As winners of PQ Magazine Online College of the Year 2020 and also of Best use of E-learning in the 2018 AAT Awards, and Best Distance Learning Provider in the 2020 AAT Awards we have a proven wealth of expertise in online training that we can pass on to you; platform selection, material creation and adaptation, learning activity management and maximising attendee engagement. We can help you to embrace this new approach to internal training confidently and effectively.
Here are some of our top tips and advice for training remotely…
Training is an important part of an accountant’s working life – both as a trainee, learning new skills, and as a qualified accountant, keeping professional development up to date.
Gathering large groups of employees together for a training course is not feasible in the current climate.
This report provides some ideas for how to successfully deliver training online.
Zoom – has become very popular during the Covid crisis for everything from family quiz nights to First Intuition courses! We like it because it is very easy to learn how to use, the ability to tailor settings and the quality of the sound and vision for the participants. Participants can communicate via the chat box, or verbally and can also turn on their webcams (if they wish).
Adobe Connect – also used by First Intuition. Adobe has a lot of functionality, allowing you to show different things on the screen at the same time, such as polls, weblinks, files and the course notes.
This may impact on your software choice as well. A lecture will work well in Adobe or Zoom. Zoom is great for verbal communication and break out rooms.
What is the best time of day to deliver the session? Traditionally courses in the office may have taken place over the lunch hour with sandwiches provided. But with more people working from home, you may wish to avoid lunchtime to encourage your team to have a break from their laptop.
Ensure all participants have received an email a few days in advance with a link to the session and the start time. Give the email a clear title so participants can find the email easily on the day of the course and attach resources that will be used during the session. Participants may not have access to a printer, so send resources using applications such as Word or Excel that the participants can work on without needing to print.
Get a group of colleagues together so you can practice before the live event. Keep this informal – just have fun exploring the functionality of the software you have chosen to use.
Once you have decided on the method and time of delivery and have decided on the content of the course, now is the time for some detailed preparation.
Do a rough plan of the expected timing for the session. Allow time for plenty of breaks – around 50 minutes delivery followed by a 10-minute break.
- If you will have your camera on, consider what the participants will see. A blank wall behind you will look more professional than a cluttered bookcase! If working from home, ensure other household members know when you will be teaching to avoid unplanned background noise or appearances.
Have everything open and ready on your laptop before the session starts. All documents, websites etc already open so you can easily move between them. Aim to do this at least an hour before the start time.
Open the room
About half an hour before the session starts, open the room. You may wish to use a holding area so participants cannot enter the room until admitted. It’s a bit like standing in the corridor waiting for the door to be unlocked! Do a sound check and if you will be writing on the screen, check your pen is working. Have a glass of water handy.
- If you have a second device available, it is useful to log in again as a participant. You can then see what the participants see. In Zoom this is also useful to have the chat box open on the second device, so it doesn’t get in the way on your main screen.
Set the rules
Once you have let the participants into the room, have a slide on the screen with basic information. This may include the start time, whether you want them to have their microphone and/or camera turned off or on, any resources they may need for the session. You may also like to include an opening poll to encourage immediate engagement. Remind the group to turn off their email and put their phone away to discourage multi-tasking during the session.
Put your microphone on mute during every break. You may get a phone call or have someone else come into the room to talk to you, and may not want the whole group to hear the conversation.
Always ask the group if they can hear you after a break. Otherwise you could end up talking to yourself for several minutes (particularly if you don’t have the webcam on).
Participants will remember the training better if they are actively involved. There are a variety of ways you can get everyone involved.
Encourage participants to type their comments and questions into the chat box. Tell them at the start of the session whether you will answer questions as you go along, or at the end.
Some applications will allow verbal communication as well.
Polls can be set up within some applications to ask questions of the group. Usually these are multiple choice style questions. These can be useful to gauge how many participants have answered the question and results can be shared on the screen. Open-ended polls can be used in Adobe Connect.
Breakout rooms can be used to divide the group into smaller groups. They can then discuss tasks together, and present their results back to the whole group.
Annotator (in Zoom)
This allows the participants to write on the screen, either freehand with their mouse, or typing in a text box. This can be used in the breakout rooms or the main room. You could put a crossword on the screen for the group to complete together.
You could also incorporate a quiz – there are several websites such as Menti, Kahoot, Quizizz and Socrative. This is great to encourage competition. Multiple choice questions, True or False, Word Clouds etc can all be used. All of these have free versions and some have an upgrade available for a small fee.
You could ask a question of a particular person, or if this is too direct, direct your question to anyone whose name begins with a certain letter of the alphabet, eg A-D.
End of session
You could set up a poll for feedback. Ensure participants are informed of any further work required, and whether they need to complete a CPD certificate.
Even with the best preparation, this is a live event so things can go wrong! Keep calm and keep communicating so the participants know what is happening.
Possible problems and solutions:
- One of the applications freezes. You may need to close down the application and open the files again. Have all the files for the session saved in one place so you can easily open them again.
- Participants cannot hear you. This is usually a problem at their end. Logging out and back into the application often resolves this.
- Participants say the sound quality is not very good. Encourage them to close down other applications they are not using as this may affect the sound. Webcam use up a lot of bandwidth, so turning webcams off may also help. Using a headset rather than the computer microphone can improve sound quality immensely.
- You lose internet connection. Unfortunately everyone’s internet speed varies greatly depending on where they live and the time of day. Usually it is intermittent and comes back again quickly. Set up a co-host who can take over the session if your internet does drop out for too long.
- There’s a power cut. Unlikely, but did happen to one of our tutors for a whole afternoon during a teaching session. She connected to the wi-fi hotspot on her mobile to keep going. Mobile batteries drain quickly though doing this, so you may need more than one!
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