After being in lockdown now for (how many weeks has it been again?!) I have been inspired to move by freelance training business online.
I am absolutely delighted today to announce the launch of my suite of Online Public Engagement Training! With the help of colleagues and friends in public engagement and science communication networks I have fine-tuned my face-face training so it can be delivered online in a live, interactive format.
Whilst lockdown and COVID has posed its endless challenges and set-backs, I have been given the confidence and boost to move myself online. I have also had the abolsute pleasure of engaging with 60+ public engagement and science communication professionals which I feel has been some very timely networking given our current isolation!
Today marks the next chapter of me and my freelance business. Stay tuned to follow my journey.
We have all been there, that first step you take in the world of training. You are wondering who is going to be there, how it’s going to go, and whether you are going to forget everything you were going to say! Well I have to say that with COVID lockdown and having to rapidly adapt all my training materials to online platforms I am feeling like that right now!
This week I was tasked with my first online training workshop, which was an adaptation of a session that I was scheduled to be running in a face-face format. I felt rather unsure about it to be honest. The face-face session had us moving around a room, scribbling frantically in groups on giant pads of paper with lots of different coloured pens, and sharing our experiences over a cup of tea. How on earth was I supposed to share a cup of tea with my students on an online platform?!
Well anyways, I took the plunge and delivered the workshop. For those of you also embarking on this same journey I share my six top tips with you:
Have a run through
Get to know the platform (perhaps as both a host and a participant), learn what each of the buttons do, trial your timings and the one I recommend the most is to invite your friends and family for a zoom party so you can check your bandwidth!
What’s the back-up plan?
This one may sound over-cautious but it is definitely worth thinking about. Your bandwidth might be teetering on the edge, the platform you are using might crash, the puppy might chew through your power cable…
There are a few things you could do here: maybe you can invite a colleague to co-host your sessions and prep them to step in if needed. Another option is to prepare an offline version of your session which you can email to your attendees in advance.
Check-in with your attendees regularly
If may feel strange constantly asking “can you hear me?”, “are there any questions?”, “can you all see that”, but it is a great way to let your students know you are there for them- whilst also ensuring that there are actually students there and that you are not displaying a blank screen through a 1 hour webinar
I felt that students on this online workshop were more interactive then I have ever experienced- perhaps this is because they felt safer sharing their views and thoughts over a chatbox compared to in a room with 20-odd people staring at them.
Don’t be afraid to be honest with your students
We are all learning at the moment. Be honest that it is your first time and you are getting used to the platform- your students will be kind to you and want to support you.
Make the most of it
The technology we have access to is incredible. Use it to your hearts content. For example use breakout rooms as a collaboration tool, or live annotation as a facilitation tool, or the chat box as a way for everyone to share their thoughts and feelings.
Enjoy the opportunity to evolve your teaching style
There’s a whole new set of things you need to work out. How to facilitate interaction, how to get your attendees engaged, how to check if you’re achieving what you’d like to. This is a wonderful chance to reflect on your teaching style and to check if you are catering to all your different learners.
On reflection of the COVID lockdown I have experienced challenges- probably pretty similar ones to those that you yourself are facing. However, I have also found opportunity. Lots of opportunity…
Opportunity for me to learn and to grow. Learn how to use these different technologies, and to get the best out my students. This learning process is helping me to grow as an educator.
Opportunity for me to believe that “I can do this”. People are doing amazing things right now in the world. My husband bit the bullet and wrote his first article that got published in BBC Cymru, my sister became an online science writer, and my parents have taken up yoga. All of these people have given me confidence, inspired me, and made me believe that I can do something out of my comfort zone too.
Opportunity to try something new. I will never get tired of this. I was a scientist once because I loved learning new things. I am a trainer now because I love learning new things. There are so many new things to learn right now.
My next steps are you try out some different methods of teaching. In the last few weeks I have heard a lot of ‘blended learning’ styles. This is a mixture between online live workshops and offline tasks/exercises/reflections that students can work on in their own time. I think this is something I would like to trial out in my next few sessions- watch this space for an update on that.
On the whole I would say that training online is not better, not worse- just different. A different that I am enjoying right now, and I am very much looking forward to my next online training session in the coming weeks!
So there you have it, my first online training experience and my first blog- all within one week (how exciting).
“Opportunity for me to learn and grow”
I would be really interested to hear your experiences of training for the first time online. How was it? Did you enjoy? Did you have any mishaps? Drop me a comment on here if you would like to share.