learning be sweet.

Stay safe.



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