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The Journey From Live to Remote Training

Posted By Ruta Stropus, Professional Development and CLE Manager, Katten , Friday, August 14, 2020

(submitted on behalf of ACLEA’s In-House SIG)

My law firm went remote on March 16, 2020, due to COVID-19. We were told to go into the office, gather all necessary items, and not to return until further notice. It was a surreal feeling going into the office on that Monday and experiencing the typically bustling city of Chicago. It felt more like a ghost town than a city. The rest of the week went by like a blur—cancelling live programs, wrestling with technology, and hoping for the best.

In the weeks to come, we all wrestled with changes in our personal and home lives. When it began to dawn on us that remote work was here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future), it was time to think about online, rather than live training.

My law firm has used webinars mainly for external client-facing programs. Internally, most of our training programs were still live in one office and video-conferenced to others.  Pivoting to live, on-line programs was challenging, and here are my lessons learned.

  1. Not all remote learning platforms are the same. WebEx (meetings or events), Zoom, GoToMeeting, and all the rest each have their pros and cons. My firm had used WebEx as a platform for external programs, so we began to use WebEx for internal offerings. But what I had to learn is that even with one product, there were different functionalities, depending on whether one opted to use WebEx meetings or events. And I also had to immerse myself in those differences.  I don’t speak I.T. fluently, so this definitely took some time. But it was time well spent because, ultimately, I needed to teach my speakers about the differences, so they too could choose the right approach. 
  2. Some attorney-speakers are not comfortable with change. Not all of our partners and senior associates were comfortable presenting online. Of course, comfort of a live classroom was always something we handled (how many people to expect, classroom set up, speaker needs, flipcharts, small group breakout rooms, and the like), but now we had to think about the speaker’s lighting in his or her room, the sound, the connection and bandwidth capabilities, sharing a screen, using chat features, muting/unmuting, and the rest. I created an FAQ for presenting on-line for our speakers on these and other issues and coordinated with I.T. to make sure the speakers had time for a quick dress rehearsal. I also volunteered to be a “producer” for all internal programs, so that I could not only take care of all CLE related tasks (reminding folks to send in verification forms, noting the CLE program code, etc.), but could also handle monitoring the chat, helping with technical issues, and more. 
  3. Interactivity can be achieved on-line, but it’s different. Most of our live programs, despite my attempts at incorporating interactivity, still remained lecture based. Pivoting to an on-line format hasn’t changed delivery style. If anything, some speakers are more reluctant to try to incorporate interactive components while learning a new format for presenting. But when exposed to a presentation by Steve Hughes on how to make programs more engaging, I did see incremental change. Perhaps not putting folks into small groups to discuss an issue, but at least trying something like posing a question and asking the audience to respond in the chat feature, using polling, or asking for a quick yes/no. And, for smaller programs, asking the audience to display video, so that the speaker could make eye contact and foster a discussion.
  4. Lessons learned. As always, ACLEA members were a great resource. Knowing that I could reach out to those who had more experience was extremely beneficial. Second, being willing and able to learn details about the resources we had and their advantages/disadvantages was key. While I.T. is outstanding, sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. Immersing myself in the platforms and learning the interactive tools was key to teaching others. Finally, patience.  Not all speakers were willing, ready, or able to adapt. Some feared that their expertise in the subject matter would be undermined by their inability to handle technology.  My job was not to dismiss that fear, but to acknowledge that the technology was a bit cumbersome and did take a bit of practice. That said, it was also my job to teach the basics and take care of the rest—everything from reading CLE codes to muting/unmuting to posting polling questions. I do feel that during this time, I have forged new relationships with partner-speakers who might just be willing, over time, to try something new!

Tags:  dista  learning platforms  online training  remote learning  remote work 

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