Creating Better Learning Experiences During COVID

By Ron Price,

These are such interesting times! Of course, when we look at the human challenges and suffering, we hope it is a “once in a century” period of turmoil. I often think about the stages of grief and how we have all been forced to embrace new realities. The first stage in the grieving process is denial, which many of us probably experienced from mid-March to mid-April. Because so little was understood about Covid-19 at that time, many of us hoped for a short period of “shelter in place” to be followed by a quick return to normalcy. As a result, most consulting, facilitating, training, and coaching programs were put on hold.

As our understanding of the virus and associated risks continues to evolve, some leaders have been trapped in a holding pattern, not sure what to do about the next month, or the next quarter, or even the rest of this year. Many leaders are also realizing that we need to re-think assumptions we have depended on in the past in order to make good decisions for moving forward. There are those who have yielded to the gut feeling that “doing something is better than doing nothing”, while other leaders are asking, “How can we leverage this period of disruption to innovate and create new, better solutions?”

We serve dozens of people who lead businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and governmental agencies. I have found it interesting to observe their responses to learning and development during this time. We have clients who have postponed in-person programs and who seem to be content to suspend all substantive learning until things are “back to normal.” And then there are others who, after waiting for two or three months, are reaching out, saying, “Let’s find another way to do this.”

The leaders I admire most are those who have acknowledged that the need for learning and development has actually increased during this time of change. They have asked us to partner with them to find new ways to fulfill the objectives of learning and development, believing that this period of disruption is an opportunity to innovate and create new, better learning experiences. One such client has an employee development day scheduled for this week—all online. They asked us to help them design a half-day program around some specific skills that will help during a time when the way people do their work has dramatically changed. In partnering on this project, we have explored ways to create new enthusiasm and engagement for learning and development. These have included:

  • Shorter, more interactive programs that have the potential to create more impact than their previous, in-person events.
  • Having several trainers working together in a more conversational way around a topic that people expressed specific interest in learning about.
  • Taking advantage of the virtual chat room to collect feedback during all our sessions. This gives us a chance to be more responsive and relevant to specific needs. It also makes it easier for those who may stay quiet at an in-person gathering to contribute.
  • Using immediate response polls during our presentations to capture insights about the topics being covered, so we have a greater understanding of those participating.
  • During our sessions, we will break the participants down further into breakout rooms of 3 – 5 people to create more learning conversations and less lecturing.
  • Finally, we are taking advantage of one of the great benefits of on-line learning by recording all of our sessions for future use by our client.

All together, we anticipate that going online with this program will create more value than in the past when we were facilitating an in-person program. Instead of approaching this program as “the best we can come up with in limiting circumstances”, our goal is for our clients to respond, “This is the best employee learning program we have ever had!”