Going fully online with your training
In view of the current global health challenges and the changing development needs of globalized organizations, switching to fully online leadership training programs seems to be inevitable.
This digital transformation is not about changing the roles in the blended-learning setup but the communication channels.
Using online business simulations as part of leadership training programs is a popular way to create an engaging learning experience. Traditional training and game-based simulation are not either/or propositions. In many cases, their benefits can be combined in a well-designed blended-learning approach. Mixing serious games with on-site workshops and face-to-face coaching sessions is an effective form of blended learning. But this seems to be subject to change.
Simulations and their blended extension
Online simulations (especially the ones in interactive movie format) tend to be instructor-supported, using qualified people to introduce, facilitate, and debrief the learning process. In this experiential learning model, professional instructors have a high-value role in coaching and diagnosing.
For this reason, top-of-the-class simulations offer not just an engaging learning journey, but also sophisticated and structured blended learning support in the form of training, workshop or different types of coaching as well. For many years the blended learning was an educational approach, that combined online interaction with traditional face-to-face, onsite learning methods, and required the physical presence of both the participant and the facilitator.
The framework of these approaches looks more or less the same: after a briefing, participants immersing in the simulated virtual environment, and they get feedback and orientation based on their results from their instructors. This means that the participants’ experiences in the simulation, played individually, are discussed in a group, and the lessons learned are applied in the context of the organization’s own environment and problems, during the debriefing workshop.
Since this blended learning setup requires professional facilitating skills, most of the complex simulation-based leadership programs were conducted (and actually sold) by training/coaching companies. In the last couple of years, hosting onsite briefing and debriefing events connected to the online simulations became quite a profitable business. But in view of the current global health challenges and the changing development needs of globalized organizations, switching to the fully online version of blended programs seems to be inevitable.
How to make the blended approach fully online
This digital transformation is not about changing the roles but changing the communication channels used to enhance simulation-based learning. The software still takes over the job of generating/analyzing the virtual environment and the instructors still handle the face-to-face pedagogy.
But what does it mean in practice? The traditional, 3 hours long on-site group briefing session and the generally 1-day long group debriefing sessions are substituted with online meetings done via videoconferencing tools (allowing screen sharing).
Accordingly, the fully online FLIGBY blended program looks like the following:
- Opening group video conference (briefing) – On the purpose of the program and simulation, on flow-promoting leadership and practical guides on simulation-based learning (90 minutes).
- FLIGBY online simulation – Giving 10 working days to complete the online simulation individually (average gaming time: 5-6 hours, usually in seven chunks).
- Closing group and individual video conference (debriefing) – A 60-minute online debriefing session discussing the major focus points of the simulation, followed by 60-minute individual coaching sessions. The individual coaching sessions (1 session/user, unless requested differently) are focusing on formulating personal development plans based on individual results.
How to conduct your online sessions in the right way?
If you make content pressing and relevant, and your delivery varied and engaging, you can make online learning a success. There is a lot of great articles available on the internet around this topic, like this here, or here. Based on our own experiences, the followings are the must when you are planning your online briefing or (group) debriefing sessions:
- Have a clear agenda – To make things easy for everyone, prepare a formal agenda with all the key issues to be discussed. Send this agenda at least 24 hours before the meeting, and set also automated meeting reminders.
- Keep it simple – Cut your planned content in half. You’ll need the extra time for technology snafus, confusion, engagement, and interactions. Batch content in simple, short chunks (less than 5 minutes) and ask for questions after each chunk. Pause frequently to check for understanding, allow for questions, and to breathe.
- Try to involve everybody – Keep track of who has spoken and who hasn’t with a simple paper tally. When you’re noticing the same participants contributing, say, “Let’s hear from some new voices first.”
- Don’t be too serious – Video calls also replace the social interactions that would take place during an on-site program.
- Have technical assistance – Recruit a colleague to be in charge of dealing with the technology, so you can focus on content delivery and audience engagement.
- Wear headphones – even if you don’t think you need them.
- Enable video – This is key so that you’re forced to pay attention, and others can pick up on visual clues that would otherwise be lost.
- Use screen sharing – this way everyone can stay on the same page, and follow the instructions you give