In three short months, Dr Mary Quilty, Director, Learning Design has produced an entire suite of virtual workshops. Here are some of her observations from the virtual frontline.
So Zooming, Skyping, WebExing, and social distancing have become the new Zumba.
Like so many of us, I’ve recently mastered the pivot manoeuvre myself and overseen how we transform face-to-face workshops into a virtual equivalent. As a team, driven by COVID-19, we redesigned our popular writing, working effectively and policy programs. This change, however, did not come automatically or easily.
I am a firm believer in ‘learning by doing’—keeping participants active and giving participants hands-on exercises so they can understand and apply concepts. How, I wondered, could this be achieved across the disembodied ether of the internet? Pre-COVID, I had enjoyed creating workshops and programs that were quirky and even funny. I had combined adult learning principles with the latest findings from neuroscience—leavening complex information with emotion to aid understanding and retention. In this sombre year, was learning still allowed to be quirky or even imaginative? Could I create stimulating scenarios that worked within the confines of a computer screen?
Luckily I had a solid structure of our workshops to fall back on. We managed the strain of staring at a computer screen. We divided day-long workshops into two- or three-hour online sessions that we delivered over consecutive days. We used the full functionality of platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and WebEx to maintain a hands-on approach and ensure that participants learned by doing.
The only thing that I haven’t been able to convert to a satisfactory online equivalent is the chocolate frogs.
I’ve got to say that our participants have been amazing. We all understand that a virtual workshop is not the same as a face-to-face program. But we’re all positive and we’re all making the best of the opportunities that come our way.
The world will probably not go back to exactly how it was and so I’m determined to deliver really valuable workshops on the virtual frontline.
Dr Mary Quilty is a seasoned learning designer who works in close consultation with public agencies to develop and deliver tailored training programs, suites, online and face-to-face workshops and eLearning modules.