The nature of the work we do at Hunter Roberts means we’ve always valued in-person coaching over online training. Online has its benefits and we’ve always incorporated remote sessions into our training programmes.  But whether it’s the body language of a global leader in a coaching session or observing how teams work together during group activities, we gain a huge amount of insight from being in the same room as the people we work with.

And, like everyone else, we had to adapt when Covid came along. As well as opening up new opportunities for us, remote working has made us re-think our materials. Here’s what we learned about online learning and how we’re going to continue to incorporate it.

Break down sessions into bite-sized chunks

People can easily sustain a day or even a week of classroom development, but it’s impossible to do that remotely. As well as the risks of staring at a screen for long periods of time, there are too many potential distractions for the participant.

Learning should be done in smaller chunks with regular breaks to ensure people come away from the screen. Whether it’s one-to-one mentoring, a course lasting several weeks or a group activity, online sessions should be much shorter than anything delivered in person.

Variety is essential

Introduce a lot of variety into online learning to ensure participants aren’t sitting in one position looking at one screen for hours. As well as encouraging regular breaks away from the desk, schedule changes in the content by asking participants to take part in interactive elements such as quizzes, polls or questionnaires.

Send a resources toolkit to clients in advance of the online learning sessions. Outline what you’ll be covering, include exercises on relevant issues to think about before you start. This piques interest and stimulates curiosity, and people come to the session ready with questions instead of simply turning on a laptop and passively absorbing information.

When working with groups, include lots of break-out sessions where people discuss problems and solutions in teams. Refer to the resources toolkit, send additional content by email during the session, or ask participants to research topics using a phone or tablet. The simple act of switching between screens or looking at a different device is enough to keep people focused on the task in hand.

Focus on design

We’ve been moving away from printed materials for a long time, but perhaps now is the time for a revival. The savings – financial and environmental – we’ve gained from less commuting, downsized real estate and a drastic drop in international travel could be invested into physical learning materials.

I’m not suggesting we should print and post pointless workbooks or pamphlets: instead, think beautifully designed materials and prompts that can be recycled or reused when the learning is over.

Send the material well in advance of the scheduled session – receiving a package in the post will immediately focus attention on what it contains. During the learning sessions, schedule breaks for people to take away their materials and sit in the garden or another room.

Whether your learning is delivered online, in person or a mix of both, the reason for learning should always be linked to the outcomes you want to achieve from it. Whether that’s increased productivity, personal development or a new product launch, the participant should be clear about why they’re taking part, what’s expected of them and the benefits it will bring.

Learning is about investing in skills – not subjecting people to pointless courses.

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Hunter Roberts Consulting Limited

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United Kingdom


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