Graduate and Young Talent Development

Moving to Virtual Graduate Training: Lessons Learnt

At Kaya, we treasure the relationships that we build with our clients’ graduates. We watch them bright-eyed and nervous as they enter Induction week, see them through their ‘wins’ and ‘challenging’ times and then witness their growth and maturity as they head off into their bright futures. These interactions fuel us, it drives us to do what we do: unleash human potential.

At the back of our minds, we were aware that we needed to include online training and we quietly sourced learning platforms to help us do this, but there was no sense of urgency. Then March 2020 happened…… we had no choice but to move our training sessions to a virtual medium within a matter of days. After the initial five minutes of panic, we set to work and finally facilitated 16 well-received virtual training sessions. Reflecting on our journey, this experience was a catalyst for change, and we learnt some key lessons.

7 Lessons Learnt

Be clear on the Learning Goals

Our facilitated time moved from seven hours to four hours, broken into two sessions. As a result, we had to identify critical content. Fundamental to this, was outlining the learning goals for the session and then identifying content that supported these goals. The remaining material was categorised into two parts: what is important to know at the outset and what is additional material. The former was included in the pre-reading, while the latter was included in the post-workshop resource pack.

Ensure material is suitable for virtual facilitation

You cannot take the face-to-face content and use it in the same way online. It requires a different mindset. Go through all the content you would like to include and ensure that it is suitable for a virtual platform. The material must be simple and clear. Also, plan how you will create interactivity and introduce concepts through the use of videos, application activities, discussion and role-plays, etc.

Practice

Run a test session, practice transitions between slides and videos and become familiar with the virtual platform that you are using so that you know its features and feel completely comfortable using them.

Set expectations

Set the expectation of an interactive session so that learners know that they are expected to participate. In the invitations, emphasise that it is not a meeting but an interactive learning session.

At the beginning of the session, acknowledge the wisdom of everyone and ask for insights, comments and questions to be shared.

Get participation early on

Online content can suffer from a lack of personalisation and the facilitator needs to find a way to make the human connection. This can be done by asking everyone to have their cameras on for the initial introduction so that there is a face to the name. Have a quiz or a poll at the beginning of the session that requires everyone to participate. The quicker you get people interactive and engaged, the more likely you will be able to sustain it.

Use the chat-box

Encourage the use of the chat-box to engage learners and to help keep the conversation going. Invite learners to type in the chat during the check-in at the beginning of the session, so that they get used to using it to ask questions, or to respond to questions. As a facilitator, take time to go through the comments and respond with a comment or a ‘thumbs-up’ emoji to ensure two-way conversation.

Listen, listen

When facilitating virtually, you do not have the luxury of physical cues. Listen with great intent and display this listening by referring to learners by names and making reference to what was said. Do not get distracted, because this carries through in your voice. Focus and create a safe, trusting environment. We found that many of our ‘reserved, quieter’ learners were more willing to engage and share insights during the virtual sessions, than they were during the previous face-to-face sessions.

Through this journey, we have grown our skill-set and overcome our fear of the unknown. We have connected with our learners in different ways, and we have given a platform to the more self-conscious learners to express themselves. We have had laughs and deep sharing, and strengthened the relationships we built with the graduates. There is space for both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions in the world.

Kaya Consulting has been involved with young talent development for 20 years. If you want to discuss some ideas, contact us at [email protected]

Zaheera Laher, Kaya Consulting, 2020