Teach Me But Make it Snappy

There are good days and there are bad days, and yesterday was one of them.

Having taught in a variety of settings, including a college classroom for a number of years, I’ve always been a believer in the value of face-to-face learning.  As a result, no one is more surprised than me to learn I’ve become a big fan of delivering training online. 

Technologies have improved significantly since I first taught on the web so I’m not referring to those one way webcasts where someone talks at you and then invites you to type in questions. Instead, it’s now possible to reproduce face to face learning within online classrooms that are quite interactive. While it’s possible to turn cameras on to see one another live, we’ve learned that takes a lot of band width. Instead, in our virtual classroom, we connect participants via the Internet as well as via a conference telephone line so there is the opportunity for everyone to see the same screen and to interact in writing or verbally. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve become a convert. Online learning allows those in the classroom to participate in the way they are most comfortable. 

While there are always those who are happy to jump into a verbal discussion, there are also those who prefer to participate in a written format. It may be that they are shy, need more time to reflect, or simply are better at organizing their thoughts in writing. Online learning makes both options available to them and, in many other ways, provides teaching tools that accommodate different learning styles.

While we generally encourage participant introductions in our webinars, there is also an element of anonymity that prompts engagement and more focused learning. For example, we use polls and surveys to gather input about what is being taught and whether or not it is understood. In a webinar I delivered yesterday on the topic of outcome measurement, I used a survey to have participants select sample outcomes that were mixed in with outputs. It was a great way to reinforce what was being delivered while testing their understanding of the differences between the two. Also, because it was anonymous, no one needed to know who had yet to grasp the learning.  Our particular platform also allowed me to break the approximately 50 participants into 5 smaller groups for more intimate group discussion.

I finished up the webinar having participants complete an evaluation poll and provide written feedback. Ultimately, that is what made it a good day. I know I had truly enjoyed facilitating a webinar that provided a learning opportunity for participants from Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, many in isolated small towns. It was also clear it had been well received. Feedback was wonderfully positive, including one participant who wrote that, “It was epic”.

As a result I was on a bit of a high. That was until I received an email a couple of hours later from someone who said that while it was a good webinar, she could have done without the breakout room discussion. She saw the smaller group discussion as being distracting and a waste of time and said, “I’m so busy, I just want the information.”  So while I initially bristled somewhat and felt myself getting a bit defensive, I realized that like many, she was judging the training by how she preferred to be taught without understanding that for some participants those small group discussions may have been critical for their own learning.

After thinking through the comments, I also realized that what really bothered me was the prevailing tone of impatience. It’s something that seems to becoming more and more common as stress, demands for change, and expectations increase in our workplaces. It’s almost as if everyone knows they need to learn but are saying, “Teach me but make it snappy”.

I don’t think that impatience bodes well.

The reality is that we live and work in a fast changing world. A commitment to lifelong learning is more critical than ever because if we aren’t able to adapt to changing circumstances, we will be less and less able to deliver what is required.

For everyone, this doesn’t mean simply participating in training opportunities; it means we must each become more dedicated to ongoing growth and development. 

As a trainer and teacher, I’m going to continue to do my best to share our learnings as efficiently and as effectively as I possibly can. Regardless, a commitment to learning is something each and every one of us must take the responsibility to own and embrace.

Posted on 07-31-11


Interesting as a similar thing happened to me. And I also realized the importance of understanding everyone’s learning styles even if it means gracefully bowing to criticism.  Of course, you can’t please everyone but it is always an interesting lesson!

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  08/02/11  at  04:21 PM


As you know, Brenda, I am an avid learner of the on-line facilitation and training approach.  And what an exciting learning journey it is!  I have experienced similar highs and lows -  and so have participants in on-line sessions that I facilitate.  I believe that the desire to be heard and hear, to give and to gain is still strong in every person.  I am learning how to nurture this in the virtual world, as well as face-to-face.  Thanks for sharing your story.  It helps me to know you are a fellow explorer!

•Posted by Barb Pedersen  on  08/09/11  at  10:24 PM

Add your Comment here:






Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below:

Next entry: The Guy in Orange Pants

Previous entry: Five Reasons to Quit Your Job