PM Chronicles #7: A Short Guide to “Remote” Facilitated Training, by Fred Parker

On a video conference. Present are:

  • BOSS – Company President
  • OPS – Operations Manager
  • HR – Human Relations Manager
  • PM – Performance Manager
  • LT – Learning and Talent Development Coordinator
  • TC – Training Coordinator
  • HG – Consultant (Hired Gun)

PM         Last week BOSS asked me to check out how we might be able to do training online.

               Today, this session is both a report on what we found as well as a demonstration of what we can do.

BOSS    Yes. I have heard from some colleagues that their attempts at online training have been disasters, while others told me that they had pretty good success in certain areas.

               So, where do we go from here.

PM         Well, we have found that online training may not be all that difficult.

HR         I sure hope so. Some of my colleagues are very discouraged. They are spending money on so-called solutions, but the results are poor.

PM         You and OPS both have some special concerns that I would like to defer for now. We will set up another session for that discussion.

               On the positive side, I will let LT and TC fill you in on what they have been doing.

LT           First, we searched online and found several “The Best Of …” lists for conferencing software. I was surprised how many there are. And most of them offer a basic free version or a free trial.

               For instance, US News recently published a nice guide. I found it at:

               One really interesting thing I learned is we may not need to purchase a lot of software. We already have licenses for programs that include teleconferencing capabilities.

Criterion Referenced Instruction (CRI) is the Best Model

TC          Let’s back up just a little just to set the stage.

               It turns out that we are already doing the right things. HG demonstrated the facilitated workshop model for our leadership development program. As you will recall that model conforms to the CRI model, the model proven to provide effective training.

OPS       Yeah, I remember that. I didn’t want to go, but when it was over, I was a believer. We had short lectures, breakout group discussions, and then large group discussions. I realized this is quite effective.

HR         I agree. That session, in a couple of hours helped all of us collaborate around a model presented by HG. I had heard of facilitated workshops, but that was my first. I was impressed.

TC          So, we have concluded, that the course design is the first critical piece, so we and HG have continued to develop courses on that model.

BOSS    That reminds me. Just a few days ago a friend told me their management group has been doing something similar for quite some time. Tell us more about how it works.

LT           Prior to class, we make sure everyone has access to the course materials.

HR         Does that include smart phones and other mobile devices.

               Yes. We build online courses already set up for mobile devices. In special cases we can email course materials. If a participant doesn’t have video capability, they will still be able to join via phone.

HR         Good, go on.

LT           OK, as participants sign in, they can have some small talk for a few minutes.

               Once we have everyone for that session, HG will introduce the session, making sure everyone is ready for the overall topic and the performance objective.

               HG will introduce each exercise. Then we will form the breakout groups for a set discussion time.

TC          LT and I will be the timekeepers.

               After the set time we will bring the large group back together for final discussion on that exercise. We repeat this process for the whole session.

LT           For the next three minutes we are going to demonstrate the breakout groups. When I start it, BOSS, TC, HR, and HG will be in one group, and PM, OPS, and I will be in the other. Here we go.

After Three Minutes

LT           All right, here we all are back together. How did that go?

HR         It was good. Again, better than I expected.

LT           At the end, we ask everyone to complete the feedback sheet and email it to us so we can evaluate the class.

OPS       You said everyone?

LT           Yes. We want to hear back from everyone.

BOSS    So, when do you expect to get started.

PM         We have scheduled the first class for next week.

HR         Wow! That’s quicker than I expected.

LT           Like I said, once we got to looking into this it is a lot simpler than we expected.

PM         To wrap up, here are the main points of what we have learned. I have emailed you copies.

  1. Course design is critical. The CRI model works well, even without expensive software or Hollywood style visuals.
  2. We are looking into some limited use of video in certain classes as appropriate. But for now we are OK.
  3. The conferencing software we use has to allow for breakout groups. We are checking out several. Today is just one option.
  4. We are coordinating with the IT department to check out bandwidth capability so we will have high quality video.
  5. We may need to reduce class size and hold more classes. Our classes are currently planned to be around 20 participants, but it looks like 12-15 may be the best for online classes.
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