Online training: From struggle to success

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Moving from the real world to the digital world when you can’t shake off that resistance.

I have been reminded of a huge lesson these past 6 months – and also revisited what I know to be one of my core values. The lesson is about embracing change and the value I place on knowing only too well that with all change comes opportunity.

I am the Safeguarding Development Worker for Salford CVS and part of that role requires that I deliver safeguarding training to the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector. I love delivering training, I have been delivering courses to professionals and communities for more than 25 years – and despite the inevitable nerves and anxiety most speakers get before an event I really do enjoy the role. Don’t get me wrong, training is hard work. Its takes a lot of energy to facilitate a room full of people with varying degrees of knowledge and understanding, but nevertheless, I love the challenge and the sense of achievement when a course goes well. Yet here I was, faced with a new challenge and I was feeling so much resistance.

Change is hard. Resisting change is a lot harder.

I have always been optimistic in my approach and considered myself a glass half full type of person. Whether facing big changes in the workplace or taking on new paths in my personal life I am usually quick to change my mindset when that cloak of reluctance casts a negative vibe over my thinking. So it was quite surprising when I found myself facing a huge inner struggle when asked to take on the task of converting our safeguarding courses to a virtual offer. Due to COVID restrictions, all face to face training ceased back in March. We had to look for new methods and it became clear that until we could get back to some normality online training was to be our only option.

I am confident with IT, and usually have no problem learning how to use new software and digital platforms. Yet here I was convincing myself of all the reasons why the “Digital World” was not the place for delivering safeguarding training:

  • It doesn’t suit my participatory style of delivery
  • Delegates won't engage and contribute online
  • People won’t know how to use the technology
  • It is an emotive subject – face to face delivery is essential
  • It will end up too didactic

All of these were a possibility, but after much pontification, I came to realise that the overarching problem was MY LACK OF CONFIDENCE!

This is what was driving my resistance to making the change.

I have never used Zoom for delivering online training before, and although I had used webinars in the past, it was only for brief meetings and did not involve any real interaction with delegates. The resistance and reluctance I was experiencing was holding me back and I needed to change my mindset.

Once I realised there was only me creating the problem, I faced the challenge and with a ton of help from colleagues in my own team and close friends outside work, I overcame my own hurdles, gained the skills required and converted the Adult Safeguarding training into an online offer delivered over two modules via Zoom.

Guess what … despite all that worry, the hesitancy, the pontification and my total resistance – I have become a total convert I LOVE ONLINE TRAINING – what’s more the digital world offers many benefits. There is no travelling to a venue, takes less time up in your day, delegates can join us from home or from work, in the garden or anywhere they choose. What’s more, it WORKS!

I have delivered the course several times for Salford and other Greater Manchester boroughs and it’s been a great success with excellent feedback from delegates. I am not saying our online offer should replace the face to face course – there are pros and cons to both methods. However, I am totally converted now to the benefits of Online learning and rather than being seen as an “interim measure” I believe that online training should continue as part of our overall offer across the sector.

So should you ever find yourself hesitant to take on new ways of working, reluctant to change your ways for whatever reason, let me share with you what I have learnt on my journey from struggle to success.

Here are my 5 top tips on embracing change.

1. Don’t be afraid – feel the fear and do it anyway

I can now see that it was FEAR of failure and my lack of confidence in using Zoom for training that was holding me back. I was making up all sorts of reasons as to why online training would not be effective and yet the outcome has been really positive.

It's totally possible to encourage interaction in online training. The breakout rooms, emulate groupwork activity, the chat function allows for additional participation and so long as the trainer has skills in facilitation it is possible to encourage involvement from everyone just as you would in a face to face to setting.

2. With change comes opportunity – to learn to grow

Without a shadow of a doubt, the process has definitely given me the opportunity to both learn and to grow. Thanks to the vast experience amongst my colleagues I have gained many skills in using Zoom and each time I run the course I am adapting it slightly as I learn new tips on how to get the best out of the online platform. I also can see how much I have grown in confidence and I have an enthusiasm for using Zoom and online training that I certainly did not have just a few short months ago

3. Worrying is like a rocking horse – it gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere

Although I was quick to change my mindset with this task there was a real hesitancy initially and all that pontification wasted time and energy. Whilst I was worrying about my misconceptions relating to the efficiency of online training I was totally oblivious to the reality – which was my lack of confidence. With the help of colleagues and a willingness to embrace the change, I am now a real advocate for online delivery of training.

Once I stopped worrying, changed my mindset and embraced the change I not only increased my skills and confidence but I also produced a quality training course that is now being delivered not only in Salford but also with partners in other boroughs of Greater Manchester too.

4. You never know you might enjoy it!

As I have already said, I have always believed that with change comes opportunity. That’s not to say that change isn’t difficult or anxiety-inducing – but taking the training online has proved to be beneficial not only to me as a trainer but also to delegates coming on the course.

As a face to face course, this is usually delivered over half a day. Having the course run over two modules has given an added bonus as delegates have expressed that they really appreciate the time in-between the sessions to reflect on the content and to truly absorb the learning.

This is a very detailed course and had we not looked to convert this to an online offer, I don’t think we would have ever thought about delivering it over two modules. Running it this way adds to the learning experience and is also less stressful for the trainer who equally benefits from having time to reflect. A win win for all!

5. Ask for help – we don’t have to do it all alone

Whatever we are tackling in life, there is usually someone close by who has walked the path before you and will share knowledge. For me speaking to my team mates I found that several had already developed skills in Zoom and were willing to share their experience with me.

Dont do it alone

 As well as the practicalities of using the platform the basics that were shared proved invaluable. Tips such as:

  • Have a co-facilitator on board to keep their eye on chat, to let people into the meeting or to help with technicalities
  • Keep the session to two hours max – and encourage people to have a break every 45 to 60 mins (stand up and stretch or to grab a brew)
  • Limit the numbers – its good to see everyone's face on training – that becomes difficult once numbers are more than 18
  • Practise the session beforehand with colleagues
  • Don’t be scared to try new things – nervous about using a whiteboard? (that’s my next challenge) finish reading this blog again then go for it!

For me, the challenge doesn’t end here… I am working with Salford Safeguarding Children’s Partnership to develop an online Safeguarding Children’s course. Although I plan to deliver this for the VCSE sector via Zoom, its time to tackle my fears again as I will be delivering this for SSCP via Microsoft Teams.

Another digital platform I am not that familiar with  - I guess its time to re-read this blog, embrace the change and once again move from struggle to success

Salford CVS
Author: 
Deb Drinkwater, Safeguarding Development Worker

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Salford CVS is the city-wide infrastructure organisation for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector; providing specialist information, advice, development support and opportunities for influence and collaboration.

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