Face-to-face learning events – are they effective?

Our pre-covid conferences, coffee meetings, classes and networking sessions were exciting and fun. How we miss them! But were they actually the best way to learn?

Did they offer teaching capacity in a way that is both inclusive and appropriate for learners who are diverse in terms of personality, learning style, culture, language and knowledge about the subject?

Yes, face-to-face learning sessions have huge benefits. The teacher can adapt the learning material, participants can ask questions, peers can provide diverse and alternative opinions. There is a fixed start and end, learners and lecturers are mentally prepared and there are fewer interruptions.

But in reality, are face-to-face events as flexible as we like to believe? Corporate trainers share their frustrations:

  • “The presentation has been approved by QA – I am not allowed to adapt it even when I can see that people already know the information, or are overwhelmed by it”
  • “Few participants ask questions, and some have a disruptive agenda or are attention seeking. Answering fully and accurately is difficult, and it isn’t good for my credibility when I admit I will have to get back to them.”
  • “Up to 50% of the booked participants don’t arrive due to travel or work emergencies, and many leave early. It’s depressing speaking to a half empty room.”

Why do physical training events fail?

Physical events are a once-off opportunity for success or failure. While a corporate might believe they learn from each event they hold, every session has a different dynamic of people, time and place.

Physical events are completely dependent that day’s trainer. It is a huge responsibility and the speaker’s emotional and physical well-being is key to success. Trainers are only human; they can be tired, jet-lagged, frustrated, multi-tasking, overwhelmed or not suited to deal with that specific audience.

Audiences are the eternal unknown. Consistent disruptions to learning include:

  • Participants are distracted due to work deadlines, interacting with new people or unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Participants fear failing or looking foolish in front of others.
  • Participants are bored: The material is too easy, or dull or in the wrong language or learners just aren’t in the mood.
  • Participants lack focus: learners appear to listen enthusiastically and remember the anecdotes but don’t take notes or retain the the most key facts.
  • Participants come from different cultural, education or technical backgrounds so they learn at a different pace.

Achieving consistency

The key to high performance is standardisation and consistency. A physical event is a confluence of unknowns.

Whether it’s a classroom, boardroom or conference room, it is impossible to keep everyone focused and on track! When a training session includes people from diverse cultures and language groups with different levels of education and interest in the topic, it is almost impossible.

A “cloud-based” Learning Management System (LMS) can reinforce understanding of critical learning topics, or offer a just-in-time reference. It is a consistent, long-term knowledge management and measurement tool, adding value and return on investment.

A structured learning framework empowers human resources trainers to harness their understanding of human behaviour to guide more people to reach their potential. Personal development becomes a process of continual learning rather than once-off events.

An LMS reduces the cost and time constraints of event-based training courses, and eliminates much of the admin and repetitiveness that frustrates trainers and teachers over time. It expands teaching capacity in a way that is both inclusive and appropriate for learners who are diverse in terms of culture, language and knowledge about the subject.

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