Just over a year ago, a major IT company cancelled a training visit on environmental grounds. We'd done the event before. I (one of the trainers) had flown to the US West coast to conduct a module with 75 delegates who'd flown in from all over the world. It was madness really; I was only on stage for two hours.
But I was looking forward to doing it again, partly for the opportunity to mix with some immensely knowledgeable and bright people, partly for the opportunity to meet up with friends and partly, of course, for the hefty fee.
This was just the start of a wholesale reassessment of the way this particular company worked. Wherever possible, it started to replace travel with online communication of various kinds.
As the recession has bitten and budgets have come under pressure, companies are even more keen to cut the time and expense of travel, quite regardless of their environmental leanings. All of this was a great prelude to the launch of Citrix Online's GoToTraining service. People still need to learn and a switch to online training can increase their exposure at a much lower cost, environmental or financial.
Of course, the trainers themselves need to feel comfortable with the facilities, even if they don't feel comfortable with their loss of travel perks. Thinking that this might be the way some of my own training might go, I signed up for a trial of GoToTraining. (I was already familiar with several of the company's other products and was quite well disposed to them.)
Professional e-Learning people might turn their noses up at this sort of thing. But Citrix Online's solution is 'good enough' for many training encounters. It offers a repository for training materials - slide decks, images, videos, tests and evaluations, for example. It enables a trainer to put together an 'event' with invitations, reminder letters, dial in numbers (a free VoIP option works well on an appropriate connection), dates, reminder letters and suchlike. It took me less than ten minutes to set up a trial session using some existing slides, tests and appraisals.
Once into the training, the delegates are able to speak (or mute themselves), raise their hands, chat, use drawing tools and pointers (with permission) and even be handed control of the keyboard and mouse or even the session as a whole. The trainer can seize back control, of course. This all opens the possibility of a multi-way dialogue, if that's what the session demands. It's up to the trainer how interactive the sessions should become.
The delegates can be shown whatever's on the trainer's screen or what is in a particular window. In theory, this means that any application can be run but some, like video, might be better for the students to download and play locally, raising their digital hands, perhaps, when they've finished.
It's easy to give delegates tests or polls during the training. The trainer can see when all the responses are in and could even call a timed break while they examine the responses and spot any misunderstandings which can then be dealt with after the break. The entire session can be recorded (it allows pauses) and uploaded to the website for others to view later; perhaps delegates who weren't able to get to the session.
David Terrar (a SaaS/cloud specialist) kindly offered to be my ‘student’ for a test run and, although the interface was a bit clunky at the edges, he concluded, "None of that would put me off using it though. In general, the experience has been good."
What's clunky? Well, switching from a PowerPoint playback to the regular screen wasn't mirrored without a stop/restart of the screen display. The handing over control didn't work first time, but it did after handing over drawing control. Drawing control was theoretically stopped but it didn't happen until after a screen refresh. These are little things that were easy to sort out between friends but could have proved embarrassing in 'real life.
All this just goes to show how important dry runs are for the trainers. It's also important to realise that online training is very different to face to face and course materials, timings and trainer behaviour need to be adapted to the new environment. John Carver has posted a useful three-part blog on the Citrix community site for those embarking on this type of training.
GoToTraining is not going to turn you into a trainer, any more than a word processor will turn you into a writer. But, if you or your colleagues are trying to cut down on travel and accommodation expenses, or simply reach out to more trainees, you may well find this worth a look.
GoToTraining starts at $129/month for up to 25 trainees and as many sessions as you like. Full pricing details are here.
Obviously, if you're only doing the occasional ad hoc bit of training or if you need eye contact, this isn't for you. But if you're doing anything remotely regular that doesn't demand a physical presence then this is not at all a high price to pay when you consider all the other savings you'll be making. And, of course, you can even add it to your green credentials.