Here at REDTRAY we’re particularly focused at the moment on virtual classrooms – or live online learning if you prefer. Our new CloudRooms offering has got everybody really excited and it is fantastic to have such genuine enthusiasm across the business for something that’s new and which, to some extent, challenges the status quo of training.
I’ve been attending and hosting webinars and using virtual meeting software for a number of years now, but my first real virtual classroom experience was last year when CloudRooms was in its development phase. Naturally I volunteered to be a guinea pig and help with some of the testing. Unsurprisingly, as someone who’s always busy, my scheduled session came at an inconvenient time for me. However, I put my headset on and logged in along with the other internal guinea pigs and our trainer. We were learning about pivot tables in Excel which was something I’d actually forgotten how to do and certainly hadn’t attempted in Office 2010. And I listened, or really half listened (I’m busy remember!) to our trainer Jen as she took us through the steps. Now, as I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I’m not necessarily a huge believer in set learning styles, but I *know* I learn better by doing. So for the first 10 or 15 minutes I sort of paid attention but, well, not quite as much as I should have shall we say.
At that point, the session moved from the virtual classroom and into a live lab. There, Jen took us through how the labs worked and demonstrated that they are a virtual environment where we as learners can each have a go on our own computers at practising what we’ve just learnt. Then, Jen said to me, ‘Kate I’d like you to go first and show us the steps you need to go through to create a pivot table’. My first thought? Oh my goodness, I’ve only been half listening, what do I do?!?! And you know what? It was brilliant for me. I stumbled through the steps but with Jen’s help and some encouragement from my fellow guinea pigs I managed to create the pivot table. We each then had a few minutes to practice ‘on our own’ with Jen privately coming in to check we were OK and had understood the lesson. By actually having to complete the steps myself a few times, I really grasped the topic. It also made me realise that just because I wasn’t physically in front of Jen, shouldn’t have given me an excuse to only half listen and play with my Blackberry. I wouldn’t do that in a face-to-face situation so why do it online?
We’re working really hard to create a live online learning solution that overcomes these sorts of barriers and I personally find it fascinating to watch it evolve. I’m just about to launch a research initiative, the details of which will be announced next week, into virtual classrooms and people’s thoughts and attitudes towards this learning medium. I’m really excited about it and would love for anyone reading this to take part. And if you have any thoughts you might like to share with me I’d love to hear them.
I’d also like to drop in here that the wonderful Colin Steed has a book launching in just two week’s time entitled Live Online Learning. If you’re interested in this area I’m sure you’ll find it a worthwhile read. I’ll post details here of where you can buy it as soon as I have them.