We know that in any learning process, it’s not about the facilitator or the knowledge they want to impart, it’s about holding the space for people to engage with that knowledge and experience in a way that makes sense for them.
So, if we know this, why do more and more companies move towards online learning that is about delivering content with the facilitator centre stage? And crucially, why have we yet to witness facilitators expertly holding a space for people to engage in any so-called online learning programmes?
Last month we wrote about whether online learning can deliver the genuine behavioural change that is so often achieved by face to face learning. And our answer was a resounding no!
Yet in these challenging and constantly evolving times, so many people are taking their businesses ‘online’ including development companies. So perhaps this is more of a wicked problem and we’re not actually asking the right question.
What’s the right question to ask?
Sitting with this ambiguity and uncertainty has generated some interesting thinking for us and has resulted in an alternative question: ‘how can we create an immersive, visceral experience online which leads to genuine behavioural change’?
During our comparison of face to face and online learning, we noted the key role that the facilitator plays. In engaging participants in dialogue and reflection; in enabling exploration of personal experiences and responses; in listening and responding to questions and challenges; in hearing the participants. In face to face learning, it’s not about the facilitator or the knowledge they want to impart, it’s about holding the space for people to engage with that knowledge and experience in a way that makes sense for them. It’s about challenging, pushing, supporting, holding. So, is it possible to bring all of this into online learning?
Can we bring emotions online?
Webinars tend to be content driven with the occasional opportunity for participant engagement through polls and questions. But they’re still mainly passive. Online learning modules might have a test at the end of them to check on people’s knowledge. But they don’t get a sense of emotional impact or reflection. So, coming back to that question: ‘how can we create an immersive, visceral experience online which leads to genuine behavioural change’?
If the facilitator is one key element of the success of a face to face behavioural change programme; the experience itself is also crucial. PowerPoint decks and content alone don’t cut it.
We wondered if it was possible to find a way to compare engagement levels between different types of online experience and in the end opted for the trivial yet realistic ‘Would anyone notice if I grabbed a coffee?’ challenge? Here’s what we think:
- Webinars – NO
- Online learning modules – NO
- Various online knowledge hubs/portals – NO
- Farscape’s Virtual Challenge – YES
- Video-based meetings/training – NO
- Online tests/quizzes – NO
- Podcasts – NO
- Any others we can think of?
If you don’t want people checking emails or grabbing a coffee, it’s about bringing in immersive experiences that generate genuine emotional responses and give people an opportunity to notice what goes on for them when they are in the dark, under pressure, lacking information, collaborating with people who have different values – all of the things that actually happen at work.
Sounds simple and in our experience, it’s not. Experiential tasks are ten-a-penny, but not the ones that create this powerful, lasting and memorable emotional response. Couple this with expert facilitation, live in the moment, and we’re starting to create the right blend for some magic to happen – for people to notice and to start changing their behaviours.
Lockdown will end but new ways of working are likely to remain.
Not everyone will return to working in an office, and companies will expect more to be achieved virtually – after all, it’s what everyone has been doing for the last 6 weeks. Well-being and mental health have rightly had a lot of focus, and we also need to ensure that high-quality people development remains high on the agenda. It’s not just an opportunity for shoving more content online and ticking the box.
That’s why we’re pushing hard to answer our question ‘how can we create an immersive, visceral experience online which leads to genuine behavioural change’?
We think we may have cracked it and we’ve developed something that doesn’t yet exist in the market. Something that combines a memorable, visceral experience and mandates active participation and collaboration; that generates real behaviours and emotions; and something that allows for expert facilitation in the moment, when it can make the biggest difference. If you’d like to know more about how we could work with your people to help them to work together more effectively in this new virtual world, please do get in touch. We’d be really excited to share our ideas with you.