Tag: online academy

Looking Back on 2021: What’s Next for Evolution?

The end of a year is a great time for reflection – looking back at what worked, what didn’t, what went well and what was difficult – and planning. As we come to the end of 2021, a year that provided us all with lots of challenges and opportunities, we’re spending some time looking back on the past year here at Evolution and looking forward to some exciting plans for the new year.

In March 2020, when the pandemic hit, we lost a year’s worth of booked in-person coaching and training, and made an instant pivot with the business: we moved everything online, and started building our first online academy, populated with videos and courses designed to help people deal with the challenges of the pandemic, working from home, and developing personal and professional skills. We ran our first webinar on resilience, which saw 100 attendees sign up – so we started a series of free webinars designed to support anyone who wanted help with building resilience, staying productive while working from home and managing remote teams, 

We carried out a survey in the summer of 2020 with the aim of gauging the response to and experience of flexible working: were people happier, more productive, with a better life balance? Overwhelmingly, despite the obvious challenges, the answer was yes. Responses showed that most people enjoyed the chance to reduce their commute, spend more time with their family or on their hobbies, and get daily chores done during work breaks so they had more time in the evening. Although working online came with some obstacles, overall respondents had adapted well to the new normal, and even noticed some benefits to video communication replacing face-to-face (like shorter and more efficient meetings). 

In the spring of 2021 we carried out a follow-up to that survey, to find out whether attitudes were the same a year in – and again, we found that they were. The trend for flexible working, for working and learning online, was here to stay, and we were geared up to support our clients, both businesses and individuals, in this new way of working.

We continued to add content to our online academy, and made plans for a new platform that would allow us to provide even more useful content, courses and support to anyone looking to get better at what they do, professionally or personally, in the new year (more on that in January).

We also rolled out our online academy to corporate clients, tailored to their individual business needs and goals as part of a package including coaching, face-to-face online courses and training days. Organisations can hand-pick the training their teams would benefit from, and make it available for staff to complete online at their own pace. The response to this has been overwhelmingly positive: we’ve heard from our clients that being able to tailor a programme of online training has been really useful, and it’s been great to add value to the coaching and training we offer our clients with online training that’s available for as many employees who need it.

“From the onset of the pandemic, Martin was quick to adapt to our new way of training delivery and shifted his services to us online, enabling our employees to participate in coaching, mental health support and training whilst working remotely from home. Martin has also delivered resilience training to our staff to support them professionally throughout this period of unprecedented change. The support from Evolution has significantly contributed towards our success in service delivery and staff engagement.” Karen Johnson, Head of People and Technology; Teign Housing

We’ve spent the last two years rigorously testing, researching and planning and we’re really excited to bring you something that will help you achieve your goals, and really become the best you you can be in 2022. If you’d like to receive updates about our plans for the new year, and get early access to the new platform, make sure you’re signed up to the Evolution newsletter. You can sign up here if you’re not already subscribed.


How I Learned to Love Zoom

I ran my first real life, in-the-same-room, face-to-face training since lockdown recently and I’ve been reflecting on the differences between what I did for 25 years pre-Covid and what I’ve been doing since March 2020:

What are the benefits (if any) of Zoom (I’m definitely a Zoom man) and how does it compare with real life face to face training delivery?

Firstly, I’d like to say that the thought of running an NLP course online pre-Covid was never anywhere near the surface of my mind.

Indeed, a couple of years ago, I had decided not to work with a coach who wanted to use Zoom (I had to Google it) or charge me a premium for her to see me in person. As a seasoned coach and trainer of many years standing, I could not countenance plying my trade online.

Then lockdown happened, the world changed, and I changed with it.

Having lost a year’s worth of work overnight, I realised I had to do something to earn money – so I ran my first webinar.

I watched a few first and learned what I was not going to do in my webinars. It helped me decide that what I wanted to do was to replicate my in-person training style as closely as possible.

It worked really well, so I used this philosophy when creating the content for all the online courses in our online academy.

It took some thought and planning (and a steep technical learning curve) and I have now delivered 93 days of training and hundreds of hours of coaching since April 2020.

So, what do I think?

I love it.  Zoom training has a few downsides and a lot of benefits.

On a personal (and environmental) level, I don’t have to fly all over Europe or spend hours driving across the UK.

Neither do the delegates – they can stop work, join the course, and get back to work as soon as the course finishes.  Of course, this could mean that they join the course distracted and get back to work without the valuable reflection time which helps them embed the learning. It’s up to the trainer (me) to help them focus at the start of the course and build in reflection activities at the end, or following the session.

I have recorded the content delivery on some courses at delegates’ request for them to review and reflect on following the course.  It would have been harder to do this in a room together and would have required planning and equipment, rather than a spur of the moment decision.

I have heard people say that Zoom, Teams, Webex and the others make it harder to read and interact with people’s body language.  I disagree; in fact it means that I can focus closely on one delegate’s facial expressions to see how they are getting on with the content – something that would look really strange in a room full of people.

It is sometimes harder at the start of a course to get people to engage, especially if they are used to being silent on Zoom in their own meetings.  I have to make sure everyone inputs something at the start of the course, and I put them into breakout rooms within a few minutes of starting the course, asking them to give feedback to the group afterwards so they have talked in a group and in the larger group at the very start of the course.

I’m keen on setting the ground rules about no other activities while on the call – no emails, no googling, no phone calls and no other activity that will take them away from focusing on the screen.

Lengthy time in an online session is tiring so, rather than a long coffee break, we break for 10 minutes every hour which helps people focus when they’re back on the course.

Using screen sharing means I can use PowerPoint, a whiteboard or video easily – it just needs preparation and planning time to make sure everything is there where and when I need it.

The chat function makes it easy for people to ask for what they need without interrupting the group and makes it easier for the trainer to check in with individuals without having to wait for a break.

Using the technology can really add value to the session – delegates annotating PowerPoint slides or using Jamboard to collect thoughts with virtual post it notes can create a near to real life experience.

So, there are potential problems which can be overcome with a little creativity and knowledge.  The technology can, of course, let you down and if anyone has a solution to Mirroring 360 disconnecting my iPad and not reconnecting without the old ‘turn it off and on again’ ploy, I’d be really happy to hear from you.

Pictures freezing due to broadband problems is an obvious one, but I’ve noticed this has happened less and less over the last year.

For me, the biggest downside is that it’s a lot harder to chat with delegates before the course starts, or during the beaks.  Delegates have the same problem, and I think there is a lot of benefit to those conversations which help to build rapport and understanding of each other at the start of a course.

I’m starting to run a lot more blended programmes, with a mix of online, self-study content, face-to-face online embedding sessions and some real life, in-the-same-room sessions.

So, what do the delegates think?

I’ve had very positive feedback from the courses I have delivered over the last 18 months.  In one case, I had started the course physically face-to-face for three sessions pre-lockdown, then changed to an online content, face-to-face online embedding model. This group had experienced both styles of delivery and were very happy with the online content/embedding approach. One delegate said “I was very sceptical about this approach when we started it but I found it really helpful and I’d like every course to be run like this in the future.”  As a cohort, they performed better in the final assessment than any other group over the last 25 years.

Is it here to stay?

For me and my clients it definitely is.  There may be a fully blended approach with some clients, some clients will use the online content/embedding sessions model, some will (and have) access the corporate membership option of the online academy and just use the online content, and some will utilise the ‘in the same room’ approach.

I think the key is, as it always has been for us, to focus on the outcomes then design and deliver an approach which works and has the best, least, impact (on work, cost and the planet).  The difference now is the technology is there to give us more choice, and delegates are more used to meeting in a virtual space.

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