What We Learned: When Preparation Met Opportunity

05/30/2018 4:34 PM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)

There were five key takeaways that Paul Signorelli shared throughout last week’s chapter meeting on Blended/Hybrid Learning Environments. Perhaps to nobody’s surprise, our hybrid event about engaging participants in hybrid events quickly became a case study that applied all of them.

Here’s how:

Key Takeaway  For Our Meeting
1. Learn from others We reconnected with Paul Signorelli last year at ATD's Southern California Regional Conference, where he shared his thoughts on how learning environments are expanding and engaging a global community of learners. We’ve been applying hybrid events off and on over the past two years. What techniques could we apply to engage our Chapter’s expanding virtual population?  We tried a few things, and decided that we wanted more.
2. Push the Envelope (Experiment) We collaborated with Mr. Signorelli to create a hybrid learning environment that both exemplified his message and experimented with activating the hybrid format to promote virtual brainstorming among participants. This would be no mere lecture, but an experiential opportunity in which we would bridge the digital divide that exists between the classroom and the “virtual” environment.
3. Check Your Tech (Rehearse)

We rehearsed how best to utilize GoToTraining to share webcam video, slide decks, and Google Docs. We practiced implementing our activities, sussing out the quirks of our platforms, and identifying the system features to highlight.

What we did not directly test? Room audio. A lesson learned here: get in the room with all your equipment during “normal business hours,” so the person with the expertise to trouble-shoot the gap between your equipment and the venue’s resources is available. Even when we arrived two hours before the event in an attempt to get everything up and running, we ran into trouble in this one area.

4. Prepare for Failure (Plan B)

The hotel staff was mystified -- they had just held a meeting in the same room in which twelve microphones worked fine. But for our meeting, the house speakers would not work at all, effectively separating us from our facilitator as he sat patiently in San Francisco, mugging for the webcam, chatting with our four other online participants.

Our “Plan B” was to have me facilitate the session using our virtual facilitator’s notes. In my opinion, this would have been a far cry from the passion that Paul Signorelli brings to subject matter, so I pressed on.

I believe it was Seneca who said: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Minutes before the program was scheduled to begin, we got lucky.

A stray comment reminded me that I had a bluetooth speaker in my car. I had already signed onto the GoToTraining session with my mobile phone out of habit. If I were to connect that phone to my bluetooth speaker…

It was simple enough to work.

5. Document Your Success

Our Learning Event boasted two activities which apply Google Docs to engage both online and in-class learners working on the same content. The first activity, which involved creating a letter one word at a time, was more frustrating than engaging. I’d like to try it again, using smaller groups in breakout rooms, to see how that would operate.

The second activity worked a bit better -- we’d given the learners a document in which each participant could claim a space to type their views on the document, and then go back and review and augment the comments made by other individuals. You can see the results here.

There were a few other lessons learned, but these were the big ones:

  1. Seriously. Take the time to test everything. With the expert in the room.
  2. Remember your Plan B exists for a reason, and accept it. Everything worked out in the end, but we were lucky.
    • Paul reminds me that it is part and parcel of an experiential learning environment for participants to see that things don’t always happen perfectly, and there’s as much an opportunity for them to learn in seeing us apply the work-arounds. If you agree with him, let us know in the comments.
  3. Make sure your backup kit incorporates all aspects of the event you are about to facilitate. I had packed video backup. I had packed microphone backup. The only reason I had speaker backup was a quirk of fate and Twitter (ask me if you’re curious). From now on, that speaker is sure to be a part of my training kit, a Plan “C” audio component to use when the fancy stuff decides it doesn’t want to work.
 My hybrid meeting backup kit:
now with bluetooth speaker!

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