Monday 12 October 2015

Testing Skills #5 - Remote Experiential Learning

Many people work with teams which are globally distributed, this has some logistical issues, one being how to implement useful and practical training approaches.  One common approach used is C.B.T. (Computer Based Training).  This is where participants login in and listen to pre-prepared exercises and videos, sometimes with a test at the end.  Another approach is to arrange a video session with an online tutor where they go through the material and the participants can ask questions whilst listening to the tutor.  These are OK as learning tools, but it is difficult for the participants to apply the knowledge learnt to their daily role. 

There is an alternative distance learning approach that I experienced whilst attending an online workshop run by The Growing Agile team (Samantha Laing and Karen Greaves).  I have since this course created my own remote workshop using this approach with some success.  What follows is an introduction to this approach.  Hopefully you can take this and adapt it for your own teams.

The basic principles of this remote training approach is based upon the 4Cs as described in the book “Training from the back of the room” by Sharon Bowman. Each of your learning elements should include all elements of the 4Cs in each module.

For each module of the course I create a workbook which goes through each aspect of the 4Cs.

The first ‘C’ is Connect

Before you start teaching the students ask them what they already know about the topic.  Create activities they can do offline to find out how the topic is relevant to their current role or what they currently know about the topic.

The next ‘C’ is Concepts

This is the traditional learning part, where you can introduce and explain what the topic is about.  You can do this as either a series of written articles or pre-recorded videos.

The third ‘C’ is Concrete practice

Students apply the concepts in practice.  If you are running this remotely you can set up activities and exercises related to the concepts which the students should, ideally, apply to their own working domain.

The final ‘C’ is Conclusions

This is best to done as a small group, maybe as an online video call.  All the students get together and discuss what they have learnt.  This is a great way to reinforce the learning since each person should bring different examples of applying the learning to the discussion and provide a more context rich learning experience.

When you are looking to create any remote learning experiences it is worthwhile making sure that each of your training sessions covers all aspects of the 4Cs. An advantage this learning approach gives is that it requires only a couple of hours of learning from each participant.  They can do this at their own pace and then discuss their learning and how it applied to them during a weekly hour long video conference call with the others taking part in the course.  It is crucial to set your expectations of the participants and get them to give a commitment to spending some time doing the exercises before the video call.   

As an additional option when I ran my remote workshops I set up a closed wiki site so that the participants could have discussions and provide some information about what they have learnt.   Also with permission from the participants I recorded the video sessions  and uploaded them to the wiki so they could go back and watch them later.

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