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Hint: It Rocks!

If you follow my Twitter feed or Facebook updates, you know I spent quite a bit of time this week prepping to conduct an all day TYPO3 administrator and user class. Actually, one class for the admins in the morning and another for writers/editors in the afternoon.

Normally, I do remote training using screen sharing tools and the telephone, be it land line, VOIP, or Skype with one to three people, often one on one. Full classes are not as frequent. For screen sharing, we use gatherplace.net as our tool of choice. As for phones, Skype is great for calling overseas and is free as long as the distant end also has Skype. Otherwise, a land line or VOIP phone works just fine when dialing into or receiving a call from your client.

With one on one, it is me on my computer and the other person at their computer watching my screen via screen sharing technology, along with a on-on-one conversation. With two or three people, they may all share a computer and listen/respond via a speakerphone. Or, they may all be at separate computers listening to the same speaker phone. This has obvious limitations as proximity to the phone may make it difficult for some people to hear and ask questions. We could, of course, use a teleconference bridge, but, so far, I’ve found that not to be necessary and many clients don’t want to call a conference bridge for some reason.

remote trainingToday’s training sessions were with entire classes. I was a bit nervous because, the more people there are, the more the potential confusion can be and I always have “pregame” jitters, anyway. In addition, it is harder to give personal attention to everyone at times.

The class went really well and I am still pumped up from it. Anyone who does training for long stretches of time knows that it really is exhausting, but a good class where you were effective and students learned and interacted is exhilarating. Here is how it worked.

The day before, I had sent course outlines and instructions for logging onto my gatherplace session. They had asked to call me at the start time. I was at my computer, started the screen sharing session a few minutes before start time and waited for the call. I could see when they logged on and, when they called, I put them on speakerphone so I could use both hands at the keyboard.

The class was in a conference room with a speakerphone on the table and the computer hooked up to a projector so my screen was projected onto a large screen. Everyone could see what was going on, hear me talking, and I could hear their questions clearly. It was great!

One thing I have found that really helps with remote training of groups is a facilitator at the class side of things. Usually, this is our main point of contact for the project. This was the case for these sessions and he did an outstanding job of keeping both his class and me on track. He made sure I covered topics he thought they needed if I was moving too fast and he let me know when their screen refreshes required me to wait or slow down. It was a very pleasurable experience for me and I believe for them, as well.

Remote training like this, particularly for software training, is effective in terms of learning and also in terms of cost savings. It works both ways, so is a win-win for clients and for Acqal. On-site training is expensive, make no mistake about it. Sometimes it is well worth the extra cost, particularly for clients with large classes and computer equipped classrooms.

Other times the remote training is more than adequate. It allows us to bid lower (training is always part of our proposals, not an after the fact, “by the way, training is extra”). It allows us to be competitive and provide extra value, while saving the client a significant amount of money.

If you thought remote training was a waste of time, perhaps you should think again.

Originally posted January 23, 2009

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