10 reasons why classrooms beat screens – An opinion piece by Matthew Hill
At the moment I am battling with a large client to “save” classroom face-to-face training against the passionate arguments from a few of their senior directors who wish to take ALL content on-line and deliver educational content via virtual E learning packages.
Their logic for this centres on time, money and travel.
Time Management Course
The way they state it, in the long run, if the company builds, say, 100 units of virtual training, the job is done – There will be relatively little further expense. In their utopian vision of the future for education, the company will not have to move people around, book flights and hotels, repeat live training or pay for group suppers and trips to the local town amusements etc. From a purely financial perspective this is both understandable and correct.
But, What is missing here, and what is going to be lost?
Save the Classroom – 10 Things to Consider…
The classroom affords a much more realistic representation of a corporate meeting, a heated discussion or a simple live pair dialogue. It is this realism that will adds educational value later when the participants are locked in conflict and combat for real.
Studies in learning impact mostly conclude that the closer a learning simulation is to reality, the greater the transfer is, making the new competence ready for use in an actual live and important work scenario.
So, the 3D simulation of realistic soft skills, leadership and change exercises found in classroom encounters is going to almost always be more fresh, alive and more nuance that its virtual equivalent.
You don’t learn to ride a bicycle by reading a book.
A half decent facilitator will bring the room to life, the group to life and the material to life. They will add energy, manage the group dynamic, warm up the participants and use humour, drama and stories to illustrate many key points and, at just the right moment. This makes a difference in driving home the learning and makes any training session, special and memorable. Let us contrast this with many conversations I have had with corporate executives bored and frustrated with long, repetitive and “averaged out” on-line training materials. Just the delivery channel alone represents an unwelcome addition time tying the stressed executive to their laptop.
We are suffering from a plague of screen fatigue.
Change management course
A live training does not have to average out the talent in the room and cater for the median delegate. There will be the strugglers, the walkers and the sprinters too. They have different needs, separate learning style preferences and each has an ideal individual tempo. In a live encounter these subtleties can be serviced in many ways to help everybody to get to progress, satisfaction and a fuller understanding of the learning on offer.
One size does not fit all.
A great trainer will sense the corporate commercial context they are walking into and feel the energy in the room. Have some awful financial figures just been released? A round of redundancies announced? Has a product or service just failed? Or, is there a tension due to an on-going external threat such as Brexit or US trade protectionism?
The trainer is there on the ground and can shape the day and absorb concerns whilst leading the group to the commercial and educational objective via adapted strategies and behaviours that respect the bigger picture and the current perceived reality.
And, they can respond to the energy levels in the room by scheduling a break or putting in an extra exercise to manage the concentration or mood of the group live, as opposed to guessing the concentration span of the average participant months in advance and having to ignore any real time distractions.
Live energy management adds to great transfer outcomes.
Spending live time with people gives more possibilities – Role play, team building initiatives, group discussion, feedback – giving and receiving, physical breakout groups and the live reconciliation of differing opinions, learning styles and behavioural preferences as experienced when any two or more people get down to business.
Dynamic simulation exercises leads to excitement leads to retention.
The effectiveness of the classroom is realised when dealing with magic learning moments that are thrown up by a group interacting around critical topics in the intimate and personal space of the classroom.
With on-line delivery, exceptional cases beyond the obvious ones cannot be catered for, as the learning piece must, by definition target a lowest common denominator of material and methods.
When an average person gets stuck, they represent more than themselves. Live, the teaching can be paused as the facilitator illuminates the troubling topic from a new perspective to ensure understanding. It can be in these simple moments that the “aha” breakthrough occurs for many. Or, when the genius delegate spots something that even the experienced facilitator has not come across before. These incidents can be special and make the live event stand out in the memory of the participants and lead to the company attaining a level of awareness or breakthrough.
Those break-time chats or questions can save lives and careers, starting when a quieter member seeks out help. They can do this because the facilitator has established a safe space with sufficient levels of trust and confidentiality for the confession or enquiry to occur. Early intervention can make a significant difference to outcome.
Cater for the exceptional, the quiet and the cautious to help the whole corporation.
The opportunity in the classroom to meet new people, experience the philosophy of other departments and gain knowledge of alternative points of view from a variety of counterparts can be a major contributor in gluing together a disparate multi-site organisation of virtual workers so creating an esprit de corp that will produce a lasting benefit experienced in elevated levels of cooperation and exchange during a project or around the creation of a new product in the future.
Inspiration can be all around us.
When pre-reading is assigned, this can be tested for comprehension in the room. During the session, simple memory techniques can be applied to help the learning stick. When a trainer asks what have you learnt to each participant, something powerful and effective occurs. There is a richer processing of the materials, a personal commitment to owning content and a chance to challenge any part of the material just covered.
Profound and intense exercises are the way to max the stickiness of material, and, a post training conf. call can further aid retention with 3 questions; What do you remember from the day? What have you applied and it is working? And, what have you attempted to apply and it is not working?
Deeper interaction leads to greater retention and better application.
- Collective Mistake
The best argument for the live classroom comes in the training moment when a collective company-wide misapprehension is revealed. If everybody at Company X believes something to be true and the trainer can show that an alternative explanation or method is valid, there can be a step evolution in outcome. The magic of modern time management or leaving the comfort zone during change are two excellent examples of this, where the majority view does not always represent the “truth” of the matter.
Live training can challenge group-think in a unique and powerful way.
The number one reason for the shift to on-line learning platforms is cost. But, classrooms do not have to be so expensive and a more dynamic version, blended in with any pure on-line can really make a difference.
When training days are attached to regular conferences or regional meetings, the travel costs have already been apportioned. When the benefit of constructive networking, trust building in reducing escalations or the forming of profitable collaborative partnerships is added back in, the cost per head becomes more than attractive again.
And, in the spirit of constructive compromise, when a summary film is made, pre-reading materials are edited to boost charisma and energy, and, follow up training is delivered by live webinar, the live and virtual costs can be averaged out. When we otimize the cost of classroom and virtual live exchanges and create better non-live materials, we help the finance department to approve investment in training. This then helps generate exceptional knowledge retention to please the L&D department and stimulates and helps create competent and connected workers who now enjoy training sessions put on by the company.
A networked, trusting and collaborative team will beat a siloed one, every time.
Please like and share if you agree with the arguments we have put forward, if you enjoy classroom training, or if, you feel that the classroom is a relevant space for learning, development and business improvement. Thanks.
Have I missed anything?
Can you add to the business case?
Please add any constructive comments that will add value to this piece. Thanks.
About the Author – Matthew Hill is a soft skills trainer working in Europe delivering dynamic group training live in the classroom.